Prop 64: As Recreational Pot Legalization Vote Looms, What Can California Learn From Colorado?
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Among the many decisions California voters will be faced with in November, recreational marijuana legalization is one that has sparked discussion and debate.
Prop 64 would legalize the recreational sale and use of pot. In the course of five stories this week, we'll take an in-depth look at all the potential impacts of recreational marijuana legalization in California.
Marijuana: Whether it's smoked, eaten, dabbed or licked, is legal in Colorado.
"As soon as recreational sales hit, it exploded," said Brad Roddy with Medicine Man, a multi-platform marijuana business.
Baggies of buds and jars of weed fill the Medicine Man dispensary in Denver, Colorado.
"At any given time if you're in our dispensary, you'll see about 25 of those on the shelf," said Roddy, talking about different strains of marijuana.
Anyone over the age of 21 can pick and choose their way through flowers, edibles, oils and creams.
The dispensaries are the end of the line. Cultivation and production takes place in a warehouse.
"This is a factory like situation," explained Roddy.
Medicine Man has 75 employees. They monitor 13,000 plants growing in prime conditions, and they harvest every day.
"It's tracked all the way up until you buy that bag of marijuana at the recreational dispensary," said Roddy.
Everything is given a barcode -- logged and labeled. The plants, procedures, and end products all fall under the state's watch.
The regulations in Colorado even extend to security. Any room that contains marijuana must be seen on camera.
Pot shops in Colorado are a thriving industry.
Since 2013, people over 21 can legally possess small amounts of marijuana, purchase it from retail stores, and consume it privately.
"Now we arrest essentially no one for minor possession," said Brian Vicente. He's a marijuana activist who helped write the legalization law for Colorado.
"We didn't think it was a good use of law enforcement time to be arresting and prosecuting adults for possessing marijuana," said Vicente.
A thousand miles away, leaders in California are paying attention.
"We're taking bits and pieces of what we might think will work in California," said Lori Ajax, the California Chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
Her department and several others are currently shaping California's medical marijuana rules.
"If recreational passes, we'd have to have similar meetings to see what that recreational structure would look like," said Ajax.
Under Prop 64, her office would be renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation
They would establish industry standards for packaging, labeling and advertising, and child safety.
The law also allows local control over regulation and taxation.
In Colorado, local control also rules with about 60% of the municipalities having banned the sale of recreational marijuana. Another 15 percent haven't decided on the issue.
Ajax says her office can only react to the November vote before figuring out how a potentially one billion dollar industry will operate in California.
Back in Colorado, "Reality is very different than the simple reasonable sound bites and promises that were all made to us," said Diane Carlson with Smart Colorado.
She founded a group made up of supporters and opponents of recreational marijuana and says some issues created from legalization extended far beyond smoking a little pot.
"The public and our kids are still not informed on the risks and harms associate," said Carlson.
And, issues of enforcement have Colorado's police scrambling.
"We did not know what those challenges were when this legalization started," said John Jackson, the Greenwood Village, CO police chief.
In Tuesday's story, we'll discuss more about enforcement and the pros and cons of pot policing.
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