Skip to main content

Colorado's troubles with pot

By Kevin A. Sabet
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
Public perceptions about pot have come a long way, from the dire warnings of "Reefer Madness" to growing acceptance of medical marijuana to the legalization of recreational weed use. Public perceptions about pot have come a long way, from the dire warnings of "Reefer Madness" to growing acceptance of medical marijuana to the legalization of recreational weed use.
HIDE CAPTION
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
History of marijuana in America
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sales of recreational marijuana began in Washington state this week
  • Kevin Sabet: Colorado's experience with pot legalization can hardly be called a success
  • He says marijuana companies will profit from sales while kids will be harmed
  • Sabet: Marijuana users have higher risks of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses

Editor's note:

(CNN) -- This week, Washington state opened recreational marijuana stores for the first time. And these stores don't just carry your father's kind of weed. In addition to highly potent cigarettes -- which are much stronger than those some people might remember from Woodstock -- stores will also soon sell super-strength, pot-infused cookies, candies, sodas, vapor and wax concentrates.

Time will tell what the effects will be, but the state is not the first place to implement such a policy. Colorado started to sell marijuana six months ago. When President Barack Obama stopped by a Denver bar on Tuesday night, it comes as no surprise that someone offered him weed.

Colorado's experience with pot legalization can hardly be called a success. In fact, it should be considered a warning for the residents of Washington.

Kevin Sabet
Kevin Sabet

Special-interest "Big Tobacco"-like groups and businesses have ensured that marijuana is widely promoted, advertised and commercialized in Colorado. As a result, calls to poison centers have skyrocketed, incidents involving kids going to school with marijuana candy and vaporizers seem more common, and explosions involving butane hash oil extraction have risen. Employers are reporting more workplace incidents involving marijuana use, and deaths have been attributed to ingesting marijuana cookies and food items.

So much for the old notion that "pot doesn't kill."

Marijuana companies, like their predecessors in the tobacco industry, are determined to keep lining their pockets.

CNN's Ana Cabrera reports on concerns over edible pot that looks like candy. CNN's Ana Cabrera reports on concerns over edible pot that looks like candy.
What's in your pot candy?
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
What\'s in your pot candy? What's in your pot candy?
This is your body on weed
'Nasal Ranger' sniffs out skunky weed
Nation's 'weed fairy' unmasked
Colorado marijuana sales? Not that high

Indeed, legalization has come down to one thing: money. And it's not money for the government -- Colorado has only raised a third of the amount of tax revenue they have projected -- it's money for this new industry and its shareholders.

Open Colorado newspapers and magazines on any given day and you will find pages of marijuana advertisements, coupons and cartoons promoting greater and greater highs. The marijuana industry is making attractive a wide selection of marijuana-related products such as candies, sodas, ice cream and cartoon-themed paraphernalia and vaporizers, which are undoubtedly appealing to children and teens.

As Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center recently said, "We're seeing hallucinations, they become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious." Bronstein reported that in 2013, there were 126 calls concerning adverse reactions to marijuana. From January to April this year, the center receive 65 calls.

And, since Colorado expanded marijuana stores for medical users, peer-reviewed research has found a major upsurge in stoned driving-related deaths (that is not surprising since marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash).

It is little wonder that every major public health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Society of Addiction Medicine oppose the legalization of marijuana.

The scientific verdict is that marijuana can be addictive and dangerous.

Despite denials by special interest groups and marijuana businesses, the drug's addictiveness is not debatable: 1 in 6 kids who ever try marijuana will become addicted to the drug, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many baby boomers have a hard time understanding this simply because today's marijuana can be so much stronger than the marijuana of the past.

In fact, more than 450,000 incidents of emergency room admissions related to marijuana occur every year, and heavy marijuana use in adolescence is connected to an 8-point reduction of IQ later in life, irrespective of alcohol use.

As if our national mental illness crisis needed more fuel, marijuana users also have a six times higher risk of schizophrenia and are significantly more likely to development other psychotic illnesses. It is no wonder that health groups such as the National Alliance of Mental Illness are increasingly concerned about marijuana use and legalization.

That does not mean we need to arrest our way out of a marijuana problem.

We should reform criminal justice practices and emphasize prevention, early intervention and treatment when necessary. But we do not need to legalize -- and thus commercialize and advertise -- marijuana to implement these reforms.

The only people better off under legalization are the big companies that stand to profit from sales of marijuana. And we can be sure they will get even richer while public health and safety suffers.

New York legalizes medical marijuana

'I like weed, and I'm a good person': Pot smokers fight stereotypes

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
The Marijuana Debate
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT)
Adam Markus has bet nearly everything he has on a pot shop.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
Lighting up a freshly packed pipe is just the kind of afternoon delight iReporter robcat20 likes after dealing with a stressful day at work as an insurance agent.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
I feel very badly that people have suffered for too long, unable to obtain the legitimate medicine that may have helped them, Sanjay Gupta writes.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Coming to the Mile High City was the perfect 65th birthday present for Karen Stevenson. She and her husband experienced what it's like to buy and smoke weed legally.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
Political operatives are pushing pot legalization in several states this year in the hopes of sparking high turnout in this fall's midterm elections, and are looking ahead to 2016 as well.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1213 GMT (2013 HKT)
Aimee Curry recalls sitting on her couch one day, her back contorted, as spasms -- remnants of a car accident that almost killed her in 1992 -- rippled up and down her back.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 0303 GMT (1103 HKT)
With 20 U.S. states allowing medical marijuana, and others weighing its medicinal or recreational use, advocates of looser laws on weed appear to have the advantage.
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
President Barack Obama talks to CNN's Jake Tapper about marijuana legalization in an exclusive interview.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
There appears to be a shift in the United States in favor of relaxing marijuana laws, a topic that has dipped in and out of the national conversation for decades.
January 7, 2014 -- Updated 0329 GMT (1129 HKT)
In an office run from his Massachusetts home, William Downing is part of a burgeoning national pro-pot movement emboldened by the approval of recreational marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 2223 GMT (0623 HKT)
Customers waited in long lines for their turn to buy recreational marijuana in Colorado, the first state in the nation to allow retail pot shops.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Looks like the ongoing debate about marijuana legalization in the United States has reached a new high: President Barack Obama's White House.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0217 GMT (1017 HKT)
The White House says Obama's pot policy hasn't changed, despite his assertion the drug is no more dangerous than alcohol.
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
He's only 3 years old, but Landon Riddle is already the focus of a medical marijuana fight in Colorado.
January 4, 2014 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
In a far corner of downtown Denver, the Andrews family runs an old-fashioned mom and pop (and daughter) shop, selling the biggest novelty of a new era: marijuana.
August 9, 2013 -- Updated 0044 GMT (0844 HKT)
Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called "Weed." The title may sound cavalier, but the content is not.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 2240 GMT (0640 HKT)
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock shares his view on the state's new legalized marijuana laws.
ADVERTISEMENT