SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – This week we’ve explored different aspects of Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California. We went to Colorado to see how they’ve handled legalization for the last three years, how they regulate and enforce marijuana, and what impacts weed has on business, taxes, and public health.

Colorado consistently leads the nation when it comes to marijuana use.

According to a state report, adults are reporting using marijuana more often than before legalization – 21 percent in 2006 compared to 31 percent in 2014.

Teen use has stayed about the same.

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“We certainly haven’t seen anything dramatic in regards to poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Larry Wolk.

Wolk is Colorado’s Director of Public Health. He says there are notable positives with medical marijuana, but also some documented concerns – especially for young people.

“We certainly know there is negative consequences, certainly for youth with regards to the developing brain,” said Wolk.

Wolk says the drug may reduce thinking, memory and learning ability.

There are other notable effects in teens.

“With teenagers, you can see things like a loss of motivation, a loss of drive,” he continued.

But is there a widespread public health concern?

“We’re unable to see any causation between legalization and an increase in some sort of public health and public safety,” said Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s Director of Marijuana Coordination.

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According to a federal report, Colorado hospitalizations related to marijuana increased by 3,200 in the years following legalization. The number rose from 8,200 in 2013 to 11,400 in 2014. The increase may be easily explained with inexperienced users.

“The majority of those are occurring among out of state-ers, people who don’t live here in Colorado,” said Wolk.

An American Medical Association study shows pediatric hospital visits in the state related to marijuana rose from 9 to 47 from 2009 to 2015.

The main cause: kids accidentally eating edibles, which commonly look like cookies or candy.

“We certainly didn’t want edible marijuana products to be enticing to kids,” said Wolk.

Starting Oct. 1, a new Colorado law will require more identification on edible products.

“It will be a caution sign with an exclamation point with the letters T-H-C,” explained Freedman.

Potency is another issue, with products getting stronger.

“Very clear evidence that potency is rising. Average potency has risen substantially,” said Rosalie Pacula, a researcher at RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

According to a Colorado State report, and the National Institute of Health, THC – the psychoactive chemical in marijuana – is at an unprecedented level.

Marijuana flowers and buds have risen from a potency of 6 percent in 2003 to an average potency of 17 percent in 2016.

Concentrates, like edibles and oils, average 62 percent in 2016.

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“People are viewing these new products and potencies and intake methods that have never been seen before as safe,” said Diane Calrson, with Smart Colorado.

She argues the scientific information to back-up the “safe” claims just aren’t there.

The federal government lists weed as an illegal substance, which limits research and leaves it up to special interests groups to make the case of what’s safe and what isn’t.

“There is a lot of conflicting information out there about the potential effects of marijuana,” said Drew Soderborg with California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office.

He says it’s difficult to find credible information for voters in this state. And it’s why public health officials in Colorado say they’re part of a grand experiment, with the people as the sample.

“I would like to see a more restrictive start so we can understand the science of marijuana and THC a little bit better,” said Wolk.

In the next story, we look at the social and societal implications of legal recreation marijuana.

Comments (7)
  1. Brian Kelly says:

    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 glorified as an All American pastime, booze.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    1. Brian Kelly says:

      There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

      The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda put forth largely by The National Institute On Drug Abuse, commonly referred to as NIDA .

      “While U.S. officials defend their monopoly, critics say the government is hogging all the pot and giving it mainly to researchers who want to find harms linked to the drug.

      U.S. officials say the federal government must be the sole supplier of legal marijuana in order to comply with a 1961 international drug-control treaty. But they admit they’ve done relatively little to fund pot research projects looking for marijuana’s benefits, following their mandate to focus on abuse and addiction.

      “We’ve been studying marijuana since our inception. Of course, the large majority of that research has been on the deleterious effects, the harmful effects, on cognition, behavior and so forth,” said Steven Gust, special assistant to the director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which was created in 1974.”

      Each and every tired old lie NIDA has propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

      Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

      With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for The National Institute On Drug Abuse to do?

      Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      1. Brian Kelly says:

        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 detriment to our society 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 detriment to our society 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 lives, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

      2. Brian Kelly says:

        The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

        Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

        Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

        Even The President of the United States has consumed marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

        The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

        Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

      3. Brian Kelly says:

        In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

        In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

        Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

        People who consume marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

        Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make them out to be. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

        Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

        Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

        To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

        There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

        So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

        We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

        Has a marijuana consumer ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force anybody not to either.

        Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon everybody else with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  2. Cannabis has been in continuous use by humankind for over 5,000 years. Before “Reefer Madness” began cannabis was widely used for recreation as well as medicine and was well understood for its many medicinal benefits and properties. Pharmaceutical companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly used cannabis in medicines widely sold in U.S. pharmacies to treat epilepsy, pain, insomnia, migraines, glaucoma, and rheumatism. Between 1840 and 1900, U.S. scientific journals published hundreds of articles touting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

    Cannabis is completely legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Washington DC and the sky hasn’t fallen, and these cannabis legal states still function as they always have with some notable exceptions . Instead of drug cartels and gangs getting billions of cannabis dollars legitimate responsible business is handling the funds providing new jobs for thousands of citizens. Teen use is either unchanged or down. These states are getting a healthy chunk in new taxes. Gangs and drug cartels are moving out to places where cannabis is still illegal. Multiply the success by 50 states. Millions of new jobs, BILLIONs in new tax revenue and NO MORE DRACONIAN POLICE WAR on folks for cannabis consumption. Enough with the lies just Legalize!

  3. Ready Set Go says:

    It should be noted that of those who have been using marijuana for decades aren’t all in a hospital or loony bin suffering any common ailments. There is no marijuana syndrome.

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