Beginning January 1, residents of Colorado should be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana. Colorado joins Washington as one of the first states to give the drug a greenlight purely for pleasure. Washington is set to begin sales later in 2014.
So what will this mean for Colorado's businesses and economy? We consulted the Denver Post’s marijuana editor Ricardo Baca (yes, that’s his real job and title).
First though, the job…since he was hired last month, Baca’s post has been fodder for jokes on “Saturday Night Live” and the “Colbert Report.” It's even earned him media coverage from the likes of The New York Times and CNN.
“It’s kind of a trip, right?” he tells us. Baca explains the newspaper will be adding to existing coverage, expanding beyond Colorado’s borders, creating a website to bring it all together along with cultural coverage, and even bringing in a “pot critic.”
Check out the video above to see what he had to say.
Colorado residents approved a ballot initiative in November which taxes recreational cannabis at 25%. It’s a combined 15% excise tax and 10% sales tax. The first $40 million raised will fund school construction.
"It is pretty intense," says Baca. One unintended consequence? Baca says he's been talking to people who are "keeping their medical marijuana cards simply because the taxes on medical pot are significantly cheaper than that of retail."
At the same time, Baca says Colorado is expected to take in that first $40 million in tax revenue in 2014, which he says is significant.
The law may also open up opportunity for a new crop of small businesses – such as cooks creating cannabis- infused edibles like cannabutter (cannabis-infused butter).
But Baca points out the biggest opportunity is for suppliers of marijuana retailers. Colorado has enacted a law stating that for the next two years the only people that can open up a business to sell pot are those who already have existing licenses to sell medical marijuana.
Some have advocated for Colorado selling marijuana in farmer's markets alongside the organic kale and heirloom tomatoes. Does Baca think that’s likely to happen?
He says probably in the distant future - maybe two or three years out. He says that's because the state and its cities have taken a "conservative approach" toward the selling of recreational marijuana.
Related: “Marijuana Is a Vegetable” and Belongs in the Farmers' Market: Pot VCAnd while Washington and Colorado have lead the charge in legalizing marijuana for recreational use, public opinion is in their favor. An October Gallup poll showed that, for the first time ever, a clear majority of Americans said the drug should be legalized – 58%. Related: Pot Pushback Goes Up in Smoke: $20 Billion Economy Awaits"Everybody feels like the momentum is really building, and this is only the beginning of it in the United States," Baca tells us. "Will that momentum keep going? From our perspective in Denver, it certainly seems like it will."
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