[Op-Ed] Legislature has the Chance to Set a Standard on 64

Yesterday, Leonard Gilroy and I co-authored an op-ed published in The Colorado Springs Gazette for the Independence Institute (a Denver-based free market think tank) entitled, “Legislature has the chance to set a standard on 64.” The piece specifically explores implementation of Amendment 64 to the Colorado state constitution. It begins:

Last month Colorado voters resoundingly passed Amendment 64 into the state constitution, legalizing both recreational marijuana and industrial hemp. So far, realizing the will of the voters is on track, but implementation risks threaten to undermine the intentions behind Amendment 64. Policy makers are contending with thriving black markets and gray markets (goods or services that while legal, are still traded outside of any tax or regulatory regime), so it is in their best interests to get this right—even if they didn’t support the initiative in the first place.

The piece goes on to explore challenges at the federal level, and potential solutions to those challenges. However, issues of federal preemption need to be considered in their proper context while state and local policy makers move forward with implementation. The piece continues:

Amendment 64 allows possession and transfer without remuneration of up to one ounce of marijuana, and home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for adults over 21. It also calls for Colorado policy makers to adopt laws taxing and regulating marijuana, a critical step towards creating a legal, commercial market. But a failure of the legislature to follow through could work to perpetuate prohibition-enabled black and gray market operations.

The best way for policy makers to avoid this scenario would be to swiftly establish the tax and regulatory components of the new system, so marijuana is regulated akin to alcohol. Unlike alcohol, though, the policies must be clear and effective on both sides of the cash register…

We go on to explain that Colorado’s regulatory regime for alcohol is not the ideal model, for several reasons. We then highlight issues that will likely impact consumers. Looming excise tax increases pose a threat to implementation efforts as well. The piece concludes:

Black and gray market operators have proven resilient throughout the so-called “War on Drugs,” while policy makers obstinately continue ineffective prohibition that squanders countless dollars and ruins lives. Instead, the people of Colorado tasked policy makers with adopting more sophisticated drug policy by legalizing recreational marijuana and industrial hemp. While early signals are encouraging, implementation risk looms large, and voters are watching.

Read the whole piece online here.

For more of Reason Foundation’s work on Amendment 64, see here and here; and watch my appearance on Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara on Colorado Public Television alongside Joe Megysey here.