In an hefty New Yorker article last November, Patrick Radden Keefe explored several of the unexpected hurdles of marijuana legalization. As Washington and Colorado readied themselves to go green, Keefe pointed out that the issue isn't as simple as "legalize it and tax it and everything will be fine." In fact, right from the start, there were a plethora of concerns. Well, Colorado and Washington have both legalized recreational marijuana and though the results so far have been mostly positive, the dope debate is far from over.
Here are six of the biggest marijuana debates still going on in the two states.
1. You can't buy as much as you want
Colorado residents currently have a 1-ounce purchase limit on pot and no one under the age of 21 can legally purchase or smoke it. These measures were intended to make pot like alcohol, to limit who can get it and to keep everyone generally safe. However, a group of activists cleared a proposed ballot last week that would remove both of these restrictions, giving everyone the ability to buy as much as they want. A similar measured has been previously proposed and didn't even get enough signatures to make the ballot. There's little reason to think things will be different this time around.
2. There are high costs for medical bud
Long before either state allowed recreational marijuana, both Colorado and Washington legalized the drug's medical use. But now that so much money and support has gone into recreational pot, some are concerned that the drug's longtime serious medical users might see their interests fall by the wayside. Alarmed over escalating pot prices, a patient-advocacy group has requested the creation of a "Cannabis Patient Fund" to subsidize the costs of Colorado's 120,000 approved medical users. So far, no lawmaker has given the initiative any support.
3. There are way too many stores
Although the launch of pot sales in Colorado started off strong with impressive sales, there were quickly concerns that local dispensaries wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand. But Washington is facing the exact opposite problem: too many growers and shops. Already, more than 2,800 applications have been submitted to grow pot, but the state has capped total production at 2 million square feet, or roughly 46 acres. The problem persists with dispensaries. Seattle is allowed 21 pot shops, but 417 licence applications have already been filed, in Spokane, those numbers are 8 and 96 respectively.
4. People are freaking out that pot can be bought with food stamps
Those against marijuana legalization are quick to jump on any and every opportunity to tear it apart, even if it's not real. After the fake news website National Report posted a story that some pot shops were accepting food stamps, people flipped shit. But just to be sure that this impossible thing never happened, several Colorado Republicans proposed a bill to add marijuana dispensaries to the list of liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places that do not accept food stamps.
5. Some growers are dodging taxes
Colorado currently allows a loosely regulated group of about 5,000 marijuana "caregivers" to grow pot on behalf of five people on the state's medical pot registry. But on Tuesday, the state's chief medical officer argued that because of the loose regulations on this group, many caregivers are growing for more than the allowed five people and are in effect becoming commercial growers who are just avoiding the taxes and oversight usually required of these operations. The loophole, according to the medical officer Dr. Larry Wolk, is a clear violation of the law and will cost the state a lot in taxes.
6. Some vendors aren't strictly following rules
As a one time move, at the beginning of the year, Colorado shops were allowed to transfer marijuana form medical dispensaries to recreational ones to ensure they had enough supply. However, strict labeling and packaging laws are being enforced in the state and some shops never bothered to apply the new, regulated labels and packaging to their recreational products. It's not yet clear whether such violations could cost a dispensary its licence, but it's already causing a lot of people headaches.