How Canada Can Avoid the ‘Terrible Mistakes’ That Colorado Made When Legalizing Cannabis

Canada is the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis use (Uruguay legalized marijuana production, sale, and consumption in December 2013). Yes, you read that correctly: weed is legal in Canada now.

How it will all work in practice is still very much up in the air, but the country can look to cities that previously legalized pot to help avoid making the same mistakes. One of the most famous of these? Colorado.

Marijuana for sale

Marijuana for sale | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Marijuana sales skyrocketed starting on day one of legalization

On New Year’s Day in 2014, residents of Colorado went a little crazy lining up outside locked business doors waiting to purchase their legalized goodies. It was like Black Friday — except maybe even more successful. By the end of that first week, tourists and locals had gobbled up $5 million worth of product.

Cannabis products in Canada won’t be just like the stuff in Colorado

For at least the first year, marijuana retailers in Canada won’t be selling edibles such as gummies, brownies, and CBD-infused beverages. The bud will be sealed up in nondescript packaging instead of on display in eye-catching glass jars. But even though the marketing tactics will be different, Canada can still learn a lot from Colorado’s experiences during those early days of legalization.

Governor John Hickenlooper

Governor John Hickenlooper | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The governor of Colorado admits that mistakes were made

Legalizing marijuana may have been a boost for the economy, but that doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing from day one. In fact, Governor John Hickenlooper claims that major mistakes happened when pot was first legalized.

“Originally we made some terrible mistakes,” Hickenlooper said in an interview with the Financial Post. “We didn’t regulate the number of doses you can put in one brownie. So some people would take a normal size brownie and they put four doses in it. I didn’t know there was such a thing as OD-ing on marijuana. But it turns out there is.”

Taking an underground industry mainstream is complicated

It’s easy to overlook cannabis retailers in downtown Vancouver. Their signage is sleek and non-descript, but still, their services are unmistakable. One poster simply says, “Weed delivery. Simplified.” Others boast rolled joints hidden in sandwiches or plates of veggies.

But that’s all about to change now that marijuana is legal nationwide. And while that doesn’t mean the non-descript signage will get swapped out for neon flashing marijuana leaves. But the secrecy isn’t necessary anymore.

There’s one key difference between Canada and Colorado, though

While Canada can certainly learn from Colorado’s mistakes, the biggest difference between the two is that while Colorado may have legalized cannabis at a state level, it’s still illegal nationwide. Growers and distributors in Colorado don’t have the same freedoms that come from a nationwide legalization.

The best advice for Canada right now? Proceed with caution, and let the market guide any future legislation around marijuana. For now, no one knows exactly how this new landscape will look in a year or ten years. But one thing that’s not up for debate: the money gained from legalizing cannabis will be considerable.

Read more: The Best Way to Travel With Marijuana (And Not Get Caught)

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