5280: Is half your battle just poking holes in misleading assumptions people have about marijuana and what’s happening in the market?
I think that’s fair to say. Having been involved in the movement for a while and helping with the legalization campaign, now a lot of my time is devoted to making sure the rollout is responsible and also viewed as such by the media. By pretty much any objective measure, it has been successful: We’re producing tax revenue and jobs, we’re not seeing increases in crime or youth use. Tourism continues to be on the rise—and our team got in the Super Bowl. Some people thought legalization would mean the sky would fall, but a lot of positive things are occurring. It’s worth noting that we continue to see positive polling, so it’s holding pretty strong.
Certainly, negative instances are occurring, but we’ve seen 80 years of prohibition, and now we’re trying to learn some lessons. We haven’t figured out the perfect formula yet, but we’ve started to identify things, such as edibles, that really are in need of more regulation. We’ve been working closely with the legislature and the Department of Revenue to ensure that these things are being addressed in the strongest way possible.
5280: What’s your response to someone who brings up the recent deaths?
First, these are incredibly unfortunate. Obviously, we’re still waiting for details about how much of a role marijuana played, but it was definitely there. We’re dedicated to further educate consumers and to work with regulatory authorities to establish common sense guidelines, whether those are via education or more restrictive measures—at least on the front end, until consumers can figure out the proper dosages.
5280: Would you be in favor of regulating how vendors present edibles to their customers?
We would be in favor of mandatory budtender training on edibles. Our concern is new consumers. It’s absolutely crucial that we have the budtenders explaining what’s usually on the products' labels in greater detail.
But we also think that’s just one component of it. We want to establish stricter controls over these products, because the way they’re produced now can be disingenuous to the public. People aren’t used to buying one cookie or brownie and having it be 10 separate servings, so we would push for something like making edibles restricted to 10 milligrams of THC per unit. Some of these products have 10 times the recommended dosage in one item that you’re then supposed to break into pieces. This isn’t something the industry is necessarily behind yet, but we think it’s worth fighting for.
The other missing piece is just more public education. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of tax revenue already, with more on the way, and I think we need to use that for a public education campaign. We’ve bounced around an idea for a “Take 5” campaign that instructs people to start with five milligrams of an edible. We need to think about the longevity of this industry, and part of that is making sure these very potent substances aren’t getting into people’s hands before they know what they are.
5280: Another issue seems to be that law enforcement in surrounding states are claiming that their budgets are becoming compromised by all the marijuana coming from Colorado. Do you think this is significant or overblown?
I think that’s overblown. I’ve seen reports from sheriffs in Kansas that said this isn’t the issue they thought it would be. Keep in mind that for the past 80 years arresting marijuana users has been a law enforcement priority, and many of them probably haven’t shifted those priorities yet. I don’t think Colorado should be bailing out other state’s law enforcement budgets.
5280: Are there any other issues you feel are being ignored or misunderstood?
The difficult issue right now is that any time marijuana is involved in any case, it tends to grab the headline. I think the press around that has been a bit sensational, but it’s also illuminated an important issue around edibles.
As for the recent studies we’ve seen about marijuana’s effects, most of them are self-reported (as opposed to the researchers giving subjects marijuana). So we’ve had a difficult time getting hard data because these results we’ve seen in the press don’t come from double-blind scientific studies. They’re more like case studies that have some validity, but they’re only dancing around the edges of what we need to know about the substance. But we’re also seeing a fair amount of stories about how marijuana is saving epileptic children’s lives, so it goes both ways.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock