Tens of thousands of people will attend Saturday's "4/20" rally in Denver, creating perhaps the largest collectively produced cloud of marijuana smoke ever at 4:20 p.m. But Lopez doesn't view this year's event as a celebration of Amendment 64, the pro-pot measure that voters passed in November. Instead, it is as much a protest against the measure. "It is still only a legislative act to create an economy and not to end a war that has destroyed thousands of lives." The people behind Amendment 64, likewise, are holding the rally at arm's length.
Colorado's under-construction plan for regulating recreational marijuana nearly came unglued when lawmakers questioned whether the agency that would enforce the rules is up to the task. The plan called for the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division — which regulates medical-marijuana businesses — to transition to the Marijuana Enforcement Division and be in charge of all pot enterprises in the state. But a scathing audit cast doubt on the division's fitness for handling the massive job.
State regulators charged with watching over Colorado's medical marijuana industry have fallen short on everything from tracking inventory and managing their budget to keeping potential bad actors out of the business, a state audit found. Often lauded as a national model, Colorado's so-called seed-to-sale system of regulating medical marijuana does not exist, auditors found.
The technology was supposed to efficiently track medical marijuana from seed to sale — the catch-phrase that came to define Colorado's efforts to regulate what had been an outlaw business. Field investigators could walk into any dispensary or grow operation and with a digital reader instantly collect data from tags attached to everything from newly potted plants to pot-infused lollipops in a regulatory system often held up as a national model and serving as the foundation for how the state will regulate recreational pot legalized by Amendment 64. (See also: Medical marijuana's unrealized regulatory goals)
In the summer of 2010, after legislators passed a law legitimizing dispensaries, there were 1,117 medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado. By the end of that year, as a "green rush" of cannabis entrepreneurs reached its apex, the total ticked up to 1,131. Today, there are 675. In terms of sheer numbers, Colorado's medical-marijuana industry has shrunk by more than 40 percent.
Vigorous regulation of a thriving medical-marijuana industry in Colorado offers the best glimpse of what is coming to Washington when it launches its voter-approved social-use market. With continuous surveillance, bar-coded plants and strict financial background checks, Colorado's rules allowed capitalism to be unleased, creating an instant $200 million industry. With retail prices — averagingabout $7.50 a gram — among the cheapest in the country.