Imagine getting marijuana delivered to your house on Friday night alongside your extra-large, pepperoni pizza.
This scenario could be in the near future with HB19-1234 “Regulated Marijuana Delivery,” Colorado’s currently pending legislation which would legalize canabis delivery to medical patients next calendar year, and add recreational customers in 2021. On Monday April 29, the bill underwent a second reading in the state senate; a final vote has yet to take place.
The bill’s co-sponsors and proponents paint the bill as a way to starve the current black market, provide much-needed medical care to patients who may be unable to leave their homes, and expand current business enterprises. However, what are the bill’s potential fallacies and inconsistencies?
Representative Alex Valdez (D-Denver), one of the bill’s four co-sponsors, outlined the primary reasons he’s currently championing HB19-1234 in the House.
“I sponsored HB19-1234 because there is currently a thriving black market for marijuana delivery in Colorado,” Valdez said. “Many consumers don’t know currently operating delivery services are illegal. Implementing a regulated delivery system will help shut down illegal deliveries and ensure consumers have access to marijuana that has been tested for quality.”
This black market discourse is common in discussions about marijuana. However, according to Jim Parco, owner and founder of Mesa Organics marijuana dispensary in Pueblo, Colo., the black market in Colorado is “all but gone.”
“It’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Parco said. “The risks were so high and the costs were so high, so the black market went to other states … where there’s a lesser pension for enforcement … the black market that people fear is all but gone from Colorado.”
According to Parco, the primary black market that persists in Colorado today is “Grandmas”— i.e., individuals who can now legally own cannabis plants of their own and sell to their friends and family. But the cartel scene that many Colorado residents were initially worried about? Parco said that fear never became reality thanks to law enforcement and the lack of economic utility.
“If you’re selling on the black market, you’re facing felony charges,” Parco said. “Why would I, as a consumer, buy from you, a black market operator, where I’m going to pay you possibly more and it’s not tested, [and] I don’t know the quality. I’ll just go and walk into my local store.”
In addition to the black market, Valdez emphasized the bill’s other primary objective: helping medical patients in need.
“For patients with mobility challenges, veterans with PTSD and those who have [seizure disorders], it can be a challenge to leave the house to access medical cannabis they need,” Valdez said. “Regulated delivery allows patients to have cannabis safely delivered to their home.”
While this is a valid argument — as some patients who use medical marijuana have daily, incapacitating seizures or stage IV cancer, etc. — there is already a policy in place which allows caregivers to legally purchase medical marijuana for their ill loved ones. With that said, Parco questions the validity of this argument and underscores its political bent.
“What’s the percentage of people that we’ll be serving that fit the criteria … articulated by the advocates versus what’s the entire population that will actually engage in the delivery service,” Parco said. “It’s going to be a fraction of the percent … it’s the optics … let’s look at the rhetoric versus the reality. Let’s be honest, we are doing this because it’s good to expand the market and make it more convenient for customers.”
Moreover, Parco says that while the bill has the potential to benefit businesses through customer expansion, there’s also potential for harm.
“As a business owner, on one hand, that’s a way to expand your business,” Parco said. “You’re selling to more people and making it more convenient. But it comes with the equal risk of exposing material and cash outside the company.”
In this way, Parco sees the advantages associated with home delivery while also acknowledging the potential risks.
“When all of a sudden now we still have an all cash industry and people are going to be driving in a car, going to likely the same people that are typically ordering from the same location, you start becoming predictable and you’re carrying cash and you’re carrying cannabis,” Parco said. “We’re actually increasing exposure for robbery. That’s something that people have to recognize.”
Ultimately, Parco feels like, “the devil is in the details.”