Ever try and stuff toothpaste back in a tube? Ever try and regulate an industry that has gone without regulation for 10 years, after the fact? Trust me, stuffing toothpaste back in the tube is easier–and a lot less messy.
Colorado’s medical marijuana industry blossomed, pun intended, soon after the now infamous Holder Memo, wherein the federal government stated that it would not use its time and resources to investigate or prosecute people in obvious compliance with state laws. After that change in federal policy, coupled with a huge increase in the number of patients, dispensaries and grow operations in Colorado popped up everywhere. And things seemed to be working out just fine, until somebody noticed that there was trouble in the kingdom. What was the trouble? Not enough regulation. In response, the state did what governments do best: they used a cannon when a fly swatter would do just fine.
So what we have now is the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code, 77 pages of reading pleasure that would be guaranteed to cure insomnia except for the fact that reading it–and realizing its impact–causes night terrors. It gets better. The state then enacted another 72 pages of rules in order to, you know, interpret the 77-page statute. But wait, it gets much, much better. Each and every county, city and town in the entire state has their own business licensing, zoning and building regulations in addition to the state laws and rules. To cap it all off, the state also just passed another piece of legislation this year, to “clean up” the legislation they passed last year.
The result: a quagmire of ever-changing state and local regulations that has had me wondering about my career choice as a lawyer–usually after a case of the night terrors.
The State requires that every plant, every gram of product and every dollar be tracked. And do not forget to smile while you’re working, because everything–and I mean everything–is done under the watchful eye of a state-accessible video surveillance system, with a digital video recording, just in case somebody blinks and misses something. Think you’re going to pull one over on the state regulators? Think again. You also get to expect regular visits from armed Department of Revenue agents. This is the most highly regulated industry in the state’s history.
All grumbling aside, the regulations do work and state regulators have been very easy to deal with. They understand the industry is new and are working to implement this mess, without killing the businesses. They have jobs to do, and we in the industry do, too. We just have to comply with the laws and the rules and everything else. But it ain’t easy, and it is a moving target.
Stand by folks, it’s going to be an interesting ride.
Charles T. Houghton has been a lawyer for over 25 years, and is heavily involved in the business and regulation of medical marijuana. He represents dozens of MMJ businesses and organizations throughout Colorado. Charles Houghton can be reached by phone (719) 634-1731 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.charlesthoughtonpc.com.
Article from Culture Magazine and republished with special permission