The Future of Medical Marijuana Regulations: Colorado or Connecticut?

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Many medical marijuana leaders cite Colorado as the quintessential example of how to effectively regulate the MMJ industry.

The state, after all, avoided the problems plaguing other areas with lax or murky medical marijuana laws – think California and Michigan – by implementing strict regulations. And it adopted a for-profit model, to boot.

But the newest states to pass medical cannabis dispensary laws, such as Connecticut, are charting their own course.

They are using Colorado as a rough guide but adding their own set of restrictions, rules and regulations. The result: A different – and in some cases stricter – regulatory model that could become the standard going forward. And Colorado could remain alone in the for-profit column for the foreseeable future, as most states that recently approved or are considering medical marijuana laws have taken the non-profit route.

This has many implications for the national MMJ industry. On one hand, it will bring credibility and clarity to MMJ businesses, helping create a more predictable and stable business climate. It also will lower some of the risks involved and relieve some pressure from the federal government.

On the other hand, it will limit business opportunities and boost the barriers to entry, making it much harder and more costly to participate. In other words, the overall market will be somewhat limited, and you’ll need access to lots of cash and other business resources to start an MMJ venture. Larger, well-funded enterprises could end up dominating the industry in time.

States with dispensary programs in the works – such as Rhode Island and Vermont – severely limit the number of cultivation operations and medical marijuana centers, as does newcomer Washington DC Arizona allows for a much larger number of dispensaries but still sets a cap of 126. Connecticut, which just passed medical marijuana laws, requires that dispensaries be owned and operated by pharmacists, while New Jersey’s program sets potency limits.

Some states currently considering medical marijuana legislation are looking to go even further. The sponsor of an MMJ measure that just passed the New York State Assembly, for instance, dubbed it the “strictest” in the nation. Whether that’s true is debatable, but the point is clear: Lawmakers see heavy restrictions and regulations as a necessity to passage.