The Future of Marijuana Tutorial Walk-Through

Ryan Meuse

To start off, I’ll explain what our thought processes were in terms of what we wanted to do in the final project. We all decided that we wanted something that would resonate with college-aged students, and students in the local UMass Amherst area in particular. We also wanted something current, something that was drawing up a “buzz”. We decided to go with the recreational legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts that had happened a few months prior in November.

Once we decided upon this, we narrowed our focus down more by deciding to focus on the major ways that this would affect Massachusett’s economy. We came up with a few major groups, such as “taxes”, “dispensary openings and locations”, and “home-growing rights”. All of these things would have an effect on the MA economy, so we focused mainly on those. We also heavily researched states like Colorado and Washington, as recreational marijuana use and sale had been legalized there for over 4 years, to see what similarities we could predict for Massachusetts.

We started looking into all the details on taxes, dispensaries, and home-growing by researching CO and WA in-depth. My focus was to be taxes, so I found lots of information regarding the different tax rates and the different aspects of how/why the marijuana was taxed the way it was, and where that money would be put to use. I also searched for information on the industry as a whole, and how much money it generated through taxes, sales, industry and job growth, etc. These were usually standalone numbers or figures, so I didn’t really have to do much “cleaning up” of raw data in Excel or other programs.

From here, once I had numbers and figures to compare across multiple states, it was all about analyzing the information and seeing what the similarities and differences were among them. I found out that Colorado had better success (more sales, more revenue) with the marijuana industry in terms of pure figures, much more than Washington (although WA did have great success with the industry, just not as exponential as Colorado. Maybe because of different demographics?). I also found out that MA has a very different approach to the way they’re going to tax marijana, which was probably developed from taking into account the “learning lessons” that CO and WA paved the way for.

A big part of my process was trying to contact dispensaries in the area to see what the big plan was. I tried really hard to interview the New England Treatment Access (NETA) dispensary in Northampton, as they are one of the biggest in the area, but I couldn’t get them to work with me. So, next, I focused on a human source that had seen much of this before. My friend Cady lived in Colorado from 2012–14 during the height of the legalization phase out there. She gave me a lot of good info that not only pertained to the story and subject of taxes, but also gave me new insight and helped me “put the lines together” for the rest of the story.

The next step was, after analyzing and comparing, to create visualizations for the data. I decided to go with an infogr.am bar chart, because I felt that it was the easiest and most effective way to get the information across. I put all the info needed into (such as indivdual tax rates, different locations, etc.) an Excel spreadsheet, and the uploaded that to infogr.am. Once I had the rough chart, I did little customizations such as changing colors and lenghthening the x and y axis to better, and more creatively, get across what I was trying to say.

Next came implementing all the visualizations into the story, and the finishing touches on the writing. We took into account the things that needed to be edited after we got our draft back, and polished everything up in a submittable format.

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