Colorado shows that marijuana legalization won’t lead to ‘responsible regulation’

One of the constant talking points of the pro-marijuana legalization forces is that their movement is about “responsible regulation” and that it would install an industry that would behave responsibly.  However, the latest news out of Colorado seems to suggest states simply don’t have the tools necessary to keep the industry honest.  An investigative report last week by CNN reveals that marijuana in Colorado continues to test positive for pesticides banned by Colorado.

One of the many pitfalls of marijuana being legalized on a state level is the issue of testing.  There is no uniform, federal standard when it comes to testing the marijuana being grown and processed by the industry.  This is true for the marijuana processed for both the retail and so-called “medical” markets.  Colorado did pass a law in 2013 mandating all marijuana businesses test their products for pesticides.  However, that law has not been enforced by the state and so only a portion of businesses are having their products tested.  This means most marijuana consumers in Colorado really don’t know what they are using both in terms of the level of pesticides, but also the concentration of the product they are using.  This is a real public health double whammy, on top of the growing youth use and addiction issues.

As reported by CNN, their report lead Colorado state officials to begin an investigation of their own where they found 2,362 marijuana products failing tests for banned pesticides.  The Colorado Department of Revenue which oversees that state’s retail marijuana industry issued an e-mail statement that they will continue to develop the (unenforced) mandatory testing program but state they have no timeline.

This is yet another clear indication that states simply are not equipped to reign in and regulate a marijuana industry. Where the industry isn’t able to simply defeat or water down safety and public health regulations, this report demonstrates they are able to basically sidestep regulations altogether though the lack of enforcement.  This industry is in this for one reason and one reason only, to make money, and they will utilize any tool at their disposal to maximize profits.  Laws and regulations with no teeth will continue to give them carte blanche to do so.  If states like Colorado and Washington are unable to get their hands around these issues, do we really think Maine regulators will fare any better?

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.