The Similarities and Disparities between the CA and CO Medical Marijuana Systems


Published: 01/19/2012

by Ben Jantzen


California Colorado Marijuana

First off, I would like to say that these two systems can't really be compared as you would two grocery stores, which stock the same things under one or two regulating agencies or bodies, if you will.  These Immense "systems" have so many regulations, and since it is a beginning industry valued in the billions, no one really knows a hard number and many new changes are implemented frequently.  I refer to it as a system just like you would refer to the Social Security Administration as a system.  Medical Marijuana was first passed by prop 215 in California, then by amendment 20 in Colorado's constitution. This has given rise to the booming industry.  In this article I will discuss the similarities and differences of only these two states, CA and CO.   There are now over 15 states that have adopted the use of medicinal marijuana.  Federally, it is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance Drug on par with heroin, mescaline, and MDMA(Ecstasy).  The DEA still sees it as such.


California's Prop 215 of 1996 really got the ball rolling and after this passed it was a free-for-all.  Shops started up from all over, allowing anyone that was growing at the time to fill out a little paperwork and set up shop.  This gunslinger approach was all too anarchistic.  Some regulation and rules needed to be set.  And you know what the state did… California said ok, I will play by the rules that the state put forth, including growing meds as part of the dispensaries' responsibility, at least in part.  Colorado did not have these challenges of the "Old West" New Frontier.  By the time Colorado amended its state constitution with Amendment 20 in 2000, these "rules" were already put forth as a taxable enterprise much like one's local Starbucks.   However, in both states, change can occur at any time and usually does, requiring dispensary shop owners/employees to comply.

The state of Colorado, being measured-up against the other medicinal states, prides itself on the strict regulation.  Requiring every dispensary worker to get "badged" is a whole lot of time, money, and stress.  However, holding a Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED) badge, lets the state rest assured that there are no mobs, felons, or the likes of operating these "Feel-Better" facilities.  That doesn't mean that the rules aren’t being broken and that some are operating in the grey area, keeping their illicit affairs on the down-low.  California was recently told that their dispensaries have been warned that if not shut down immediately they COULD suffer a raid and repossession, court fines, loss of assets, etc.  So as California continues to lead the progression forward, it looks like they're the first to be told that they are in violation of Federal mandate.


As time marches on, there will be a safer, more regulated engine that efficiently works, keeping clients safer, where they can purchase their medicine in a legitimate shop that pays taxes just like any other business, keeping them from purchasing in a dark alley somewhere.  


The point is this:  When a beginning industry is just starting out, there will be a lot of grey areas.  We have now cornered the regulatory committees to decide on how this industry will be managed, and it's rolling along like a well-oiled machine.  For many, the new rules can impose expensive security upgrades and actions like this by the state will push the smaller dispensaries out of business. I think that in the next decade we will see more monopolies and fewer independent businesses.  There are so many similarities between CO and CA - from the medicines to the hardware and growing techniques.  I think that the rest of the nation, especially the medical marijuana states look to California as an indicator of what will/might happen.  The major differences have been looking at CA as lessons on what not to do.  The first to pave the way has the hardest trail, but gets the excitement of being the first.  All of the businesses whether in CO or CA, have a duty to appease the pains of their clients, whilst staying in the boundaries of their state's regulation - all operating under the scary umbrella called Uncle Sam.