Recreational cannabis sales have started in Connecticut. After lagging behind our New England neighbors for several years now, my home state finally has operational dispensaries. The number of people driving across state lines into Massachusetts to purchase pot legally should drop off dramatically.
But at what cost? This is always the question I come back to whenever we cover cannabis for this publication. And I do support legalization. Writing here as someone who covered politics before alcohol, why shouldn’t states make tax dollars on a controllable substance that’s being bought and sold anyways?
But how controllable is cannabis? That remains the biggest issue. We still do not have a scientifically proven method for measuring marijuana DUIs. The amount of THC detectable in your system has as a lot to do with your regular consumption habits. If you are a regular consumer, you can have elevated THC levels in your system, even if you are stone sober. Hardly a reliable way to measure the intoxication of somebody behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Despite laws to the contrary, I still see legal cannabis packaging that’s colorful, or depicts some kind of candy or snack. Keeping children away from these products remains imperative. I would like to see packaging that looks less like treats for kids.
And then there is the money problem. In states without cannabis-friendly credit unions, marijuana businesses must operate entirely in cash. This includes payroll, altogether making for monetary headaches with a huge risk for robberies.
The SAFE Banking Act proposed in the U.S. Congress could solve the cash challenge. And broader federal legalization could help create safety standards implementable nationwide. But when will Washington D.C. take these steps? Pose that question to most folks in the cannabis industry, and they foresee impactful federal legislation as years out, rather than imminent.
In the meantime, we are left with an imperfect system, where companies cannot even transport their own products across state lines. The industry is growing fast, but in an environment burdened by too many unknowns, handicaps and risk-factors. For legal cannabis to flourish safely and effectively in this country — which one day it will — proper federal legalization is needed.
Kyle Swartz is Editor of Beverage Dynamics. Reach him at email@example.com. Read his recent piece, What’s New at the Top Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries.