DENVER (CBS4) – State marijuana regulators and professors agree that things are going relatively well in the new business of legal pot.
The group joined students for a meeting in a crowded classroom on the University of Denver campus on Monday to discuss the newly legalized drug.
Colorado’s top marijuana regulator, Department of Revenue head Barbara Brohl, said it’s too soon to know how much tax revenue legal weed is going to produce, but that Colorado appears to have avoided major public safety problems, at least in the six weeks since marijuana sales began.
On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state in the nation to allow legal retail sales of recreational marijuana. Washington state, where voters also legalized the drug in 2012, is expected to launch its marketplace in the coming months.
“The best thing we could have done, and I think we’re going to continue to do is keep this out of the hands of kids, criminals and cartels,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat who sponsored last year’s pot regulatory bill.
Pabon pointed out that alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, but alcohol bills are still routinely considered in the Legislature.
“This will take time,” Pabon said on marijuana laws.
Among questions about regulating recreational pot are concerns of how the legalization may be tarnishing Colorado’s brand.
“The first question they ask is ‘Oh, you’re from Colorado, you must either smoke weed or you must believe in smoking weed.’ That’s not the right message that we want to send to our tourism industry,” Pabon said.
Chloe Groom, a student at DU, said the state’s reputation is not as strong since marijuana was legalized.
“There are other uses, not just recreational. But yes, I do think it gave (Colorado) a bad brand in a sense,” she said.
There’s also a lot of thought into the future and Colorado’s influence of possibly legalizing marijuana nationwide.
“2014 is going to be a critical year. People are going to look at Colorado, Washington this year and see how it goes,” said Alex Kreit, a law school professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “If things go smoothly, I think we’re really reaching the point where California is going to pass something like this before too long, and other states are going to follow suit.”
Brohl said other states and nations have asked how Colorado is regulating marijuana, from product safety to rules on how retailers market and sell pot.
“We’ve had to kind of duplicate a lot of the things the federal government does when it comes to regulation,” Brohl said.
Jack Finlaw, a lawyer for Gov. John Hickenlooper who joined Brohl last year in writing marijuana proposals, said Colorado wasn’t sure until August what the federal government planned to do about the state’s pot law.
Finlaw said state officials asked the U.S. Department of Justice: “We’ve clearly done something new, are you going to let us proceed, are you going to shut this all down?”
There was no immediate answer, Finlaw said. In the absence of guidance, he said, Colorado just winged it — trying to anticipate what the federal government would require. When the DOJ’s priorities were finally released, “they weren’t dramatically surprising,” Finlaw said.
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