The following guest post, contributed by MedMen, is part of a guest series providing insights into the legal marijuana industry.
The marijuana policy reform movement is coalescing around the idea of regulating marijuana like alcohol. While most supporters of ending marijuana prohibition appear to stand behind this idea, others have expressed concerns about the prospect of a tightly regulated marijuana market. While some of them are valid — high barriers to entry, for example — there are three reasons why regulating marijuana like alcohol is the best path forward: safety, security, and consistent quality.
While contaminated marijuana has never been definitively linked to any deaths, this does not mean that danger of contamination is nonexistent. Molds, mildew, and pesticide residue can have adverse effects, and for some consumers — such as medical marijuana patients with weakened immune systems — they can be serious. States allowing medical and recreational marijuana owe it to their citizens to mandate that all marijuana products pass stringent testing requirements before making it to market in order to minimize the potential harm to consumers. And in cases in which a tainted product slips through, a regulated system will allow authorities to track down the producer and seller(s) of the product to ensure no more of it makes it to store shelves.
As the days of marijuana consumers having to rely on back-alley dealers come to an end, so will the violence associated with back-alley marijuana deals. State regulated dispensaries ensure consumers have access to marijuana in safe, secure locations. Security cameras and controlled access deter and prevent many of the dangers previously associated with purchasing marijuana in the underground market. These security requirements and standards are needed to ensure patients, customers, and products are protected.
Product consistency is a huge concern for medical patients and recreational consumers, alike. One of the biggest benefits of purchasing a product in a legal, regulated market is having confidence that the product is what it’s supposed to be and does what it’s supposed to do. For example, Illinois will be requiring cultivators to register strains with the state in an effort to guarantee that patients know exactly what they are getting. And in Colorado, marijuana-infused products are tested to ensure they are consistent not only from one unit to another, but also from one serving to another within the same unit.
Sensible regulation allows for a happy medium where consumers are protected, but small businesses are not edged out of the market. Regulations do not have to be so over-the-top and onerous that only the largest companies can enter the market. The marijuana industry, just like the alcohol industry, has room for the big players (Anheuser Busch, Miller-Coors, etc.) as well as the smaller ones (micro-breweries). And through reasonable regulations, we can ensure all of these businesses are able not only to exist, but to thrive.
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