- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2015

While lawmakers, health officials and law enforcement agencies ponder the greater implications of marijuana legalization, the entrepreneurs are busy. Underway in Los Angeles this weekend: a business seminar hosted by the Cannabis Career Institute, advising prospective students, “With law changes and endless opportunities in the industry coming to late there is no better time to invest in the green rush.” A dozen similar seminars are planned in the month of January alone.

The day-long event, priced at $299, covers business and marketing basics such as insurance, zoning, compliancy and licenses - along with such specialized concerns as operating a dispensary or delivery service, investing in the business plus the particulars of “edible” or “grow” operations.

“We will have one or more of the top industry master growers on hand to give you a three-hour demonstration on growing and an overview of the industry,” the organizers advise, adding ,”We will have a top cannabis industry chef on hand to show you how to make medical marijuana edibles. We will discuss, tinctures, concentrates, oils, candies, and alternative methods of delivery.”

The organization has 12 “state specific” seminars planned in seven states this month, with many more planned throughout the year, including one in Arlington, Virginia - just outside the nation’s capital. Students walk away with a how-to book and possibly some credentials.

“We offer certificates for the following programs,” the institute says. “Master Growing, Cannabis Business Management, Edibles Operation, Budtending and Dispensary Management.”

Policy wonks are taking notice.

“Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates believe legalization reduces crime, raises revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditure, improves public health, improves traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics believe legalization spurs marijuana use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement. Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been absent,” writes Jeffrey Miron, director of economic studies at the Cato Institute and a Harvard University economist, in a preliminary analysis of legalization in Colorado.

“The conclusion from this initial evaluation is that changes in Colorado’s marijuana policy have had minimal impact on marijuana use and the outcomes sometimes associated with use. Colorado has collected non-trivial tax revenue from legal marijuana, but so far less than anticipated by legalization advocates,” Mr. Miron stated.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, recreational sales of marijuana reached $34.1 in the month of August alone for example - with medical marijuana sales right behind at $33.4 million. The state took in $7.5 million in tax revenue during that month - and by year’s end, about $44 million. It’s complicated, though: revenue is based on retail and medical marijuana sales tax, excise tax, and retail or medical marijuana application and license fees.

Tracking the local impact of legalization through crime statistics is very complicated; a Washington Times analysis of recent numbers from the Denver police found that marijuana-related incidents have constituted 2 percent of crimes since 2012, primarily burglary and criminal mischief.

The data revealed 317 burglaries of marijuana retailers during 2012 and 2013 combined, and about 74 last year. The number of drivers cited for being under the influence of drugs has gone up, however - as have the number of emergency rooms visits from young people who have encountered marijuana edibles, “eating multiple times the recommended doses, such as an entire candy bar instead of just a single section,” a Denver-based FBI agent told The Times.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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