Illinois reporter Dean Olsen traveled to Colorado to examine how the legal marijuana “experiment” is working. What he discovered is that the cannabis industry is responsibly “part of (the) Colorado landscape.”
Colorado is being studied by Illinois lawmakers as the General Assembly is poised to debate legislation that would make Illinois the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Olsen reports that in Boulder, the cannabis industry has been welcomed by other businesses.
“The chamber has always been supportive of our cannabis businesses,” said Andrea Meneghel, public affairs director for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve always been there for responsible regulation of the cannabis industry. A lot of the initial concerns that existed proved unfounded.”
Many of the same concerns have been raised in Illinois. They include fears about a potential upswing in marijuana use by minors, crime, impaired driving and addiction.
Studies and observations by law enforcement and other officials so far don’t show upticks in most aspects of those problems, but Colorado officials say the data are far from conclusive. They say more study is essential.
Moreover, the marijuana industry contends that legal pot has drastically reduced black-market marijuana cultivation and sales, but that contention is questioned and disputed by some in the law-enforcement community.
Except for calls from a few critics, however, there appears to be little chance recreational use and sales will be rolled back in Colorado, where possession of up to 1 ounce is allowed — the same maximum amount that is being considered in Illinois.
Olsen goes on to report that in Colorado, cannabis-related businesses employ the equivalent of more than 18,000 people (it’s actually more like 40,000) and fuel a system that posts $1.5 billion in annual sales. The vast majority of sales are for recreational cannabis in a state where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000; medical patients can purchase up to 2 ounces at a time.
The Boulder area’s share of those jobs is unknown, but the area’s total probably numbers in the thousands, according to Adam Orens, founding partner of the Denver-based Marijuana Policy Group.