Five years ago, Coloradans were made a promise; if Amendment 64 was passed, the sale of recreational marijuana would shut down the black markets and drive tax dollars to our schools. Meanwhile, the marketplace would be safe and strictly regulated, and most importantly, it would keep marijuana out of the hands of our kids. Four years on, and the implementation has been far from what we were promised.
I was not a supporter of legalizing marijuana. But I believe it is the duty of the governor to uphold the will of Coloradans -- and their intention in passing Amendment 64 is clear. Now, we must do everything we can to ensure the legalization of marijuana is working for our state. Because right now, it’s not. It’s about time that our state leaders and those in the industry start being honest and candid with the public about the challenges the industry faces.
My wife, Diane, and I have been leading the charge in this area for years. After Amendment 64 passed, it was clear that none of our elected officials were willing to spend the political capital to see smart regulations implemented. So instead of waiting for the government to come up with solutions, Diane and I made our own; we engaged other concerned citizens and founded Smart Colorado, an organization dedicated to educating and protecting Colorado’s kids from today’s high potency marijuana.
We’re in the Wild West of industry regulations. Our state government has been slow to close some of the critical loopholes worked into the original language of Amendment 64 that have allowed for gross abuses of the system.
We need to close the loopholes now.
This can be done by cutting down the number of individuals who are abusing the two-tiered tax structure between our retail and medical sales systems. Certainly, there are some individuals who use marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes. But there are a significant number of recreational marijuana consumers who are still purchasing in the medical marketplace.
This is an exploit that can be corrected. One way to do this is to require that those who have a medical card are prescribed one from a physician with whom they have an existing relationship. Right now, there are doctors who have made a practice of prescribing marijuana, even to those who don’t need it.
By pushing these individuals into the recreational marketplace where they belong, we can increase the tax revenue, and put that money towards educating our kids about the dangers of marijuana, as well as providing law enforcement with the necessary tools to tamp down on the black and grey markets, and to ensure that they have the resources to test and prevent individuals from driving while stoned.
Furthermore, we absolutely have to be doing more to educate the public about the type of products that are out there. Some of the marijuana being sold in the recreational markets has a THC content that is more than triple what it was in the '90s, and that significantly exceeds national averages. This is not the same drug it once was. It has become more potent, and more harmful to our kids than it was in the past.
But Colorado’s post-legalization pot has reached even higher levels. Here, the average potency of marijuana flowers/buds is 17.1 percent THC and the average potency of concentrates is 62.1 percent THC, according to the Marijuana Equivalency in Portion and Dosage report, prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue.
As governor, I’ll bring transparency and accountability to our marijuana system, and ensure that our kids are not forgotten in this experiment.