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World Watches as Colo. Marijuana Law Takes Effect

Impaired Driving

Shortly after voters legalized marijuana, state lawmakers adopted a blood-test standard of THC, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, to determine who is too high to drive.

It’s unclear whether Amendment 64 has made highways more dangerous. Colorado State Patrol spokesman Jeff Goodwin says the agency has not separated marijuana from other drugs and alcohol in its reporting, though the state patrol will begin doing so in 2014.

Marijuana supporters have criticized the strict standard, noting that heavier users can be less impaired than others while having the same amount of THC in their bloodstream.

'From Seed to Sale'

Another major concern is the safety and ingredients of the marijuana itself. Edibles, oils, and other pot-infused products could contain anything. The USDA doesn’t regulate a product the feds still consider illegal.

Colorado is moving forward with a mandatory testing program of its own in 2014. Labels will indicate a product’s potency, where the marijuana was grown, and a list of nonorganic pesticides and herbicides used in its production.

Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait says the agency hopes to have a testing program in place within 6 months. Medical marijuana has not been subject to such testing and labeling requirements.

Also, the state recently put in place a tracking program called “from seed to sale.” Each recreational pot plant is fitted with a radio frequency identification tag.

“If we do run into a health concern, we can track the marijuana to the plant and the place it was grown,” Postlethwait says.  

Encourages Addiction?

Scientists and addiction specialists have long debated the addictiveness of pot.

Some experts say heavy use can lead to psychological addiction. Users develop a tolerance and a craving when not using the drug. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders summed up the accepted science when she said on CNN, “Marijuana is not addictive, not physically addictive anyway.”

Pot has long been called a “gateway drug,” eventually leading users to harder drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse report on teen drug use does not address the “gateway drug” argument, though it does say that use of illegal drugs other than pot is going down among high schoolers.

Elliott acknowledges the public health concerns. But he says he sees the pot industry as “part of the solution, not the problem.”

“What we are pushing hard is the public education, to enjoy your legal purchase, but remember, don’t give it to kids. Don’t sell it to anybody else. Don’t consume it publicly. Don’t take it out of state. Don’t drive impaired.”

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