Colorado Pot Law Pro/Con
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NARRATOROn January 1, 2014, Colorado made history by becoming the first state to allow the recreational use of marijuana. But it didn't end the debate.
BEN CORTI'm looking at this as the check that we're getting now that we're going to have to pay back with interest later. Really consider that this is much less about the legalization of a substance and much more about the commercialization of an industry. This is big tobacco re-incarnate.
MASON TVERTYou can't really compare marijuana and tobacco. Tobacco kills 400,000 plus Americans each year. There's never been a single death attributed solely to marijuana here in this country. So they're very different products.
NARRATOREstimates are that marijuana will bring in many millions in revenue. But is there a public health risk?
LARRY WOLKSmoking, whether it's marijuana, whether it's tobacco, whether it's anything, generally you have to worry about not just the substance itself, but you have to worry about what else is in that smoke, and also what smoking does to deprive the body of oxygen. Just the fact that a pregnant woman could now smoke something else and deprive then her baby and her body of oxygen as a result of smoking is of a public health concern.
MASON TVERTThere's also been research done on secondhand smoke that shows that marijuana smoke does not get other people high. And it does not have any sort of negative implications on it for their health.
NARRATORWhat other doors recreational pot might open is a longstanding concern, and legal pot has reignited the discussion.
BEN CORTI understand that there's lots of questions around the gateway idea. There's also a lot of research around it. And when I'm saying that, I'm talking about big peer reviewed studies done by reputable places that have shown us, without a doubt, that it is a gateway substance. So as the amount of users increases, as it is here, that ratio of addicts is going to get larger.
MASON TVERTThe real gateway here is the gateway into the underground market that we are sending every adult marijuana consumer through. Every adult who wants to use marijuana is forced to purchase it in an illegal marketplace where there are other illegal products available.
NARRATORIt's not only the gateway issue that's under scrutiny. To protect those that choose to remain smoke free, the state amended the Clean Air Act to include marijuana.
LARRY WOLKSome places, like here at the Department of Public Health, we have a smoke free campus. So even if you're outdoors you can't smoke cigarettes, marijuana, anything.
NARRATORSmoking of any substance is prohibited in public spaces. But private spaces are another matter.
LARRY WOLKOur authority only goes so far. So private homes, apartment complexes, other sort of buildings are really up to the discretion of the landlord.
MASON TVERTWe need to treat this much like we treat any other thing. You know, if your neighbor doesn't like smelling marijuana smoke, if they don't like smelling your cooking, you should probably have a conversation about it and try to arrive at a good agreement on how to live side by side.
NARRATORThe ongoing debate includes concerns about keeping weed out of the hands of minors.
BEN CORTWhat we've got now in Colorado is this marketing machine that is very specifically targeting younger folks, disenfranchised communities. And just this week we've had a big report come out showing us the new things that kids are doing in high school where they're using the vaporizing pens and smoking weed in class. We don't even have to cut class anymore like I used to have to. You can actually get high in class. So that argument to me that you're going to keep it out of the hands of kids is completely illogical.
LARRY WOLKThe fact that marijuana is now more pervasive certainly would lead you to think that we're going to see more kids have access to marijuana and marijuana products. The governor is very committed and we're very committed to doing anything and everything we can to make sure that kids are protected, that we have enough public service messages, public health campaigns, information available.
NARRATORUnder the law, schools can discipline or expel students caught with marijuana. Like alcohol, you must be 21 in order to purchase pot.
LEWIS KOSKI: One of our priorities is to ensure that we're doing everything that we can to ensure that individuals who are under the age of 21 are not able to access marijuana right there at the point of sale. One of our enforcement priorities is to have agents out in the field. Our criminal investigators, along with individuals under the age of 21, make attempts to purchase at those locations so we can see whether or not a business is in compliance.
NARRATORTo keep marijuana inside the borders of the state and within the boundaries of state law, a new system called Seed to Sale has been put into place.
LARRY WOLKI think that allows law enforcement and the Department of Revenue to track better and to keep the marijuana here within the state without setting up the potential for importing or exporting. Because you really have to sort of track from the moment you start with the seed all the way to the point of sale at a dispensary or at a shop.
NARRATORThere may be discussions about public health and recreational pot, but the revenue is a powerful persuader.
MASON TVERTColorado stands to bring in upwards of $100 million or possibly even more each year just by taxing this product that otherwise would be getting flushed down the toilet in an underground market. That money can go towards public school construction. It can go towards drug education. And it can go towards any other number of services that will benefit our community.
NARRATORColorado has chosen to pioneer the legalization of marijuana. And like all pioneers, they face a lot of unknowns.
BEN CORTI think it comes down to what kind of reputation you're comfortable with your state having. It's really important for us to remember that as we are welcoming a new kind of tourist who's coming here to get high, we are going to see the kinds of tourists who we're used to and who are pretty desirable having less interest.
MASON TVERTColorado is demonstrating to not just the rest of the country, but the rest of the world, that it's possible to regulate marijuana, and that it's a better way of treating this product.
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