Legalization Learning Curve


(NBC News) A little over two months ago Colorado became the first state to legally sell marijauna for recreational use, the result of voters passing an amendment in 2012.

As other states and countries battle over marijuana laws, many eyes are focused on Colorado, where success or failure will likely help shape the future of the pot industry.

"This is one of the great social experiments of the 21st century," Governor John Hickenlooper admits. "Doing it right is going to have real importance."

It's an experiment that has opened a new frontier with rapid growth.

"Everyone here realizes that we're taking part in a moment of history and we want to get it right," says Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Tripp Keber's company, Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, located in Denver, is part of the fastest growing sector of the cannabis industry: Infused products.

"This is a massive market," he says.

The company is so confident about business it's expanding into this 50,000 square foot state of the art facility and hopes to become a model for the industry.

Discrete and with no smell, it's the edibles industry that now worries Gina Carbone with SMART Colorado, an organization that works to keep pot out of the hands of kids.

"You shouldn't be able to put marijauana in any kind of food and that's what we're seeing right now. I mean everything from salad dressing, to barbecue sauce, to pizza to ice cream," she says.

State regulation requires child-proof packaging and labeling that identifies marijuana content for adult use, and even Governor Hickenlooper is concerned about the potential impact on children, one of the reasons he urges other states to hold off on marijuana legalization for now.

"If I was in another state I'd wait a couple years to see if it is a good thing or a bad thing," he admits.

Other challenges have surfaced in the first two months.

Banks are still not processing pot business transactions over fear of federal prosecution, forcing dispensaries to operate as a mostly cash-based industry.

Colorado's Highway Patrol is working to educate drivers on the impacts of driving while high, and even re-training officers to better identify someone driving under the influence of cannabis.

The law's initial excitement lead to a shortage of marijuana in dispensaries across the state as well, but despite these new challenges, so far the roll-out has been seen as a success.

The Medical Marijuana Project, which supports legalization, says more than a dozen are likely to make pot legal for adult use similar to alcohol by 2017.


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