There is a lot of talk about legal recreation weed coming to a number of states in 2016 or at least being on ballots. It was no secret that when Oregon and Alaska followed Washington and Colorado with legal recreational bud, that they paid close attention to systems the states before them had put in place. Other states thinking about legalizing in the near future should pay attention to a few lessons that Colorado and Washington learned the hard way.

Colorado and Washington both were a little scared of federal lawsuits after recreational marijuana was legalized in their states. So much that they missed out on some expected tax revenues by waiting a bit to give the green light on legal pot sales. Granted, they needed to develop a system for monitoring and taxing a product that had yet to be fully regulated anywhere else in the world.

Both Colorado and Washington had some pretty lofty revenue projections. Both saw tax collections come in a bit lower than they had expected for the first year. There were a couple of factors that played into those numbers being lower. States assumed by opening up legal pot stores, users would ditch their dealers and buy from the stores. But with 44% tax rates in the Washington and 29% in the Rocky Mountain state, many people stayed with black market sales. There were also lengthy delays for those entrepreneurs opening up shops to get permits and licenses, which meant even more potential pot taxes went up in smoke for the states.

Times they are a changing and stoners today are the flower children of the 1960’s. Colorado and Washington found themselves a bit unprepared for the explosion of the edible market and concentrated weed. There were already regulations for edible pot in Colorado, due to the existing medical program, but there were a lot of unknowns as far as first-time snackers not being sure how much to eat. This led Colorado to go back to the drawing board and make stricter rules on packing and dosing for edibles.

Law enforcement was a little left in the dark as to how legal weed would change how they handle certain situations. With legal pot in place, cops now need to have a plan for detecting impaired drivers. The handling of marijuana evidence, distinguishing between illegal and legal grow operations and helping protect the huge amounts of cash pot stores have on hand (due to crazy banking regulations), are all new territory for law enforcement.


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