Last week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed two bills that are supposed to help undercut the black market and stem the flow of legal cannabis that is coming out of his state.
The first, HB 1220, limits the number of plants that can be grown at home under the state’s medical marijuana program to 12; the previous limit was 99 plants. The second, HB 1221, allocates some $6 million in tax revenue to black market enforcement.
“So by setting a limit of 12 plants per home, I think we’re protecting neighborhoods from violence often associated with illegal drug trafficking,” Gov. Hickenlooper said during the bill-signing ceremony. The theory is that someone having 99 plants makes a robbery more likely than if they only have 12 plants. True enough, as far as it goes, but using that logic you can justify limits on how many TVs priced at more than $1,000 someone has, or limit how much jewelry someone is allowed to have in their house.
Under the rules established by Amendment 64 – the recreational marijuana legalization measure passed by Colorado voters in 2012 – adults not in the medical cannabis program are only allowed to grow up to 6 plants at home, and only 3 of those can be mature.
“The whole point of legalizing marijuana is you don’t continue to have a black market,” Hickenlooper said.
While hurting the black market is one of the advantages of legalization, it’s far from “the whole point.” The main point of legalization is that people shouldn’t be punished for doing things that do not infringe on the rights of anyone else and that money should stop being wasted on ruining the lives of those who grow, purchase and consume cannabis.
As has been pointed out many times before, the only thing that will stop legal marijuana from flowing out of Colorado is other states legalizing marijuana as well. Buying more expensive cannabis from another state makes little sense when you can save money and time by getting legal cannabis in your own state.
Hickenlooper himself was very much against the passage of Amendment 64 and has been slowly evolving his feelings on the matter over the last 4+ years. While not as robust in his critiques as he once was, the CO Governor still has some outdated notions about legalization and just how much the black market can be contained by new laws.
After all, the plant limit in every house in Colorado used to be zero; the black market still thrived despite those legal limitations.