Marijuana Legalization Headed for Colorado Ballot, Could Alter Medical Cannabis Industry

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As it turns out, the second time’s the charm…for efforts to get a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in Colorado.

State officials confirmed yesterday that a proposal to legalize cannabis now has enough valid signatures to qualify for the November general elections, marking the second attempt by pot advocates to get the issue in front of Colorado voters this year.

If residents approve the measure, Colorado’s medical cannabis industry would face an uncertain future.

Experts and observers differ on whether marijuana legalization would be positive or negative for dispensaries, growers, MMJ lawyers, industry service providers and other cannabis businesses. On one hand, legalization would create a much larger market, and existing MMJ companies would be poised to capitalize on it quickly. On the other hand, the competitive pressure would escalate quickly and drive marijuana prices down even lower than they already are, making it hard for dispensary owners to recoup the hefty infrastructure investments needed to meet strict state regulations.

The more likely scenario, however, is that nothing much would happen, at least in the near-term. It’s unlikely the federal government would stand idly by while pot shops crop up across the state. The Obama administration is already cracking down on medical marijuana businesses in Colorado – forcing nearly two dozen dispensaries located near schools to relocate or shut down – and it would most certainly take a more aggressive approach for general pot stores.

Still, passage of the initiative would at the very least start a dialogue and fuel similar efforts in other states, paving the way for the eventual legalization of marijuana across the country.

The ballot initiative asks voters to decriminalize marijuana possession and regulate the cultivation, sale and distribution of cannabis. Adults could have a limited amount of marijuana and use it for whatever reason they see fit. The state would then tax all sales, which would add millions of dollars to Colorado’s coffers.

The idea is to put the same kind of restrictions on pot as there are on alcohol.

“Supporters of rational marijuana policies everywhere should congratulate the residents of Colorado for placing this initiative on the ballot,” Rob Kampia – executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was a key backer of the initiative – said in a news release. “Regulating marijuana like alcohol will create jobs, allow police to focus on more serious crimes, provide much-needed tax revenue and will do a far better job of keeping marijuana away from children than the current system does.”