It’s not often a massive industry emerges seemingly overnight, but that’s what’s happened with legal marijuana. In just a few short years, the drug has gone from total prohibition to a thriving legal industry in states across the nation. The staggering growth has led some analysts to predict that, in less than a decade, the American public will spend more money on marijuana products than on chocolate—more than $24 billion annually.
As the industry expands to more states and countries—the Canadian parliament voted to legalize cannabis nationally this past June—companies and investors are building millions of square feet of pot growing and processing facilities. Suddenly, fire officials from Newfoundland to California are being asked to oversee the build-out and operation of a new massive and unfamiliar industry—they face steep learning curves and many unknowns.
The feature article “The New Face of Pot,” in the new July/August issue of NFPA Journal, dives into some of the unique fire safety challenges of the marijuana industry and what lessons can be learned from Denver, the city that has all but pioneered the regulation of industrial marijuana facilities. For the article, I met with government officials, equipment manufacturers, growers, regulators, fire inspectors, engineers, industry groups, and more. They paint a picture of an industry in constant motion, always advancing, as regulators struggle to stay a step or two behind.
In addition to the feature, please read my interview with Molly Duplechian, Denver’s deputy director of policy and administration, who has led the city’s government in dealing with the regulatory and policymaking challenges of the emerging pot industry. Also, read “NFPA 420?” about one Denver firefighter’s push to create a new NFPA standard to address the unique challenges of the marijuana industry.
THC-A crystaliine, above, which can be 99.9 percent pure THC, is one of the hottest products in Colorado's thriving marijuana market