In a time when as many as 25 states are considering pro-marijuana laws, what Colorado does could be broadly significant. How it converts a massive black market into what experts call "problematic adult commerce" on the fringes of society – akin to gambling, drinking, and go-go clubs – all amid lingering legal concerns, could provide a framework for other states to follow.
So far, the results from the task force point to legal marijuana regulations that in many ways mirror regulations on alcohol and tobacco yet, because of the drug's unsettled legal status, are in some ways distinctly separate.
"We made an industry out of cigarettes, we made an industry out of alcohol and now we're creating an industry out of marijuana – frankly, it's surreal sometimes," says task force member Mary Beth Susman, president of the Denver City Council. "We're making rules about an activity that is illegal according to the federal government, and sometimes we're making rules that in the normal course of events would be illegal themselves in order to stay under the radar of the federal government."
So far, the Obama administration has kept its hands off the emerging experiments in Colorado (and Washington State, where voters also approved a ballot initiative that legalized pot), though it could be waiting until the Legislature formalizes new pot laws. That's expected by May 8.