A couple friends and I recently went to Colorado for vacation. It’s not too bad of a drive — a quick 6 hours from my little mountain town in northern Arizona. And the scenery is beautiful — we stopped in Monument Valley; the road alternates between arid desert landscapes with sculpted rock and the forested foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Our final destination was Rico, a small mining town outside of Telluride.
Of course, after working in the medical marijuana industry for a year, I was curious how the recreational Colorado dispensaries differed from the medical dispensaries in Arizona. Shopping for cannabis wasn’t the main goal of the trip, but I knew I wanted to stop in a dispensary to see what it was like.
After disembarking the gondola (my heart skipped a beat when we passed over the steep mountain ridge) we wandered up an down the main street in Telluride, admiring the stunning views and brisk, damp weather. We window shopped, stopping in a bookstore and then a Mexican food eatery. Before heading back to our cabin, we stopped in Delilah, a tucked-away medical and recreational marijuana shop.
A good word to describe my experience in Delilah is “surreal.” I never thought I would be able to show an ID proving I’m over 21 years of age, and then be able to buy any cannabis product I desired. It was as simple as buying alcohol (as long as I remained below the Colorado state limit for non-residents: 7 grams). We chose to buy a indica-blend preroll and a bag of edibles–chewy gummy slices of multicolored candy, with a barely-disguised scent and grassy taste.
The cannabis consultant who helped us was incredibly friendly, answering our multitude of questions with a warm smile. He could obviously tell we were newbies to the whole recreational thing.
The first thing I noticed was the selection of products were much smaller than what many medical dispensaries in Arizona offer. There were only two consultants. It was pretty informal compared to the procedure at High Mountain Health. Even more so, it didn’t feel like a doctor’s office — I wasn’t getting recommendations based on health ailments.
I was pleased to hear all the flower sold at Delilah was naturally and locally grown and left satisfied with my purchases. We enjoyed the products that evening for a night in.
An initiative in Arizona to legalize recreational cannabis–Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol— received enough signatures (a few thousand more) to qualify for a place on ballot in November 2016. While Arizona’s laws wont directly reflect Colorado’s, it will make purchasing marijuana a little easier for those over the age of 21.
Proposition 205, the name given to the initiative, will allow a limited amount of marijuana retail stores to sell to adults over the age of 21. Similarly to Colorado, some of the sales tax revenue from these retail stores will go towards education. According to the initiative: “It enacts a 15% excise tax on retail marijuana sales, which will be used to fund the implementation and enforcement of regulations. Any additional marijuana tax revenue will be allocated as follows: 40% to the Department of Education for school construction, maintenance, and operating costs; 40% to the Department of Education for full-day kindergarten programs; and 20% to the Department of Health Services for public education regarding the relative harms of alcohol, marijuana, and other substances.”
Furthermore, the initiative allows adults to consume marijuana privately, carry up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The initiative will not affect the rights of current medical marijuana patients.
While there is definitely opposition to this initiative, Colorado has seen immense growth due to the cannabis industry. In March 2016, Denver was rated the best place to live in the United States.
I don’t know if recreational will pan out the same way in Arizona, but I do know Arizona could use the money from the sales taxes. We won’t know if recreational cannabis will be a reality until November — and even then, it will take some time to implement. The attitudes around cannabis are changing more quickly than ever and, undoubtedly, we will see changes as early as 2017.