Regulation Is The Key To Full Legalization


Tony Dokoupil explains to Terry Gross:

So in Colorado, the medical marijuana growers have to have 24-hour video of their operations, and that video is accessible by the state at any time — they can tap into it. And they all have these badges, and they had to go through background checks to get these badges. So there's an attempt to keep black market money out of it … [I]n Colorado, you're unlikely to see a situation where a dispensary is, in fact, just a front for a Mexican cartel. And then they had this additional rule, which is pretty revolutionary — it's called a 70-30 rule, where 70 percent of all the marijuana that each store sells, they have to grow themselves. … That goes a long way to eliminating the introduction of black market weed. …

That's a huge reason why the feds have focused on California.

California doesn't have tight regulations on who grows marijuana, where it comes from. So the feds move in, and what they claim is that these med marijuana businesses are fronts for what are in fact just old-school black market drug dealers. And they're not growing medical marijuana in small batches for patients. They're growing it in Mexico, or they're growing it in the hills, and they're just bringing it in, and it suddenly, magically becomes legal once it gets in the store. But in fact, it's based on illegality. Colorado doesn't have that.

(Photo by H. Lee from the upcoming book Grassland, courtesy of H. Lee. More on how Lee got access to pot farms around California’s Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties, here.)