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Colorado Hits Pot Jackpot; West Virginia Water Scare Continues; First Lady Gets Laughs on Late Night; Biker Goes Pink for Charity.

Aired February 21, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: @ THIS HOUR, the state of Colorado hitting the pot jackpot. They are swimming in marijuana millions.

MICHAEL PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Legal marijuana retailers turned in a report yesterday and they are expected to rake in tons of dough. They estimate they will make $184 million in tax revenue over 18 months.

That's a whole lot of money.

BERMAN: It's a lot more than they thought they would be making.


BERMAN: It's a huge deal.

Here with a closer look at these pot profits is business news correspondent, Alison Kosik; and Dan Riffle, of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Alison, let me start with you here.

We are talking about a lot of money, money that this government is really going to use.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. So you mentioned that $184 million figure, Michaela. That's the tax revenue through June of 2015, and that number is coming from the total sales of revenue, coming from more than $600 million during the same period of time. I mean, sit and think about that amount. It's really stunning when you think about it.

And also, part of the reason you're seeing these revenues so high is because it's being taxed so big in Colorado, 25 percent -- there's a 25 percent tax on marijuana. It's taxed three times during the process --

PEREIRA: Three times.

KOSIK: -- when marijuana is produced, when it's sold, and when it's bought.

PEREIRA: Boom, boom, boom. That's incredible. The three times, at each point, that's a whole lot of money. That's what boggled both of our minds.

I want to turn to Dan Riffle and talk about it.

Part of the goal of legalization I think was a way to get this out of the shadows, but legal pot is way more expensive than the illegal pot. Essentially, it's going to keep the black market alive. No?

DAN RIFFLE, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: I think it's competitive with the black market price, too. But I think it's unrealistic to expect for the price of marijuana to stay where it is right now. Part of the reason why marijuana is so expensive -- the tax revenue is only part of it. There's also the novelty of this. This is the first market in the world where marijuana has been legal, taxed and regulated like alcohol. There's the start-up costs for all these businesses, setting up business for the first time. There's a regulatory compliance. There's a very strict regulatory program in Colorado for this program. And then there's been a shortage recently. As this program gears up, all of these businesses are just starting to grow their inventory. Right now, supply is greater than demand and that's why you see prices higher than they should be.

BERMAN: Dan, you're in another state, looking at this. I understand they may not be able to make as much money as Colorado is this time. But there are 48 other states that are looking at this. Washington State has legalized pot saying, this has got to be a great way to make money. No?

RIFFLE: Yeah, for sure. You know, the original expectation in Colorado was about $67 or $70 million. Based on the first month of sales data, the governor is raising that expectation. They're expecting about $100 million in the first year. So it's early but all signs point towards this being a success story, and what we're focused on here in Washington is making sure that federal policies have changed so we can export that success story to other states. Alaska and Oregon will be voting on initiatives probably later this year to regulate and tax marijuana. California in 2016, Massachusetts, maybe Nevada in 2016. There's a number of state legislatures that are considering bills right now. This is something that we expect to take off not just in Washington and Colorado but around the country.

PEREIRA: Despite that, marijuana is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. It's something that we can overlook.

Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

Dan Riffle, thank you for joining us.

We'll take a short break. Ahead @ THIS HOUR, pretty safe to say that most of us here in America take our drinking water for granted. But thousands of people in one state have been scared to drink or otherwise use their water. Could their fears spread to your area? That's ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, he's most famous for fending off a jillion marauding soldiers with just 300 men. But what Gerard Butler is talking about now is even more heroic. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: For weeks, thousands of people in West Virginia have been scared to drink or otherwise use the water coming out of their taps because of the massive chemical spill. Scientists have been testing the water to see if it's safe.

BERMAN: It could be a couple of weeks before they have an answer, which is shocking to a lot of people.

Our Elizabeth Cohen joins us. And we're also talking to Erik Olson with the National Resources Defense Council. He testified before a Senate panel about this case.

Elizabeth, let me start with you.

And let me just say, we all drink water. This is important to so many people and what West Virginia -- what happened in West Virginia has a lot of people very, very concerned. So what are scientists trying to figure out right now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, scientists today, an independent panel, John, had a press conference, and they said, look, when they lifted the ban, when they told people it was OK to drink, they relied on science from the Centers for Disease Control that said, below one part per million, unlikely to make anybody sick. And now these independent scientists are saying, we're going to go back take a look at that. We're going to take a look and see if that was the right level or not. It's interesting because when the ban lifts, they get all of the science right and everything is fine, and then they say we want to go back and check that science, basically.

PEREIRA: So you've been on the ground there. Are folks drinking the water, cooking with it, washing with it?

COHEN: I've talked to many, many people, and I have not met one person who is actually drinking the tap water. And I'm going to show you a picture, Michaela and John, that will speak a thousand words. So this is -- what we should be looking at is a water fountain that says "do not drink." You see these signs in a lot of places. This picture is from the county Department of Health. When you walk into the county health department, it says, "don't drink the water from the water fountain." I think that speaks volume about how insecure and how untrusting people are of the water here. And I say, well, your officials say it's OK to drink, and they say, we don't care what they say. We don't want to drink it.

BERMAN: Erik, what do you make of this? It's in West Virginia but is this something that could happen somewhere else?

ERIK OLSON, NATIONAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Yeah, absolutely. We've done a study that shows cities across the country are at risk for these kinds of disasters. And honestly, studies were done about 10 years ago that showed that cities in all 50 states are at risk of contamination but very little has been done to head off that problem. PEREIRA: Can we trust the officials? I think people saw, as Elizabeth was saying, tests were done and they said it's OK. There's this whole debate OK to drink versus safe to drink. There's a big gap and distance between those two things. It's frustrating. We're nothing without water. How do we know who to trust and when to trust them?

OLSON: Well, this is a fundamental problem. One of the issues is we don't have very much information about how toxic this chemical is. So that has given rise to a lot of skepticism among many independent scientists that this is safe, especially for some populations, like pregnant women. You want to make sure that if you have a baby, that that baby is not at risk. That's why actually the Centers for Disease Control said, well, maybe pregnant women shouldn't be drinking this stuff as long as it's detectable in the water supply.

BERMAN: Elizabeth, what are the range of medical issues facing people there right now?

COHEN: You know, in the immediate sense, what people --


COHEN: I'm sorry.

PEREIRA: Go ahead, Elizabeth.

OLSON: Go ahead.

COHEN: Oh, OK. In the immediate sense, what we're hearing people are going to the emergency room for are things like rashes and nausea and headaches. But even when I spoke to the head of the county health department, he said, long-term, we don't know what the cancer risks are. We don't know what the risks are for neurological issues. You know, there's so many question marks because, as we were just discussing, there's no human data on this chemical and even very limited animal data on this chemical.

PEREIRA: Our Elizabeth Cohen is on the ground in Charleston. Erik Olson is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Thank you so much for joining us to talk about this.

It's a concern no matter where you live in the country. As we said, we're nothing without water. It's a fright for folks in West Virginia.

BERMAN: All right, you may know actor Gerard Butler as the leader of the Spartans. What a good movie that was.

PEREIRA: Let's have a small movie just to remember that.

BERMAN: It's a good movie.

But Gerard Butler has a softer side. PEREIRA: He really does. It's been great to see the work that he's been doing with the "CNN Heroes" charity that works to help impoverished kids in Liberia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please honor me in welcoming a fellow hero, and I'm proud he's a fellow Scotsman, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: I was star struck when I met Magnus. Since then we've become good friends. Now here I am in Liberia.

So we've been driving for about an hour now. We're right in the heart of the country and we're passing little kids going to school where the feeding program is going on.

It's me and Magnus against everybody else.

There's such a huge need here. There's so many children out of school, huge problems with malnutrition. We're providing daily meals so that children come to school.

All right. Who's next?

Here you go.

It's a great partnership going on here, the parents, the elders, children, volunteers.

Good, no?

When "CNN Heroes" happened, we were feeding just over 400,000 children. Now we're well over 800,000 children every day. That's in the world.

Three plus four?


We've seen school enrollment increase.

What is this?




GERARD: A lot of them didn't eat at all in a day before they came to school. Now they are motivated to come to school. They can focus.

Education is something that becomes like a possibility.

Who would have thought when I gave the language to the "CNN Heroes" award, I've been surrounded by the most amazing kids and it shows what one person can do when they show a bit of love.


BERMAN: You know what is amazing, how happy did Gerard Butler look there?

PEREIRA: It's amazing when you work with people, with children -- I've worked with a lot of at-risk kids. You think that you are helping them. They do so much in return. It's a give and take relationship.

BERMAN: He looked like he felt lucky to be there.

PEREIRA: Didn't he?

BERMAN: That was so cool.

PEREIRA: Every week, we're going to be honoring a new "CNN Hero," and everyday person doing extraordinary things to help others.

BERMAN: If you know someone who deserves this recognition, go to Do it now. Tell us about them.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, a guy takes the color pink to a whole new level. Look at him. We'll tell you why Facebook is blowing up on this one.



PEREIRA: First Lady Michelle Obama got some pretty big late-night laughs. She was Jimmy Fallon's guest. He has had quite the lineup. She didn't just sit on the couch. Oh no. The first lady went all- out, doing a skit with Fallon and special guests. It's hard to tell with those pig tails, but that's comedian, Will Ferrell. They were dressed as teenage girls. Of course, the first lady played herself.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, instead of potato chips, a healthy alternative is kale chips.


OBAMA: Not gross! In fact, I brought some with me. You both should try one.


OBAMA: And the best part, they're high in omega 3 fatty acids.



(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: I'm deeply trouble. I'm deeply, deeply troubled by that. I have to tell you. It's one of those times I'm glad I go to bed at 7:30 at night.

PEREIRA: You missed it. She went down and got down -- they got their boogie on, because they're getting kids moving, getting people moving, making better choices eating. It was fun to watch her.

BERMAN: A little political news to tell you about. Hillary Clinton, a new poll out. The Gallup organization saying her favorability at 59 percent. That's pretty high but it's actually lower than when she was secretary of state, but not dropping precipitously. She's at 59 percent.

Other news in the Hillary Clinton world, Senator John McCain saying in an interview he thought that if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would be president.

But this just in. You know what's not being held today?

PEREIRA: The election.

BERMAN: Exactly.

PEREIRA: But you know that people who make these decisions about whether she is running or not -- likely her -- paying attention to these polls.

BERMAN: No doubt.

PEREIRA: No doubt. No doubt.

BERMAN: @ THIS HOUR, this question: How do you feel about pink facial hair? How do you feel about bikers? So how about pink facial hair on bikers? It sounds awesome already, right? But it's even more awesome than you think.

Take a look at this. This is Steve Betters, who lost a bet on the NFL playoffs. And that's why he started dying the beard. But he decided to take it even further than that, dye the beard to earn money for charity. Betters promised to donate $1,000 to a children's hospital in Maine if he got 1,000 likes on Facebook, and he got a lot more than that.

We talked about the whole thing with him and it turns out he's just as awesome as you think.

PEREIRA: Steve Betters joins us now from Portland, Maine.

What a pleasure to see you. And boy, that is pink. Would you do me a favor and give a tug on that beard so I know it's real?



BERMAN: Oh, man. Is there anything living in there?

PEREIRA: Small V.W. bug.

BETTERS: No. I picked out a few things earlier, but I think that was from last night's supper.

BERMAN: So, Steve, I've got to say, this is a wonderful thing --

PEREIRA: It really is.

BERMAN: -- that you're doing. Did you ever expect that it would get the reaction that it has?

BETTERS: This is absolutely blowing me out of the water. It's beyond my every expectation.

PEREIRA: Give us an idea of how many likes you've gotten, and how much money you've been able to raise.

BETTERS: Well, I tell you what, I started off with about 300 and something likes, and it has gone up within 11 days to 3,300 and something likes, I believe, right now.

BERMAN: So you said if you got 1,000, you would give $1,000 to charity. Are you going to go higher than 1,000?

BETTERS: Yeah, it was my Camelot. If this thing had gone viral, and I didn't expect it, but if it did, I was willing to donate $1,000 to the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital here in Portland, Maine.

PEREIRA: Oh, you big softy. Talk to me about pink. Why was it pink that was chosen?

BETTERS: Well, I tell you what. The brothers at that I rode with, with the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association in Bangor, had a bet if the Patriots lost to the Broncos, they were going to shave their heads. And it was minus 20 degrees down here in Portland, and there was no way I was losing anymore hair. I said, I'll go ahead and dye the beard for them. And they wanted me to die it orange for the Broncos.

PEREIRA: That would be a good look.


PEREIRA: Orange would be a good look.

BERMAN: That's the Broncos colors.

BETTERS: That was the Broncos' color. And I really didn't want to wear a Broncos' color. I would rather dye it pink. So -- and that's how I came to choose pink. It's just one of those colors, and it's kind of itchy.

BERMAN: Steve, are you sure it grows out?


PEREIRA: It's going to be quite a look when it grows out.

BETTERS: This is going to be fantastic. Right now, I'm wearing a washable dye.


BETTERS: It comes off with just soap and water. But since this thing has taken off, I think my wife has talked me into going permanent here.

PEREIRA: She likes it?

BETTERS: She likes it! She likes it. And the only problem is that my son is getting married in May.

PEREIRA: Oh. That's not one of their colors?


BETTERS: No. I just don't want to upstage the bride.

PEREIRA: You never want to do that.

BERMAN: You could imagine the bridesmaids' dresses though. At some point, there could be synergy there.

PEREIRA: Steve Betters, we salute you. We appreciate what you're doing for kids and what your club is doing. And we love that you are wearing this boldly, my friend. Thanks so much for the great work you're doing, and people keep on liking him.

BETTERS: Oh, absolutely. Keep it going.

Thank you very much.

PEREIRA: Have a great day.

You're thinking about it, aren't you? I think it would be a great look for you.

I want to tell you a great example of people coming together to make a big difference. A 5-month-old baby stopped breathing on a busy Miami highway. A woman sprang from her car screaming for help in the middle of backed-up traffic. Apparently, her nephew was turning blue. Drivers responding to the woman's screams, jumped from their cars. One of them was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer from the "Miami Herald." He jogged through traffic lanes to flag down a police officer. That officer ran to the team and aided another motorist in giving that little one CPR. We're told that little boy is in critical but stable condition today. He has some sort of respiratory issues, because he was born prematurely. But we wanted to share this, an act of kindness in an emergency kind of situation, a group of people potentially saving this little one's life.

BERMAN: The kid is lucky. And those people are wonderful.

PEREIRA: And aunty breathing a sigh of relief.

That's it for us @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" starts right after this.