Colorado Still Working Through the Kinks of Legal Marijuana

Matt Shelly
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Colorado marijuana laws increase tourism, create new businesses and provide a few pitfalls for the Centennial State. While medicinal and recreational marijuana offer benefits for pain-relief seekers and leisurely partakers, marijuana edibles are a risk to children and curious tourists who are unaware or underestimate its psychotropic properties. Purchasers of marijuana edibles should secure items from snack-loving children, and tourists should think twice before consuming large amounts of what appears to be an innocuous substance.

Colorado is the first state to open retail stores for marijuana, offering seeds, cookies, brownies and candy bars as well as other products. Licensed sales outlets are mostly available in Denver, which also has the largest number of recreational sales. While state laws permit the sale and usage of marijuana, Governor John Hickenlooper advises restraint regarding recreational sales. His reasoning is two-fold: marijuana is a federal offense, and its impact on the state is unknown. Despite his warning, recreational usage created a jump in prices from a spur in herbal tourism and a lack of product, while medicinal pricing at dispensaries is holding firm, as of June 2014.

No matter what the pricing is for medicinal and recreational use, marijuana edibles remain a concern. According to a New York Times article, the impacts of selling marijuana in edible form unleashed a multitude of consequences for people of all ages. Marijuana-infused chocolate, cookies and lollipops are finding a way into the hands of eager children. Schoolyards are now the scene of kids sharing marijuana edibles scored from unsuspecting parents and grandparents. In addition, Children's Hospital Colorado saw an uptick in child admissions over marijuana consumption. The hospital treated eight children in 2013, while caregivers sought treatment for nine children within the first five months of 2014. Six of the children became critically ill. This information inspired at least one school district director, John Gates, to warn parents to secure weed to ensure it does not find its way into elementary schools.

There are also two deaths associated with the purchase of marijuana edibles. In one case, a Wyoming college student visited Colorado, purchased marijuana edibles and dove off a hotel balcony. The medical examiner cited marijuana intoxication as a noteworthy influence. In another case involving an inquisitive traveler and marijuana edibles, a husband shot and killed his wife. In her 911 call for assistance, she stated he consumed marijuana edibles in the form of Karma Kandy, but she also advised that he may have consumed prescription medication. Either way, it is apparent that marijuana edibles need to have warning labels to safeguard an inexperienced public.

The full benefits of medicinal and recreational marijuana are not known as of 2014, however its legalization is an important step in utilizing a natural product for its medicinal remedies and as a social alternative to alcohol. In addition to educating the public through public service announcements and instructional directions, portion-control marijuana edibles with warning labels that advise consumption guidelines and THC content are important steps to safeguarding an unsuspecting public.


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