This past week I paid a visit to the State of Colorado to check out their booming cannabis industry. I wanted to see for myself how they operate and if that model could work in a place like Wisconsin.
Upon arriving in Colorado, the first question I asked was “where can I find a dispensary?” I was surprised by how freely people responded to that question. Everyone I asked about cannabis responded with absolute enthusiasm. I was truly in a place where people like us are not looked down upon and it was refreshing to say the least.
As I traveled around I noticed a lot of different dispensaries. Some were medical only, some were recreational only and others were a combination of both. Certain cities allowed only medical dispensaries while others allowed both types. Even in Colorado there appears to be cities and towns that do not fully embrace the cannabis industry, whether its legal statewide or not. I did not however come across any places where cannabis was prohibited all together. Regardless of what types of cannabis were sold in each locality, possession laws remained untouched. You could still possess recreational cannabis in a place allowing only the sale of medical. That seemed to be the only constant from location to location.
At the dispensaries I visited the security was tight and there were protocols that must be followed. When you first walk in the door you enter into a small waiting room where security is located. These rooms are completely empty with the exception of a few pieces of furniture and some decoration. You must show your ID which is scanned to make sure it is valid and not a forgery. Once that is complete you are asked to wait until a bud tender becomes available. When a bud tender becomes available they call you into the actual dispensary, where they once again look at your ID and match it with the one presented during your security check. Once that is complete you can begin your shopping.
Bud tenders were very helpful, especially to those who are visiting from out of state. They give you the complete rundown on how everything works and what you may or may not legally do. The laws states that you can purchase one ounce per transaction. However most dispensaries limit you to one ounce per day. The only product that actual weight applies to is flower. In Colorado 8 grams of concentrates or edibles containing 800mg equal the THC content of one ounce of flower and is maximum of those products you can purchase in a single day. You may mix and match products as long as the weight or THC equivalent equals an ounce or less. However possession laws are based solely on weight and not THC equivalence. Possession limits are one ounce per adult 21 and over.
All of the dispensaries were run professionally. They were clean and well managed. They were very comfortable and enjoyable to spend time in. They aren’t anything like some of the nay sayers might assume. Definitely nothing like our legislature assumes they would be. They were located in decent areas. They were safe and there is no way a minor is getting beyond the front door. The businesses were law abiding and so were the customers. There was nothing seedy or unsightly about dispensaries. They were in no way a negative presence in the business landscape.
The biggest problem that I had encountered was pretty much exclusive to visitors. Where can you consume the products you’ve just purchased? That is where Colorado really fell flat in the whole experience. You cannot consume in public. If you don’t know anyone who lives there where does that leave you? I asked around and no one could give me any good advice. Most hotels forbid smoking or vaping of any kind so you that would limit you to edibles. There are a handful of smoking lounges and private smoking clubs operating under a newly created law but because the territory is rather unexplored, the police mess with them quite often and therefore not a place to be while you are on vacation. This is the one shining problem with the entire process. Something we need to be aware of when legality happens in Wisconsin.
I do believe a similar industry could thrive here in Wisconsin. I don’t believe it would negatively affect any local businesses regardless of their services or products. The amount of jobs legalization can create is staggering. Combined with the amount of money these businesses generate legalization would be a definite boon to our economy. One Colorado medical dispensary owner had told me that he believed recreational sales at dispensaries located in touristy areas were in the ballpark of $90,000 per week. Can you imagine how much money a single recreational dispensary located in Wisconsin Dells could generate in a season? There is already a lot of money moving around Wisconsin because of cannabis. This would take this money and bring it out in the open where it will benefit everyone. I don’t see a downside. I can’t understand why our legislature is fighting so hard to keep something so positive away from its constituents.