Brookings Study: Colorado’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana Is Succeeding


John Hudak, Brookings

The prestigious Brookings Institution recently concluded Colorado is doing a mighty damn good job of rolling out legal marijuana in the state. The study found that the biggest social experiment in pot legalization is doing well due to some unprecedented factors: good, effective political leadership, cooperation between the marijuana industry and government regulators, and competent bureaucrats.

John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings’ Center for Effective Public Management who authored the study, concludes:

Still, a strong launch, built on a capable and flexible administrative infrastructure, gives
Colorado a leg up as events unfold. If the state can maintain the flexibility, administrative
competence, inclusiveness, coordination, and sense of mission that have marked legalization’s
rollout, it will be well positioned to continue its success for some time.

Hudak says the legal marijuana rollout in Colorado has been “largely successful,” but he warns that some glaring problems still exist. For example, he noted the state has to improve enforcement of marijuana edibles and people growing marijuana in their homes. On marijuana-infused foods, Hudak relates his own experience at a Colorado buds shop:

In my own trip to a retail marijuana dispensary, I observed a couple interested in purchasing a marijuana brownie. The “budtender” explained in detail to the buyer that the brownie
contained six servings and that proper consumption involved dividing the brownie or biting
off a small chunk. The information was correct and clear, but who eats a sixth of a brownie or
a quarter of a candy bar? Moreover, people who smoke, dab, or vape marijuana experience
the effects quickly. However, edibles can take 30 to 60 minutes before the consumer feels
a “high.” As a result, an individual—particularly one unfamiliar with marijuana edibles—may overconsume, believing the product is ineffective. Overconsumption can have negative

To illustrate the problem with homegrows, Hudak interviewed Michael Elliott of the Marijuana Industry Group, who explained “Homegrows are where the black market has gone to.” Hudak notes that Elliott, other industry stakeholders, and law enforcement officials believe homegrowers may produce more marijuana than they are allowed and divert it to illegal markets in Colorado or markets across state lines. The Washington Post recently published an article on the thriving black market in Colorado because of homegrow operations.