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New pot laws spark fears among dealers

After Colorado and Washington voted to legalize pot, Metro talks to dealers who say they will become victims.

Liberal campaigners celebrated victory with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state. But existing traders, legal and illegal, worry the new system could force them out.



"It could be better to keep it medicinal use only," Michele Ballinger, manager of the Herbs Medicinal dispensary in Berthoud, Colo., told Metro. "The community have tolerated us here, but there is still a lot of suspicion, and if it becomes big business, that will put under pressure."



Herbs Medicinal is the only dispensary in town and has slowly won acceptance, although some residents have moved houses in protest, Ballinger says. Residents will vote later this month on banning dispensaries from selling the drug openly. "If that passes, we will have to leave," says Ballinger.



A major concern is the possible influx of marijuana tourists. The neighboring town of Aspen has already been dubbed "Aspendam" by local media. Ballinger fears greater demand will marginalize her disabled customers who rely on the drug for pain relief.



There are also fears about the law in Washington, with a local street dealer believing it will damage his business. "If there is industrial growing and businesses selling, the market will be flooded and the value will drop," he told Metro.

The dealer also fears a backlash from the police. "Harassment will continue, and I would expect a kind of retaliation," he said.

Police will have new powers to penalize drivers under the influence, although traces of the drug stay in the user's system for up to a month after smoking.



The legalization is in conflict with federal law, which still views possession as a criminal offense. "Once the states actually try to implement these laws, we will see an effort by the feds to shut it down," claimed former presidential adviser Kevin Sabet. Many marijuana sellers will be praying the lawmakers find a way to hold back the tide.