Former Colorado ‘cannabis czar’ discusses challenges of legalizing medical, recreational pot
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/16/19- Andrew Freedman, former director of cannabis coordination for Colorado, talks about how recreational marijuana use is regulated in his state, Wednesday during the Health Quality Subcommittee at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Andrew Freedman
One cannabis product especially concerns him.

Former Colorado “cannabis czar” Andrew Freedman is one of a number of subject matter experts educating Legislators on the marijuana space.

He was in Tallahassee last week, explaining what can go right (and wrong) in rollouts of adult-use legalization like the one he shepherded in Colorado.

In light of two citizens’ initiatives that could legalize cannabis, his testimony was timely. But even after hearing an hour long presentation in committee, we had more questions for him.

Freedman gave his thoughts on a variety of issues in the Florida cannabis space, including vertical integration: the organizing principle of this state’s medical marijuana program.

“Colorado started with a vertically integrated system for the first six months,” Freedman said. “The positive of that was it was a very limited group of licensees.”

That allowed, Freedman said, the state to “fingerprint them, know who they were, know where their money is coming from.”

“After six months, we got rid of vertical integration.”

The trade-off: allowing “new entrants” to the market, including African-American and Hispanic-American entrepreneurs largely absent from the space, versus “being a bit protectionist on those who are currently in the market.”

“How quickly do you want to grow your system? If you want to keep it smaller,” Freedman said, “vertical integration” is the move.

In comments to a House panel last week, Freedman noted that Colorado’s medical system didn’t see its patients move to the commercial, taxable market as quickly as policymakers expected.

“Over time, the adult-use market became more active,” he related, with policymakers understanding that, while more money could be made with taxable product, there were “sympathies” for medical patients.

“The biggest problem could become that people are using the medical system not for medicinal purposes,” Freedman added. 

Some may be “substance abusers who want access to the medical system for a lower price.”

Freedman moved on to address a concern of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried: that too many pot shop doctors are reckless in their recommendations.

In Colorado, an “extraordinary step” was taken, Freedman related. Some doctors who were cavalier with their recommendations actually lost their medical licenses.

“It’s important to maintain that it’s a bonafide patient/doctor relationship,” Freedman added. “It’s not just the doctor making money making those recommendations.”

Freedman also introduced the House panel last week to the concept of “shatter,” a highly concentrated form of THC that can be and is consumed in great quantities by at least some patients in the medical program.

However, he advocated vaping (which can include concentrates themselves 80 percent THC or more) over smoking.

We asked for clarification regarding his position on delivery methods.

“Shatter is high concentration taken in high quantities,” he said, whereas vaping involves “high concentration in low quantities.”

Shatter is “the worst of both worlds. People getting way too much THC in their system in a short period of time.”

“I would rather have somebody vaping than smoking if the product has gone through quality control,” he said.

Our final question: Is Legalization inevitable?

“My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s. If you were a 50 plus 1 system, I’d say yes it’s coming soon.”

“Even at 60,” he added, “I think it is coming.” 

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Robert Miller

    October 21, 2019 at 10:19 am

    The current Vertical integration is a joke and will keep the black market alive and well. Freeman is worried that addicts will be getting prescription from doctors so they can get weed cheaper? Currently black market weed prices are about half that of regulated weed and that is not even including doctor visits or licensing fees so that is counterintuitive. If it stays like this the black market will be still booming and they can forget about the 1.8 million black market users coming to the legal market they would be lucky to have a 1/4 of them go legal. Beside right now the medical marijuana market can’t even keep up with the demand of 600,000 patients. Constantly out of product with people waiting at the door for delivery. Not to mention that most companies doing business in Florida are not even based in Florida so we are sending all of this money out of Florida except for the money going into our Florida politicians pockets with back room deals and political “donations”. To keep vertical integration and their unconstitutional monopolies on the Florida cannabis market. Which is the reason Ashley moody is fighting the regulate Florida intentative and not saying one bad thing about the make it legal intentative. Not only do we need to vote this in. We need to vote out the crooks and the politicians that try to mute our voices as Floridians.

  • Brian Kelly

    October 21, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

  • Cogent Observer

    October 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    The analysis is not that hard. Alcohol, along with prescription drugs that are misused result in enough abuse and consequent injury. There is no logical reason to legalize yet another for recreational use. This is not a question of personal freedom. It is a question of logic.

  • Robert Miller

    October 24, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I agree analyzing is not hard if you look at the data. But your logic is what I question. From personal experience. Marijuana may be addictive but it doesn’t come with physical dependence. Like that of prescription drugs that doctors hand out like candy during Halloween. Or alcohol which withdrawals from alcohol can be life threatening as well. Hell caffeine and nicotine is more physically addictive than marijuana. And alcohol probation didn’t work to prevent people from drinking and neither has marijuana probation. The best logical step is to legalize it for adult uses and regulate it much like alcohol. This will help to weaken the black market and help to keep it out of our children’s hands

Comments are closed.


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