Now that Denver has begun retail cannabis sales, we can get an idea of just how much potential profitability legalization creates on a micro-economic level. As it stands now, marijuana is legal for anyone over the age of 21, resident or tourist, but there’s one small problem: there’s nowhere to smoke it.
Because retail sales just began a week ago, there are still many details that need to be ironed out, specifically the subject of on-site consumption. The law maintains that cannabis use is meant to take place at home. This means that a person cannot smoke at the dispensary they purchased at, in any public setting, or in regulated homes and hotels.
This simple disconnect could easily destroy the reputation of legal marijuana use and counteract the positive economic impacts that legal cannabis has and will have.
A tourist traveling to Colorado or Washington from out of state to enjoy this newfound freedom has very little option, if any; of where they can comfortably and legally smoke. Without public places to use marijuana, tourists are in a tough situation. Possibly not knowing all the rules and regulations surrounding public smoking, they can easily find themselves in an unknowingly illegal situation, i.e. smoking on a park bench or on the street.
The economic benefits of on-site consumption would resonate beyond just the local dispensary, increasing foot traffic and purchases of foods and other goods. On-site consumption will create destination points for travelers who want to get the Amsterdam experience without traveling halfway across the world. It would help with regulation of tourists and keep marijuana consumption in the hands of adults over the age of 21.
Arguments supporting the prohibition of on-site consumption are usually taken in comparison with other drug use, such as tobacco and alcohol, both of which are much more damaging and dangerous for the person consuming and the bystanders around them. With so little solid information about marijuana usage, all too often it is compared with other legal recreational drug use. Drawing from Drug War scare tactics, marijuana is seen to be more of a menace to the public than alcohol. While there will always be people to use and abuse the limits of what is acceptable, the majority of people will find that public consumption of marijuana is much safer than alcohol.
If establishments are able to sell marijuana for on-site consumption the law can truly be enacted as it was meant by voters and local economies will benefit from all the additional profits created by tourism as opposed to just the profits that straight purchases from dispensary sales. When comparing the pros and cons of on-site consumption, it is easy to see that banning on-site consumption only hampers job creation, at least in Denver.
Read More about the economic arguments for on-site cannabis consumption in legal states in Issue 10 of Cannabis Now Magazine