CNBC recently reported on the growing business of marijuana in the state of Colorado. The report offers a look at several growers, or in this case, entrepreneurs capitalizing on the herb. Although medicinal marijuana is legal in the state, some growers are walking a fine line between state and federal law in their efforts to grow and sell marijuana. These "entrepreneurs" could be risking serious drug charges.
Since the legalization of medical marijuana, the health department has been busy keeping up with the hundreds of applications for medical marijuana licenses per day. The number of dispensaries in the state skyrocketed from about a dozen to over a thousand. As long as Colorado residents have a state medical marijuana license, they are free to try the different variations of the herb, much like choosing out a wine or beer at the liquor store. This has given many licensed individuals the opportunity to grow various types of the herb, and as far as the state is concerned, this is regulated, taxed and legal.
With the new state laws, many people turned marijuana into a booming industry. CNBC interviewed a couple who have profited in their efforts to turn marijuana into a hot product for consumers. The couple owns a restaurant in downtown Denver, and once a month they offer a very unique cooking class. The class teaches people how to cook with some common ingredients, except one recipe calls for the couple's legally grown marijuana. CNBC was allowed to take a tour of the couple's marijuana farm, which produces a new crop every two to three weeks.
But just as the new industry was taking off in Colorado, the federal government busted one resident, reminding the people of the federal laws regarding marijuana. The DEA busted a pot grower after he appeared on a local television station in an interview about his basement operation. The man was arrested after appearing on the show and now may face life in prison. The Colorado resident believed that he was complying with the state's laws.
Federal law does state that marijuana is illegal; however, in 2009, President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to refer to state laws regarding medical marijuana. Attorneys and law enforcement were advised not to go after individuals if they were complying with state laws.
Colorado's marijuana dispensary laws are confusing for many residents because the laws continue to change and evolve. Some officials are not consistent in how they enforce the new marijuana laws, leading to more confusion about state laws regarding pot. If Colorado residents are growing, selling, or using marijuana, they can best protect themselves by making sure that they are complying with state laws. Even that might not be a sure way to protect them from federal laws, but state compliance is still a better defense than nothing.
CNBC: "The growing business of growing marijuana," Trish Regan, 8 Dec. 2010