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Op-Ed: Drug-Ring Bust Is Proof the Legalization System Is Working

Contrary to what Jeff Sessions may say, marijuana works in Colorado.
Contrary to what Jeff Sessions may say, marijuana works in Colorado.

The recent arrests and legal actions against a former Marijuana Enforcement Division official and several marijuana industry license-holders here in Colorado has been touted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an example of why this industry is not working. In a letter to congressional leaders on May 1, he also suggested that in some way the regulated marijuana industry contributes to more illegal marijuana trafficking. In actuality, a regulated system like the one in Colorado has created a boom for us in the areas of job creation, revenue generation and increased law enforcement support, and the list goes on.

The marijuana industry has come a long way since full legalization in 2014. As a result of building a system of regulations, raising standards and working with lawmakers, we have built a regulatory system that is among the most rigorous in the nation for any industry. All products are tracked, pesticides are managed, and we are working daily to innovate even beyond the alcohol industry — the industry on which our regulations were originally supposed to be based. In fact, the marijuana industry in Colorado is more heavily regulated than virtually every other industry in the state.

The reason this group was caught is because of the regulated industry. It is because of a system of well-managed rules, the amazing work of dedicated regulators and law enforcement — in the Marijuana Enforcement Division, the Denver Police Department, the Department of Excise and Licenses and, of course, the Denver City Attorney’s Office and countless other cooperating government agencies — that we can find and stop these illegal grow operations. Without a regulated system, it would be much more difficult to eradicate these bad operators.

The other reason I see this bust as a good sign that the system of legal marijuana is working is because the industry itself wants these guilty groups put in jail. No one wants low standards, dangerous products or teams of illegal operators to continue. The marijuana industry works tirelessly to support the system, which grants them the privilege to operate in this remarkable state. We all need to respect these operations, which employ over 25,000 people in Colorado and contribute to our record low unemployment rate!

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We all need to recognize that the regulated marijuana industry is a good thing, providing a system for consistent-quality products to be cultivated, while giving regulators and law enforcement the proper methods to find the illegal operators. But we will really see the benefit of the regulated system when cannabis is made legal all across the nation. It will be then that we will fully eradicate the underground market. Remember, there is a reason no one purchases black-market beer, and it’s the same reason the quality is consistent across the country: because beer is legal and regulated everywhere.

The lesson is clear.

Westword occasionally publishes opinion pieces about issues of interest to the community; send submissions to editorial@westword.com. Todd Mitchem is senior government and community affairs liaison at TMC Partners Government Affairs; reach him attmcgov.com or todd@tmcgov.com.

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