As Canada Prepares to Legalize Pot, Colorado Offers Advice

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As Canada prepares to legalize pot, Colorado offers advice Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and became the first U.S. state to launch storefront sales in 2014. The Trudeau government plans to legalize pot July 1, 2018.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and became the first state in the U.S. to launch storefront sales in January 2014. As Canada prepares to legalize pot on July 1, 2018, here are some words of wisdom from current and former officials in the state:

Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s former director of marijuana co-ordination:

Truly engage with stakeholders and the community. “This is a divisive issue that a lot of people have an opinion about, so the more those people are involved in shaping the vision of what this looks like, first of all the vision will get better, but secondly you won’t tear apart the community.”

Focus on data early. “One of the things we didn’t do as well as we could have is set great baseline data. We were not measuring some things that were really important to us, like, how many kids were being suspended from school for marijuana? We were not measuring that, which meant we didn’t have a way to know if that changed after we legalized. … Making sure you’re measuring things that matter to you so you can change policy along the way is really important.”

Don’t underestimate public education. “You would be surprised what people don’t know at the beginning — how much they don’t know the laws, how much they don’t know, say, that it could take up to four hours to feel the effects of an edible. And you need a good youth prevention campaign, one that you really go out and have focus groups with kids to make sure it’s a message that would resonate with them.”

Lewis Koski, former deputy senior director of enforcement at the Colorado Department of Revenue:

State — or in Canada’s case, provincial — governments need to embrace the fact that legalization is happening and ensure their agencies are working well together. “One indicator of success in jurisdictions is when the executive government branch really supports the notion that legalization has occurred, that it’s coming, and they’re looking at ways to implement that as efficiently as possible.”

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