The 1st day of January 2014 is one that is historic for the people of Colorado. It became the first place in the world to allow the legal sale of marijuana to folks above the age of 21. The reason for this decision is somewhat clear. If we take a spin back and take a look at the situation before it became legal then we will see that it had always been readily available. This availability and the constant demand caused the government to intervene for a number of reasons.
For the government, the ultimate goal was to take away the illicit marijuana trade from the hand of criminals. According to the city’s annual report of 2016, Denver generated about 10.6 million that year alone. This means that the industry is a huge one and you would expect it to have an effect on the state.
With more than 500 smoke shops, the government hopes to control the distribution of marijuana in a bid to curb certain excesses. Today, five years after the regulatory schemes, the big question remains;
“How successful has the effort of the government been?”
In this article, I will succinctly look at one way to answer this question. We will explore and find out the effect of smoke shops on folks in Colorado.
As you would expect, there are rules that guide the ownership of smoke shops, even online smoke shops like Tha Plug. There are also certain limitations regarding the areas where the smoke shops are located. There are tons of smoke shops around the state that are properly regulated. As a matter of fact, you need to pay a fee running into thousands of dollars just to be legally recognized. This means that unlike the alternatives, smoke shops are not easy to set up.
With strict operational hours and other terms of service, it is clear that the government wants to replace the black market. However, have smoke shops been able to conquer the market?
With any similar industry, the limitation of the sale of a product will open up space for a black market. In this case, the alternative is what is referred to as “smurfing”. This is basically the process of accumulating marijuana legally in order to resell in the black market. This is an alternative that is always available for buyers. Smoke shops, on the other hand, open at 8 am and cannot stay open past midnight.
These are some of the contrasts between both sources of dope. However, we would have another article that would look at that issue. The focus from here on is the examination of the effects of smoke shops in Colorado. We will look at these effects with respect to prices, as well as, the ability/otherwise of the government to achieve the aim of smoke shops.
Once again, I am tempted to ask, “How successful has the government been?”
This time, I would respond to this question with a quote from an anonymous DEA supervisor about the situation in Colorado.
“My team spends more than 15% of its time on cases of marijuana trafficking”. That number seems to be considerably low; however, it used to be three times lower. Below are some effects that smoke shops have had on the people of Colorado;
This effect is one that is due to an unintended cause. The goal was to ensure that smoke shops were kept away from schools and residential areas. This was done with the help of certain zoning rules that guides the process of owning a smoke shop. However, this has caused the concentration of smoke shops in industrial areas. These areas also happen to be highly populated by low-income earners. This allows the black market operators to work on the other parts of town where smoke shops aren’t so common.
Smoke shops have a tendency to affect the prices of marijuana. Apart from the rules with smoke shops, there are several other factors that affect prices. These factors are so numerous that it makes it uneasy to pinpoint whether prices will rise or fall. There are people who dislike the image that comes with being seen in smoke shops. These kinds of people would rather have their dope delivered to them by willing black market operators. Larisa Bolivar (president of the Cannabis consumers’ coalition) conducted online surveys that proved that this is true. It was discovered that about 50%of people would rather not use smoke shops. However, a major reason for this is due to the fact that smoke shops require valid IDs.
Although it is true that smoke shops have increased the overall safety of neighborhoods, however, there is a slight twist. The removal of street operators only opened up doors to other means of committing crimes.
It is important to note that smoke shops were set up to combat criminals. The success of the government in reducing crimes that arise from black market competition has changed the face of the game. Now the government has to worry about large scale farmers who transport marijuana to states where it is illegal. This is pretty lucrative because of the profit margin that comes with this. “Smurfing” is also another crime that is on the rise and it is as a result of the emergence of smoke shops.
A lot of times, it takes a lot to make humans change from what they are used to. Folks that have gotten used to getting their supplies from their neighborhood dealers will find it hard to get used to smoke shops. This doesn’t mean that the smoke shops have been totally ineffective. However, they have not been able to effectively replace the status quo.
Smoke shops are restricted in many ways from advertisements to packaging to other health and safety measures. These restrictions often cause people to shy away from them.
With more restrictive laws put in place from time to time, the government hopes to constantly monitor this industry. However, it is likely that legalization would fail to affect a lot of black market operators. The behaviour of folks in Colorado is yet to totally change.
So far, the effects of smoke shops in Colorado have not been particularly noticeable. However, with the consistent monitoring and adjustment of rules and guidelines, you can say that there’s hope for the future.