At midnight on Wednesday, Colorado will formally launch the era of legalized marijuana—Washington state's law doesn't start for a few more months—and then the real scrutiny begins.
Since November 2012, the world has turned its eye toward the Centennial State after we resoundingly approved the sale of recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older. The media has blanketed us like locusts for the past 13 months, writing story upon story—most of them essentially parroting each other—about how the new freedoms will or won't play out, and the challenges we face in implementing this new market and enforcing its regulations. They've speculated on how hands-on or hands-off the federal government might be, and they've rarely failed to include a stale pun or munchies-related joke.
Since we published "Going Green," an A-to-Z legalization guide, in our December issue, some lingering questions have been clarified. Among them:
1. We now know that simple possession of marijuana will remain illegal at DIA to prevent people from transporting the drug across state lines (even if you're flying from here to Seattle), so if you got 'em, you better smoke 'em before you hit Pena Boulevard;
2. We have a list of the first retail stores that will be licensed to sell the product. This is important because,
3. There's some concern that the initial euphoria among green enthusiasts will cause demand to outpace supply until more stores pass through the licensing process; and,
4. The prospects for the equally unproven pot tourism sector already has some licking their chops while others are anxiously wringing their hands.
My own take: The launch of any potentially multibillion-dollar industry won't happen overnight and absolutely will have hiccups, so beware of alarmist stories that arise in the early days and let the whole thing play out for awhile. (Remember how, around 2009, some thought Colorado's medical marijuana experiment would spell certain societal doom? Yeah, not so much.)
The global press corps will descend upon Colorado wielding microscopes whose lenses are often either naively rose colored or hopelessly blinded, but they shouldn't distract us from our primary objective: To prove that a smartly regulated marijuana market can create worthwhile revenue for the state while keeping our children safe and giving interested adults a more benign and intelligent alternative to alcohol. If we let this process unfold as it should, we'll be setting a truly progressive example that can be emulated throughout the country, and maybe even the world.
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Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.