Colorado vs. Texas: Success and Failure in Medical Marijuana

Colorado vs. Texas: Success and Failure in Medical Marijuana

A recent article credited Colorado’s relative success with marijuana legalization to the fact that it’s law is “a system that is not designed to fail.”

Does the state live up to the hype? How does it compare to others that have legalized cannabis in some form? Should states considering legalization model Colorado’s system?

What has been as impressive as Colorado’s compassion toward patients and its respect for recreational users is the entrepreneurial production and dispensation infrastructure that has emerged to bring the law to fruition. At the recent Marijuana Investor Summit in Denver, it was estimated that cannabis sales in the 23 states that have legalized medical use of the plant equal roughly $3 billion annually.

Record Revenues

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For the month of March, Colorado reported revenues of nearly $43 million for recreational pot, up from $36 million in January. Also during March, residents of the Centennial State purchased $32 million in medical marijuana through dispensaries. Overall, this represents nearly $80 million in cannabis revenue in the state during a single month — only 16 months after it became legal.

These figures also don’t include ancillary benefits to the state’s economy, namely in the form of cash infused into third-party service companies that support the cultivation, marketing, resale, and consumption of marijuana (all of which also pay taxes).

Numbers like these indicate the emergence of a true industry, regardless of the stigma or federal legality of the plant behind it. Just as coal, a single substance, has produced a robust industry that has generated trillions of dollars in commerce over the course of decades, cannabis, a single plant, is on the verge of adding hundreds of billions of dollars a year to the national economy.

In a country suffering one of the most protracted and sluggish economic recoveries in its history, Colorado’s marijuana success is possibly more about bringing America back to its roots of self-sufficiency, small companies, and lone proprietors than the freedom to smoke pot or even the plant’s medicinal value.

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For years, small businesspeople have been challenged to offer more to their communities than fast food franchises, car washes, and 10-minute lube shops. While speciality services like cupcake stores, in-home pet services, and hipster-friendly whiskey bars have offered new opportunities, all share the characteristic of being relatively trendy. If folks aren’t wolfing down cupcakes or $10 shots of bourbon in record numbers five or eight years from now, do entrepreneurs really want to invest their life savings in such a business?

No one, however — conservative or liberal — can label cannabis a trend. Its cultural significance, especially in America, has been cemented by decades of blues and rock music, mainstream films, and popular literature. Demand for the herb, in all forms, has always exceeded supply (this is only beginning to change in states like Washington and Colorado). Humans have been using cannabis in one form or another for 10,000 years.

Colorado certainly isn’t the only state to have legalized medical marijuana. The state’s med pot law was passed way back in 2000, only four years after California voters approved Proposition 215 and two years following Oregon’s enactment of the nation’s second medical law. Colorado is, however, among the few rare states that allow recreational cannabis cultivation and regulated commercial sales. Because Colorado was the first to bat, its system is simply more mature than what is being rolled out in Alaska, D.C., Oregon, and Washington.

Entrepreneurs & Tax Revenue

Regardless of the success of these states, the effectiveness of Colorado’s law in creating a thriving business space for entrepreneurs while generating tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue can’t be denied. Prohibitionist fears of increased crime, more student dropouts, and higher traffic fatality rates have clearly not materialized. Schools are getting a slice of the pie, regardless of exactly how much or original estimates. Marijuana-related arrests in the state have taken a steep dive, allowing cops to focus on serious violent crime and saving taxpayers money. Even the Republicans seem to be happy.

Bringing one back to the theme of Colorado’s law being designed to succeed. A recent spate of CBD-only medical laws has emerged in states like Texas, Georgia, and New York. With the arguable exception of New York’s painfully detailed law, those from Texas and Georgia seem purposefully intended to fail. It’s as if the schoolyard bully stole the citizens’ lollypop and, upon the demand of its return, said, “Fine, pick it up” as he flung it into the dirt.

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Texas’ new law, enacted in late May, is an exceptional effort in political obstructionism and ineffective legislation. Like Georgia, Texas has legalized only high-CBD, low-THC treatments and prohibited whole plant cannabis, including home cultivation, smoking, vaping, and even edibles.

But that’s not the worst part of the new law. In most states, patients must receive a doctor recommendation prior to obtaining and using medical marijuana. A recommendation, unlike a prescription, is protected speech under the First Amendment. The new law in Texas, however, explicitly requires doctors to write prescriptions for CBD oil.

Will Doctors Risk It?

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Because the federal government has categorized cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the feds necessarily regard it as a harmful drug providing no medical benefit whatsoever. Any doctor in Texas who officially prescribes cannabis — or a single-cannabinoid, non-psychoactive extraction like CBD oil — is in violation of federal law and at risk of losing their license.

Will intelligent physicians in Texas prescribe marijuana with a chance of losing their medical practice? It’s nice to think that some kind doctors would put it all on the line and write prescriptions for their patients in need. However, those who do will be taking a significant risk. The limited medical cannabis law in Texas is the epitome of “designed to fail.”

Colorado and Texas are probably the best examples of the respective success and failure of medical marijuana in the United States to date. As even conservative states jump into the fray of limited medical laws, it will be interesting to see how cannabis policy in Colorado evolves — and how many more “cannabis refuge” families will be compelled to move from states like Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey simply to gain the ability to legally medicate their sick children.

Colorado Approves Medical Marijuana Use in Schools

Colorado Approves Medical Marijuana Use in Schools

Among the first states in the nation to legalize the use and possession of marijuana, Colorado is also blazing trails when it comes to marijuana legislation in schools.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer sponsored a bill known as “Jack’s Amendment,” which would allow medical marijuana to be used in schools along with other permitted medications.

“Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine”

said Singer.

Jack Splitt, 14-year-old Colorado student, inspired the amendment after Splitt’s personal nurse was reprimanded for his use of a medical marijuana patch at his middle school. Doctors prescribed the patch to help control his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia.

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This policy change is intended to benefit school-age students in Colorado who, like Jack, rely on medical marijuana patches to help manage conditions like cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures. Under the new bill, caregivers or parents would be allowed to administer marijuana patches in school, as long as a doctor’s note is provided.

Singer continued, “We allow children to take all sort of psychotropic medications, whether it’s Ritalin or opiate painkillers, under supervised circumstances. We should do the same here.”

The bill was met with overwhelming support in the Colorado House and passed unanimously. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has to reject or sign the bill in 30 days to give Colorado the opportunity to become the nation’s first state to permit medical marijuana usage in schools. According to one of the governor’s spokespersons, Hickenlooper intends to sign the bill.

Though the new legislation has been widely supported, voices of concern can still be heard. The former adviser on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Robert O’Brien, has openly voiced his opposition to marijuana in schools.

O’Brien recently spoke with FoxNews.com, stating, “Even in a tightly regulated regime, I don’t think more marijuana in the schools is a better idea.” He also commented, “Kids need to get the treatment they deserve … but I don’t want that in the schools.”

Penalties have yet to be defined for those who violate new rules, though laws of drug-free zones are known for inflicting harsh penalties. In the meantime, Jack’s mother, Stacey Linn, told FoxNews.com that she is relieved her son can soon attend school with the medication he needs.

Photo Credit: Marijuana Industry Group

Republican Presidential Hopefuls Oppose Legal Pot

Republican Presidential Hopefuls Oppose Legal Pot

Marijuana, specifically medical cannabis, has been getting plenty of press lately. CNN recently aired Weed 3, the third installment in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s marijuana documentary series. In it, Gupta focused on the medical benefits of cannabis, specifically to treat veterans with PTSD. The show also covered the tremendous bureaucratic hurdles that prevent effective marijuana research.

The documentary, an objective and moderate survey of current marijuana research studies and the politics behind legal pot, has been viewed by millions, serving as a powerful educational tool. Gupta, known for his former opposition to medical cannabis, is now one of its most ardent supporters.

Progress Meets Republican Defiance

Despite educational documentaries like Weed 3, medical cannabis laws in 24 states, and a middle America that is waking to the reality of marijuana efficacy, powerful Luddites — typically in the form of Republican senators and governors — still wield power and influence. Within the past week, three prominent conservative politicians, all of whom are mulling the office of president, have gone public with their opposition to marijuana legalization at any level — medicinal or recreational.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said during an interview that, if president, he would enforce federal law in all states that currently permit medical or recreational use of cannabis. In other words, Christie would openly oppose the will of the voters in any state in the nation that went counter to federal law and legalized any type of cannabis use.

Rubio Echoes Christie

Adding to this conservative dialog is Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida who, like Christie, is rumored to be contemplating a presidential run in 2016. While being interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt, Rubio expressed his respect for states crafting their own laws, but ultimately said that federal law should trump the efforts of renegade states to legalize marijuana. Rubio told Hewitt during his interview:

“I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well….”

Rubio continued,

“I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal.”

Kasich will Oppose ResponsibleOhio

Finally, another 2016 Republican presidential nominee hopeful, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, also spoke out on Hewitt’s show about his stance on marijuana legalization. Kasich said he is “totally opposed” to legalization, but also said he’s not sure that, as president, he would oppose states like Colorado and Washington that have imposed legalization that goes counter to federal law.

Kasich turns out to be the most moderate when it comes to cannabis legalization among these three possible Republican presidential candidates. While he said, if president, he wouldn’t interfere with states that choose to legalize, he did say that he is officially opposed to any legalization effort in his own state — a thinly veiled reference to ResponsibleOhio and its 2015 ballot initiative to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis in the Buckeye State.

Despite his prediction that, as president, he’d allow states like Colorado and Alaska to legalize cannabis within their own borders, Kasich compared the dangers of cannabis to heroin, proving his ignorance of medical efficacy issues. For those in Ohio who are excited about the prospects of legal medical and recreational cannabis, it should be remembered that Ohio’s efforts to legalize will be opposed not only by Kasich and most of the Ohio legislature, but also by a variety of conservative factions within government, business, and organized religion.

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