Cannabis: What New Zealand Can Learn from Colorado and California

Who has legalised cannabis?

In December 2018, New Zealand legalised cannabis for medical use. In addition, a referendum for legalising recreational cannabis use was scheduled for 2020. Thus, it’s only natural that the conversation concerning recreational cannabis legalisation has continued into 2019. 

To implement the right policies, in the event that cannabis is legalised for recreational use, New Zealand must be proactive in its approach. There are many things that New Zealand can learn from Colorado and California -- as well as other states in the United States, such as Washington and Oregon -- given their legal status for recreational cannabis use.

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Legal cannabis and the law

Of course, one of the biggest contentions to recreational cannabis is how the police enforce the laws surrounding legal cannabis. There are laws concerning the growing of cannabis, then you have laws concerning the distribution and sale of cannabis. With so many different permits and follow-ups, it sounds like a legal nightmare.

However, the amount of cannabis businesses operating in the States where these laws exist shows that it is relatively easy to manage all these laws. Anyone who can purchase or obtain a license for legal cannabis generally manages to get their license and use it.



A look at the cannabis industry in Colorado

(While the cannabis industry is currently booming in California, the recreational use of cannabis was not legal until several years after Colorado had done so. For the purposes of this article, it was better to use Colorado for some information, as their program has been in effect longer and we have stronger results and statistics.)



When did Colorado’s laws go into effect?

In Colorado, cannabis was legalised for recreational use through a popular initiative ballot that took place in November of 2012. However, the ability to actually obtain the drug for recreational use did not occur until January of 2014. The state’s residents were overwhelmingly in favor, with a 54.8% of Colorado voters saying yes to legalisation.



What has cannabis done to change the Colorado landscape?

The biggest change since the legalisation of recreational cannabis is the fact that you can find physical, brick-and-mortar cannabis dispensaries conveniently located throughout the state, especially in the city of Denver.

Statistics show that dispensaries have gone from 313 in 2014 to 501 in 2018. However, there are a few Colorado towns or areas that do not have access to recreational cannabis, despite its legalisation.



What have the benefits been to Colorado?

The biggest benefit to Colorado has come from the boost in tax revenue since recreational cannabis laws went into effect. In fact, the economy earned over $700 million in tax revenues in the first year of operation. The next year, the revenue was at $2.39 billion.

This has made the field of cannabis one of the most profitable business sectors in the state of Colorado. In fact, it is the fastest growing business sector in the state.



Was this popularity a fad?

The assumption, initially, was that the popularity of legal cannabis was going to be a fad. However, this is not what the economy is proving. In fact, it seems to be far from a fad as more and more people are visiting Colorado and taking part in the recreational cannabis industry.

In addition, more businesses catering to this sector continue to pop up. There are puff n’ paint classes, edible cooking classes, bookstores that feature open smoking areas, special smoking lounges, and more, constantly opening throughout the state.

Take that into account, along with 420-friendly hotels and hostels and even transportation, and you will see how much the cannabis industry has affected and influenced the entire state of Colorado.



What do voters think today?

Five years after the beginning of the cannabis revolution, Colorado is making it more popular than ever before. The majority of Colorado residents approve of recreational cannabis as they see the impact that it has on their economy and the positive benefits it has brought to their community. They also would oppose a repeal if asked. In the United States in general, support for recreational cannabis use and legalisation has continue to increase over the years.


US cannabis support. Source



How has legalisation benefited the community?

There have been almost twenty thousand full time jobs added to the Colorado community. A lot of the revenue collected from the multi-billion-dollar industry have been used to fund school systems. There are also programs for the homeless and other areas that have benefited from this.

For a closer look at the statistics in this article: Denver has made a website citing all the statistics since the legalization of marijuana in 2014.

For more information, check out their website: 

https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-marijuana-information/statistics.html



Final words -- what does this mean for New Zealand?

New Zealand can make some huge changes in the world of cannabis. The country is at the point where legalising recreational cannabis can be used as a way to stimulate the economy, increase tourism, and change the way the world looks at the progress of recreational cannabis.

In a world where there is so much to offer, the country of New Zealand would drastically benefit from looking at Colorado and California, and using this as a point for the recreational use of cannabis within their own country.