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Colorado Audit Sniffs Out Serious Pot Problems


Those eager to legalize weed and other drugs should look to Colorado, where the state’s legalized medical marijuana industry is creating serious problems. The Verge reports on the alarming findings of a recent audit of Colorado’s marijuana marketplace: 

Despite an influx of weed tax revenue, local agencies remain understaffed, underfunded, and woefully disorganized. Records on licensed vendors are incomplete or inconsistent, and oversight is spotty, at best. As the report notes, Denver officials don’t even know how many weed dispensaries are currently in operation, or where they’re located….

The report described Denver’s oversight as “ineffective,” warning that widespread mismanagement and understaffing poses “substantive risks to the city.”

The enormous challenges that drug legalization will face—and the destructive forces it could unleash—have been clear for some time now. The drug war has failed, but those who think legalization is an easy or uncomplicated solution are deceiving themselves. Except to see more of this kind of dysfunction, and even worse, as Colorado and Washington move toward legal recreational use.

[Image of Marijuana Leaf from Shutterstock]

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  • Thirdsyphon

    After multiple years of legalized marijuana use, the worst that anyone can point to is inadequate regulatory staffing? And the worst consequence of this lapse that can be identified is “substantive risks to the city?”

    This probably explains why we’re reading about this supposed crisis in The Verge as opposed to The Economist or the New York Times. On my reading, all this piece proves is that marijuana use is a potentially dangerous activity that’s being sloppily regulated. . .which is true of just about everything in this country from banking to oil extraction to civil aviation. The difference between this and those other activities is that at least with them you can point to the occasional high-profile disaster to try to justify more government involvement.
    Here, though, as with gay marriage, the predicted tidal wave of disaster is just the other shoe that never seems to drop. It’s infuriating, I know. . . but sometimes we have to adjust our ideas about policy to emerging facts.

    • rheddles

      Unlike WRM I have no personal interaction with the drug culture or the war on drugs to draw upon in making my comment. It was clear to me after studying Porgy and Bess that the drug culture was nothing new and nothing beneficial.

      This is one topic on which WRM reveals his default liberalism. The government’s duty is to prevent individuals from suffering the consequences of their actions. And therefore, the government must control the behavior of individuals to ensure that those actions never take place.

      Like most neo-cons he will maintain this position until he is mugged by reality. Perhaps a fatal no-knock raid by a SWAT team on some former Episcopal Academy grads will convince him that the cost of his Puritanical war is far in excess of any benefits.

    • ljgude

      Heartily agree. There has been a thriving free market in weed since the 60s. My dad was aware of its use among people who lived ‘fast’ (as he put it) in the 20s like Jazz musicians. I’m sure that people have died in business disputes in the weed trade, but I never heard of the stuff killing anyone. Like hooch or heroin. I think the free market in weed is exactly as it should be. Unregulated, tax free and a mildly risky way to make a living for those so inclined.

  • Brian Murphy

    Sounds like you are comparing a mountain to a mole hill as my Grandma would say.

  • Bruce

    Legalizing marijuana is a bad idea and having a war on marijuana is a worse idea. Sometimes there are no good answers. The least bad is all you can hope for sometimes, as is the case here.

    • bpuharic

      Why is legalizing pot bad? No one seems to have an answer.

      • Ben

        Because … poor record-keeping.

        Colorado legalized it, and Colorado isn’t a perfect utopia after a few months. Failing to immediately create an eternal heaven on Earth means legalizing pot is a bad idea.

      • rheddles

        Legalizing pot or any other drug is bad because it puts an imprimatur of acceptability on an activity that is on balance personally and socially destructive. The same can be said of alcohol and tobacco (both drugs). The former we made instantly illegal with disastrous consequences, the later we are slowly making illegal with punitive taxes and regulations.

        Make no mistake about it, legalizing drugs will result in a bifurcation of society into drug using and non-drug using sub-cultures. People of all stripes will not want to do business with companies that hire druggies. A stoned pilot? No thanks. And the druggies will generally be unable to start companies of their own for obvious reasons. And their rejection by the non-drug culture will drive them deeper into the drug culture.

        See Yemen.

        Nonetheless, I support the legalization of all drugs, if only for its Darwinian benefits.

        • bpuharic

          Many responsible people including corporate CEO’s use alcohol. It seems to have little effect except among those who abuse it. Pot’s not addictive and has no bad side effects except, again, those who are chronic high level users.

          We already regulate alcohol and it doesn’t seem to be a problem among airline pilots; in fact it’s so rare that, when it does happen, it makes national news.

          Most working people today use alcohol which is much worse than pot.

          • Andrew Allison

            Never thought the day would come that I would recommend a bpuharic comment! LOL

        • Andrew Allison

          Have you noticed the number of drunk pilots who have been caught, and considered the implications?

      • Bruce

        Because some people are deterred from using it because it is illegal and using it is not a good thing. But as I said, the drug war is worse.

  • bpuharic

    OK I give up. Why is the failure of a regulatory agency to staff itself properly evidence of a failure to decriminalize something as harmless as pot?

    Anyone have an explanation? C’MON WRM…gimme a break!

  • Alex Weiner

    So because the DMV is a nightmare should we ban cars? This article has nothing to do with legalization as a policy.

  • Ben

    Legalization is about no longer sending harmless people to prison. So what if there’s poor record-keeping and an understaffed bureaucracy? We should imprison harmless people to make record-keeping more thorough?

  • bpuharic

    Let’s do a body count. Number of people killed by pot across the entire nation last year: Zero.

    Number of people killed in FL this morning because of liberal gun laws? 7

    OK let’s regulate pot.

  • bpuharic

    Let’s do a body count. Number of people killed across the entire nation last year by pot?


    Number killed this morning in FL because of liberal gun laws?


    OK. Let’s regulate pot.

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