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Although retail sales have technically been underway in Colorado since January, the recreational industry as a whole still deals in much higher prices than the medical side.
They're making money from the heavy users." Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at New York University's Marron Institute who supports a much more regulated form of legalization, has consistently pointed to the commercialization of marijuana as one of his primary concerns with the current model of legalization.
Marijuana companies' "best customers are the problem users," Kleiman said in a previous interview.
By Kleiman's count, only liberal Vermont is seriously looking at the possibility of legalizing pot through its state legislature.
Even if state legislatures passed their own legalization legislation, another problem is that federal law limits how much state agencies can involve themselves in the day-to-day management of marijuana shops.
"We're seeing the expected level of marketing irresponsibility from the vendors, but they don't have much to sell at the moment," Kleiman says.
"When they've got something to sell, we'll see how aggressive they get." Sabet acknowledges that if cautious drug policy experts like Kleiman were singlehandedly in charge of setting up a regulatory model for legal marijuana, the concept would be less concerning.
And Kleiman, for his part, says edibles could be properly managed with strong regulations, some of which have been established in Colorado and Washington after several incidents, including Maureen Dowd's infamous New York Times op-ed, led to public outcry.
"It may be in the long run that eating it is safer," he said. And once you have a legal option, you know how much you're taking." Still, Kleiman said it will be a long time until the full effects of commercialization come to light.
Kevin Sabet, co-founder of SAM, says his biggest concern with legalization in Colorado and Washington so far "is the rise of a fairly large industry whose only objective is to increase profit." He explained, "Its only way to do that is to increase heavy use and irresponsible use.
Remember the alcohol industry, the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, they don't make a lot of money from the people who consume occasionally or now and again.