Massive inflation could be side effect of marijuana legalization

Sam Walsh, left, a budtender, and facility manager David Martinez set up marijuana products as the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary prepares to open for retail sales on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.
Sam Walsh, left, a budtender, and facility manager David Martinez set up marijuana products as the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary prepares to open for retail sales on Jan. 1 in Denver.
Credit: Getty Images

There has been a party atmosphere around Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries since recreational sales became legal at the turn of the year.

“People have been queuing for four-five hours,” says Ryan West, an employee at a Denver dispensary. “Everyone is so excited and proud to be in the first state to legalize, and there is so much room to grow.”

West is a product of that growth, hired on Jan. 1 to cope with a boom that saw sales of more than $5 million inside the first week. Fewer than 200 dispensaries are licensed to sell the drug for recreational use and that number is set to rise, while related industries such as “weed tourism” are also growing rapidly.

But there have been unintended consequences, with prices more than doubling in some cases to more than $400 an ounce (28g). This is far higher than the rates of illegal dealers, allowing them to compete, despite the claims of marijuana advocates that a legal industry would replace the black market.

Illegal dealers are also benefiting from police confusion over new laws that have seen an 80 percent drop in prosecutions since 2012, including for distribution.

“Law enforcement feels like they don’t know which way to turn,” Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, told the Denver Post.

Campaigners supporting legalization believe these issues are temporary glitches in an adjustment period.

“There has been historic demand at a historic moment, but as the number of licenses grow the demand and price will settle,” Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Metro. “At that point the underground market will become obsolete.”

But the industry faces structural difficulties. Banks are currently forbidden from holding money generated through drug sales, forcing businesses to operate in cash, which demands more labor and risk. They are also denied the tax advantages of other businesses through a gap in state and federal law.

“Banking and tax are the big areas we are working on now in Washington,” said West. “We hope as other states see the example of Colorado, the growth of the industry and its advantage over the criminal market, we will see more progress.”

Further states are expected to legalize recreational sales, with Oregon likely to be next. But Colorado has shown the complications as well as the potential.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.