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Last Word: A Tale of Two Colorado Cities Tells You All You Need to Know About the State of Legalization

If you read the national media, you would think that Colorado is all pot, all the time.

Of course, that’s not the reality. Yes, Colorado is a fully legalized marijuana state, and the state of the law surrounding cannabis is the most developed of any state, but that doesn’t make it marijuana heaven.

For instance, consider the current debate about whether they should allow legal marijuana clubs in Denver. For example, according to The Denver Post:

Activists want a measure on Denver’s November ballot that asks voters to OK allowing marijuana consumption in commercial establishments — including bars and clubs — that meet certain guidelines. … 

Instead of limiting marijuana use to cannabis clubs that would operate separately from bars serving alcohol — a model already in place in cities such as Toronto — this proposal would allow existing bars, clubs and venues to dedicate 21-and-older spaces to indoor vaporizing and outdoor, out-of-public-sight smoking …”

My guess is that this proposal will not only get on the ballot in Denver, but, will get enough votes to pass given that Denver has a pretty sophisticated urban population that drives a lot of the marijuana proposals that make it on the ballot.

But, Denver is just one part of Colorado. If you head south out of Denver and go into Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, you’ll encounter an entirely different kind of cannabis culture entirely. As the Colorado Springs Gazette noted:

(Although) authors of the constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana in Colorado want to legalize public recreational pot clubs in Denver … Colorado Springs officials work in the opposite direction. … Denver has a slew of legal recreational dispensaries, whereas Colorado Springs has banned the sale of recreational pot.”


Although Colorado Springs is starting to wrestle with the notion of allowing recreational use of marijuana more broadly, as Denver is, it’s very likely that what Colorado Springs ends up doing will be completely different from what Denver decides.

You don’t get that kind of nuance reading about marijuana legalization in Colorado from the national media.

It’s yet another reason, as if we needed one, why some national standards on marijuana would be helpful. There will always be local differences given local sensitivities, but a national standard for cannabis would go a long way toward helping the states figure all of this out.

Oregon just went fully legal July 1 and it is still sorting out the state of marijuana regulations there. Washington state is in the process of overhauling their laws and regs, and Alaska installed a marijuana control board last week that immediately called for changes in state law on cannabis.

The Feds need to fess up and tackle this problem, and perhaps our soon to be outgoing President will take some action, too. Regardless, we need to get some federal changes so that situations like we have in Colorado and other states don’t turn into legal confusion because everyone is making regulations on their own.

It’s a situation ripe for the federal government to fix — if they would only wake up long enough to do it.

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