Colorado has seen a lot of change over the past five years, with a growing economy, a growing population, and a growing disdain for development. But nothing seems to stir the pot like cannabis. Since Colorado voters approved legalizing recreational use of the plant in November 2012, both the state and the marijuana industry have grappled with endless issues. Stories about jamokes not being able to handle their shit after eating edibles, the sad reality that there's virtually no place for people to consume outside of their homes, the lack of true banking for the industry, banned pesticides showing up in commercial cultivations, and where tax money from pot sales should go have been a steady presence not just on westword.com, but in media outlets around the world.
In honor of Amendment 64's fifth anniversary, here are some our favorite, most viewed and most interesting stories about pot posted on westword.com over the past five years, grouped by category.
Edibles – or, more important, the people eating them – have been quite a headache for regulators and business owners. Reports of accidental ingestion by children and pets, deaths linked to edibles, and accidental overconsumption dominated headlines during the first few years, though many of those fires have since been put out, or at least contained. Much more regulated than in the early days, the edibles sector has moved on to smaller doses and new production techniques. A recap of some of our stories:
THC Limits For Pot Edibles Pushed by Leaders of State's Product-Potency Working Group
Photos: Twenty Marijuana Edibles That Risk Copyright Lawsuits
Pot Edibles Lawsuit Filed as More People Say They Were Sickened at Denver County Fair
Amendment 64's language bans consumption in "open and public" places – words that have caused a lot of confusion for cannabis advocates, lawmakers and police. Numerous pot clubs and 420-friendly events have been shut down by local governments and undercover police; many never reopened. Although many such events and clubs try to occupy a gray area by claiming to be invitation- or members-only, creative law enforcement or zoning regulations can usually push them out if they become too big. There have been attempts to license and regulate social use, both at the state and city level, and numerous pot-club proposals have been created — and killed — at the state legislature. Finally, Denver advocates successfully passed a city initiative in November 2016 to create a licensing program allowing businesses to apply for private consumption areas...but so far, none has. Here are some of our biggest stories on the social-consumption beat:
Social Consumption Coming to Denver, as 300 Officially Passes
Draft of Rules and Regulations for Denver Marijuana Social Consumption Finalized
Is It a Crime for Friends to Consume Cannabis on a Front Porch?
Because of marijuana's federally illegal status, virtually no bank or financial institution in the country wants to touch state-legalized pot businesses, for fear of federal retribution. Although the Obama administration issued guidelines for banks on how to work with legal pot money, none of the big institutions has stepped forward. The result has been a mostly cash-only businesses, with a few dispensaries using credit-card systems under ambiguous business names — but those services are usually dropped after the bank figures out what's going on. There have been attempts in both Colorado and at the federal level to provide financial services to the cannabis industry and protect banks that wish to get involved, but we're still waiting for something tangible. In the meantime, here are some of our stories on the issue:
Marijuana Banking Issue Looms Large in the Wake of Amendment 64
Marijuana Banking and Senate Hearing: Will the Fix in the Works Stick?
Marijuana Banking Memos From Feds Don't Solve all Problems, Advocate Says
As stupid as it sounds, no one at the state or local level really thought about pesticides and good production practices when commercial cannabis was legalized. So when it was reported in 2015 that several Denver cultivations had been found using potentially harmful pesticides and fungicides to fights problems like mites and powdery mildew, many people were shocked and even disgusted. Now the shock value is gone, with pesticide recalls issued by the Denver Department of Environmental Health on a regular basis for commercial and medical products — and that's just Denver. Imagine if other cities had the resources to inspect their grows? Yeesh.
One of the big selling points for Amendment 64 was the vast amount of tax revenue that legal cannabis could bring in. Today, that's one of the biggest topics of debate. Although many viewed pot as a savior for the state's budget problems, no single industry has that capability. Still, the industry's revenue continues to receive plenty of attention from advocates, opponents, media and the public. Confusion over where the money is going and how it's spent has plagued Colorado since 2012, but we've tried our best to document it in stories such as these:
Marijuana Revenue in 2014: Almost $680 Million
Do CO Marijuana Revenue Declines Prove Pot Tourists Drove Summer Record?
Marijuana Tax, License and Fees Revenue Will Blow Past $100 Million in 2015
Colorado Marijuana Sales Breaking Records, Could Hit $2 Billion by 2020
Colorado Reports $1.3 Billion in Marijuana Sales in 2016