How is the Recreational Cannabis Program Going in Colorado?

Everyone wants to know how the new Colorado cannabis recreational program is going. Residents and visitors alike who have visited a dispensary, tend to have overwhelmingly positive feedback, and revenue numbers being reported by the state are nothing short of impressive.

But it’s not all roses, dispensaries vary in their knowledge levels, illegal sales still occur, and there are shops that just don’t give customers a friendly or welcoming vibe; thankfully these dispensaries are generally the exception and not the standard. The majority of dispensaries take pride in their shop and their opportunity to educate and enable their customers, whether local or visiting, to enjoy safe cannabis consumption.

The United States is still not the most progressive country when it comes to cannabis, Uruguay and Canada have already fully legalized cannabis on a national level. Currently, Washington DC and eleven states have passed votes for recreational cannabis use and as of 2019 more than 211,000 full time jobs have been created. Since January of 2014, Colorado has become a beacon of the cannabis world. In 2018, Colorado sales tax revenue reached 266 million dollars! That only accounts for one percent of the Colorado annual budget, but still an amazing number. That number pales in comparison to the sales data going back to 2008 with both medical and recreational combined totaling more than 6.8 billion dollars! So how is Colorado using this money?

The taxes affecting the price of cannabis are different for every county, city and municipality. For example, the city of Boulder has a total of thirty percent tax, Eagle-Vail Metro District is twenty and a half percent total tax, and Silverthorne is sitting at twenty five point four seven five percent. Breaking down Silverthorne’s cannabis tax; the state tax is fifteen percent, up from ten percent in 2017, the town sales tax is two percent, town excise is five percent, and Summit county taxes is another 3 point four seven five percent. The money is allocated differently per town, but for the state, the first forty million goes to the “best capital construction grant.” The remainder of the excise tax revenue goes to the Public School Permanent Fund overseen by the state treasury, the interest of which funds and supports k-12 education including maintenance. Big slices of the money go to public health and environment, youth prevention and education, human services and local affairs.

After five and a half years most people treat the dispensaries like a liquor store. Similar to liquor stores, cannabis cannot be consumed in public. Dispensaries still have underage kids attempting to buy cannabis, however there are many resources to combat fake IDs and most dispensaries use more than one method of ID verification. People from out of state who tell budtenders that they intend to leave the state with their cannabis, a felony, are potentially refused their sale and can be asked to leave the shop. Legitimately there are many questions a guest might have and simply asking “Can I take this home?” is not grounds for removal from premises. It’s the duty of dispensaries to make sure the consumers are informed about both the legality and safe consumption of their purchases.

During the short time cannabis has been legal not all U.S. citizens have had the opportunity to learn the rules and regulations surrounding the substance. There are many untrained budtenders out there, and there is no state requirement for education of budtenders. It is therefore the responsibility of the dispensary to train their employees, not only in the legality of sales, but also in the safe and legal consumption of the products. The consumption education becomes important on a personal level because one bad experience could lead the patient to never buy cannabis again and potentially influence their social circle to do the same. On a municipal level, bad cannabis experiences in the early years of legal cannabis were the source of many emergency room visits, costing tax payer money.

Illegal cannabis sales still exist, some of these illegal sales are potential store closing violations made by dispensaries themselves. Others are black market sales made by people outside of the ‘seed to sale’ tracking system required by the state. The black market has shrunk, but it is still out there; products not regulated and tested by the state could have harmful bacteria, mold, or be grown with a neuro toxic pesticide. Black market cannabis purchases can be dangerous and much of the anti-cannabis propaganda stems from stories of black market products.

One of the biggest hurdles for tourists, and even residents, is the lack of public consumption venues. Cannabis can only be legally consumed on private property, away from public view. For a visitor to the state this means they must find a smoking friendly hotel, Airbnb, or other accomodation; otherwise they risk incurring a smoking fine from the place they’re staying or a public consumption fine from the local authorities. Edibles allow consumers to circumvent this restriction, and vapes are sometimes not categorized in the same way as actual smoke, thus allowing some special circumstances. The vast amount of federal land out here also means that anyone risking public consumption could be facing felony repercussions even though recreational use is legal. These circumstances present one of the biggest challenges to the state’s legal cannabis consumption, and simultaneously represent opportunities for the industry’s future.

Since 2009, High Country Healing has dedicated their time and energy to creating the best and most effective medicine possible. These stores feature a live grow, visible to patients, where one can directly observe the cultivation of cannabis by hand. This transparency allows patients to see the love and care that goes into their medicine. Visit highcountryhealing.com for more information or call (970) 468-7858 to talk to a professional.