Just like the rest of us, Colorado's cannabis scene could use some improvements in the new year. Hey, nobody's perfect: We all need to trim some parts and bulk up others. And legal pot has a ton of parts.
Just because this shit is legal now, don't think that it's time to get complacent. Every new year provides new opportunities to improve things through industry, lawmaker and regulator changes with regard to how marijuana is grown, sold and controlled. Here are six changes we'd like to see in 2019:
It's been five years since legal marijuana sales began in Colorado on January 1, 2014, but the state still hasn't come up with a plan for social pot consumption. Attempts at licensing social cannabis clubs and dispensary tasting rooms were shot down by the Colorado Senate and vetoed by Governor John Hickenlooper, respectively, while Denver is currently the only Colorado city to have a licensed social consumption business — but just one. Changes may be on the horizon, however, as Governor-elect Jared Polis says he would've signed the bill allowing dispensary tasting. Expect a similar measure to be introduced this year.
Wouldn't it be nice to see the communities impacted by pot prohibition get a chance to benefit from legalization? Just over a year ago, more than 80 percent of marijuana business owners were white, according to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily, while fewer than 6 percent were Latino and just over 4 percent were black. Powerful corporate money is now entering the legal pot field, consolidation continues, and reports have emerged of state-run social equity programs not working as intended. It's not just a race thing: Where are all the woman growers and extractors? Why are all of my budtenders younger than 35? I want the people behind my pot to be just as varied as the plant's smell combinations.
Expanded Medical Marijuana Access
Although medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado for nearly two decades and the state still has one of the more robust programs in the country, the threat of dwindling plant counts for MMJ patients and caregivers continues to be felt, and the number of new medical marijuana businesses is minuscule compared to the recreational side.
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A bill that would have added autism to the state's list of MMJ conditions was vetoed by Hickenlooper despite flying through the Colorado Legislature with minimal opposition, while another bill that would have allowed opioid-prescribed patients to use MMJ died in committee. Similar bills are expected to be introduced this year, though, and Polis expressed support for the autism effort in 2018.
This is more of a wish than a demand, because we know how hard it is to grow quality cannabis, but consistency and quality aren't necessarily the same. As Chuck Blackton, one of Denver's better commercial cultivators, puts it: “Horticulture can be so difficult. There are so many variables to this; it’s not a McDonald’s hamburger, where it’s the same all the time." Profit-chasing doesn't help; Blackton notes that some mass-scale producers stick to a set flowering time and nutrient diet, no matter the strain.
Cannabis strains are too varied to flourish under universal feeding regiments and lighting schedules. If this time-focused cultivation continues to spread, expect to see more nugs that are hard as brick and smell the same.
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Colorado has come a long way since 2010, when grows and harvests were still largely unchecked by local or state health officials — but there's still room for improvement. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment has been conducting pesticide and mold investigations since 2014, while the Colorado Department of Agriculture has recently stepped in to monitor marijuana grows around the state. But both agencies are still learning about the plant, and mistakes still happen. Three recalls hit Denver-area dispensaries at the end of 2018, with one of those recalls over mold concerns affecting at least ten different dispensaries.
If you're old enough or a qualified medical patient, you can get beers or prescription medication delivered to your door in Colorado. Yet if you want medical marijuana or a recreational joint, you still have to go to a dispensary.
A bill that would've allowed legal pot delivery died in the Colorado Senate last year, and that was after multiple changes that included the removal of recreational delivery. Even a medical-only delivery system wasn't enough to convince Senate committee members or law enforcement officials, who vehemently opposed any sort of pot delivery in Colorado. The topic is likely to be revisited in the legislature this year, but recreational users shouldn't get their hopes up.