On the record: marijuana

The Prescription of Medical Cannabis for Serious Medical Conditions Joint Study Committee — chaired by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) and Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) — was created following the 2014 legislative session.

The following information is taken from a presentation by Colorado consultant Matt D. Cook (www.cookconsulting.org) to the committee Aug. 27 at the state Capitol in Atlanta. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 in Augusta. Its final meeting is Dec. 3 at the Capitol.

— 23 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana.

— 2 states (Colorado and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

— 48 percent of Americans say they have tried marijuana, and 12 percent of all adults (and 27 percent of those under 30) say they have used marijuana in the past year.

— 52 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal.

— 60 percent of Americans think the federal government should not enforce its prohibition in states that permit marijuana use, and 72 percent agreed that federal enforcement of marijuana laws is not worth the cost.

Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, March 2013

— Legal marijuana is currently a $3 billion industry in the U.S. and is projected to double in size by 2018.

— Colorado was the first legal, regulated and taxed adult (21 and older) recreational marijuana market in the U.S. Retail sales began Jan. 1, 2014. Total legal cannabis market in Colorado is estimated to be more than $1 billion this year.

— Coffee and tea sales are approximately an $11 billion annual business in U.S.

— U.S. beer industry sales are approximately a $99 billion business, according to www.brewersassociation.org.

— In August, John Hudak for the Brookings Institution called the implementation of the new Colorado law “a resounding success.” Hudak wrote, “My research shows that regardless of the merits of the policy itself, Colorado has created a smart regulatory system that balances safety and security with access to legal marijuana.”

What doesn’t work when it comes to legalizing medical marijuana?

— No regulatory framework.

— Decriminalization only (not allowing production and expecting citizens to go to other states to purchase it)

— Over-regulation and higher taxes, which increases costs and feeds the black market.

Common elements for success

— Inter-agency cooperation among public safety and health agencies, revenue and agriculture departments, and universities (for research and analysis).

— Reasonable statutes and regulations.

Successful regulatory elements

— Limit number of licenses to ensure control and access.

— Background investigations on potential producers and managers.

— Limited access areas.