It's been a few years now since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis growing/use. I have friends and relatives in States/Countries that haven't legalized it yet, and I get questions from time to time from them about what life is like here given that it's legal. They engage as if life in Colorado must be radically different. It's not. Some impressions after a few years in...
- The Colorado Department of Education has been able to distribute millions of dollars in grants to school districts throughout Colorado thanks to a portion of cannabis retail sales tax dollars being allocated to the DoE. Some of these grants have directly impacted our kids' schools. The kids themselves are aware, via the administrators/teachers, of where the money came from. It was funny to hear my son come home from school one day telling me XYZ was built because of "pot tax revenue."
- No, the roads are not any more dangerous than they were when it was all illegal. At least, any increase in danger is not perceivable in my world. Maybe there's data out there saying otherwise, but I'm just speaking from my perception as random joe citizen.
- No, there aren't people wandering around stoned out of their minds. Everyone has not turned into a pot-head.
- Yes, access is as simple as wandering into any number of pot shops and buying what you want off of a shelf.
- No, there isn't a pot shop on every block (though they certainly do have a presence).
- No, kids are not allowed to have pot on school grounds.
- Banking for retail outlets is a big problem. Apparently banks have been reluctant to take on pot shops as business customers b/c it's still "illegal" at the Federal level. This causes shop owners to manage unsafe amounts of cash and leaving them at higher risk of robbery.
- Landlords (both retail and light-industrial for growing) have jumped at the opportunity to lease to these new businesses.
- Stigma around pot has plummeted, and that has made the job of parenting around it 100x easier. It's not some thing that is out to kill all of us and ruin lives, and that makes the discussion around it with little ones much more sane and approachable.
- No, our kids don't smoke pot (at least not that I know of :) ).
- THC content in retail marijuana is a problem. There's no regulation on this front, so you can sell marijuana with really low THC levels, yet sell it as though they're high, which misleads the consumer. There will ultimately need to be regulation on this front. Disclosure around THC levels will be required at some point.
- THC in food items (candy, baked goods, etc) is the biggest challenge as a parent. We've had to take extra precaution around the kiddos taking food/candy from "strangers" and even peers at school (who might have inadvertently come into possession of THC'd candy themselves). To our knowledge our kids, nor their friends, have not eaten any THC, but it's the greatest risk for sure. Packaging and selling of THC'd food items isn't regulated, so you can wind up with something that can get you high without even knowing it. Regulation will have to step in here.
- The landrush to make a buck in the new industry has led to more than a few morons trying to distill/infuse/cook down a variety of things in an attempt to make intensely potent THC. They've hurt themselves in the process.
It's still early, and the overall impact won't be known for decades. I would summarize my impressions thus far by saying that the legalization hasn't been a big deal, _at all_. It's been most noticeable in the context of more funding for schools (obviously a great thing). The sky hasn't fallen.
Mexico's President Pena Nieto sounded like a DARE broken record six months ago in this interview with Bloomberg; skip to the 8-minute mark. I'm glad that here in the States we're progressing in terms of stopping the silliness around cannabis being illegal; long overdue. As for other states following suit, I'll bet a dollar the vast majority legalize it in the next few years, and that the Feds back off of it within five to ten years.
I particularly loved how Washington D.C's mayor, Muriel Bowser, defied Congress and stood by what her voters legalized; awesome story.
Much ado about nothing.