Legalization Eve

Tomorrow, legal marijuana goes on sale in Colorado:

At 12:00 a.m. MST this Wednesday, the first legal sales of marijuana will occur in Colorado. Other sales will follow shortly in Washington state. How will this actually work? Colorado has been scrambling to come up with a legal architecture for this new industry, and the results look more modest than many expected (e.g.: There will be a very limited number of distributors, it can only be used at home rather than in cafes or large parties, etc.), but there are some creative entrepreneurs at work already. But what will this look like in a few months? Will marijuana lose some of its stigma? Will it lose some of its caché? Will usage actually increase substantially, or are the people who would use it already finding ways of getting it? And, perhaps most importantly, will Colorado’s and Washington’s experiences end up serving as an example or a warning to other states?

John Hudak states the obvious:

If the movement will continue to succeed, it must be actively committed to making implementation work and work well.

If the experience of the Affordable Care Act in 2013 has shown us anything, it is that implementation matters. Botched rollouts, unforeseen bumps in the road and other challenges hurt advocates and embolden opponents.

Sullum expects demand to outstrip supply:

Denver Relief, one of Colorado’s best-known dispensaries, plans to focus on serving current customers, allocating only about a fifth of its plants, producing 10 pounds or so a month, to the recreational side. Co-owner Kayvan Khalatbari says new customers probably will be limited to “family and friends, referrals from people who already come in.” Khalatbari predicts that outlets open to the general public will have a hard time meeting demand. “People who come here on January 1 are going to be sorely disappointed by the lack of marijuana,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a huge drought. People are going to be able to sell eighths for 60, 70, 80 bucks for the first few months.”

If the price gets too steep, there is another option for those who planned ahead or have friends who did. Since last December, Coloradans have been allowed to grow up to six plants at home and share the produce, up to an ounce at a time, “without remuneration.” Those provisions could give rise to an alternative distribution system, although how far cannabis cooperatives can go without breaking the law is a matter of dispute. At what point does compensation for expenses become remuneration? “This is a difficult area of law that I anticipate will receive a lot more attention from state and local elected officials,” Elliott says.