Students from Colorado express thoughts on bill
THE SANTA CLARA
January 9, 2014
Sophomore Nick Flaig from Colorado decided to eat lunch at Chipotle on New Year’s Day. He saw a line that stretched for three blocks as he neared the restaurant. Flaig figured Chipotle was giving out free burritos in honor of the new year, but he soon realized the line actually originated at one of Colorado’s newly legalized marijuana dispensaries down the street.
On Jan. 1, 24 dispensaries opened in Colorado, most of which are in Denver. Aside from long lines and sporadic reports of shoppers cited for smoking pot in public, there were few problems.
“Everything’s gone pretty smoothly,” said Barbara Brohl, Colorado’s top marijuana regulator as head of the Department of Revenue.
The agency sent its new marijuana inspectors to recreational shops to monitor sales and make sure sellers understood the state’s new marijuana-tracking inventory system, meant to keep legal pot out of the black market.
The states’ retail experiments are crucial tests of whether marijuana can be highly taxed, sold like alcohol, kept from children or too harmful for the public health and safety to expand legalization elsewhere.
Some Colorado residents are willing guinea pigs in this experiment.
Santa Clara student Dylan Neumann recalls people leaving stores with expressions of “sheer joy.” Neumann supports the bill for practical reasons.
“People are going to smoke it anyway, might as well use some of that money for good,” he said.
Legal pot is heavily taxed at both the state and city level and the first $40 million of revenue will be used to improve Colorado’s public schools. After that, the taxes will fund marijuana education and regulation of sales.
Many cities within Colorado salivate at the prospect of revenues from taxes on pot surpassing these needs and becoming available for other uses. With sales exceeding one million dollars the first day, marijuana money may bankroll other improvement programs within Colorado.
A recent Gallup Poll reported that 58 percent of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana, the highest approval rating in American history.
“My dad actually stood in line.” said sophomore Hank Boudrau. “He was out there the first day. That’s all he could talk about for a week.”
Demand for marijuana inspired waiting customers to buy pot in spontaneous auctions for around three times its price in marijuana clinics on Dec. 31. Though prices may rise at first, they are expected to fall below pre-legalization levels due to increasing supply, improved regulation and heightened competition between shops.
Opponents of the bill predict increases in youth drug usage and drugged driving and warn about treating the drug as harmless.
Additionally, not everyone is thrilled with Colorado’s new reputation.
“Colorado has so many better things than pot,” said sophomore Natalie Kelly, a supporter of legalization.
Much uncertainty looms around the legalization of marijuana, but America’s system of federalism allows for experimentation at the state level to inform nationwide policies. How the legalization of pot plays out in Colorado will have wide-ranging consequences for future national drug policies. So as Colorado smokers inhale their first puffs of legal weed, the nation joins them in holding their breath.
Contact John Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.