Scott: While marijuana for medical purposes has been legal in several states for years, this week, Colorado was the first to make pot legal for recreational uses. And Tom Hanson takes a look at the buying frenzy and the backlash.
Sales clerk: So, do you want to take a look at that and make sure that’s the one that you want?
Tom: January 1st marked the first day that Colorado residents could purchase marijuana for recreational use, similar to how alcohol is sold. People waited in line for hours to buy weed out in the open, instead of in a back alley.
Colorado resident: And nobody is going to jail. That is the cool part.
Tom: But there are limits. Buyers must be 21 or older. It can’t be smoked in public places. Colorado residents can purchase up to an ounce but non-residents are restricted to a quarter ounce, and can’t take it out of the state.
Even with the restrictions, organizers of Colorado’s campaign to legalize marijuana expect almost $400 million in sales this year. They expect sales to grow in the years to come, and say legalizing marijuana creates jobs, increases tax revenue and cuts down on crimes by keeping drug gangs out of the marijuana business.
Brian Vicente: All that money goes into the hands of the underground market and cartels. Well, that stops today.
Tom: Although Colorado is the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana, it is not the first place in the world. But Colorado’s new law is unique because it allows the state to account for each plant grown, meaning it can tax the weed from seed to sale, making this law the first of its kind in the world.
And what about the cost? Well, experts say it is about the same as if you bought it on the street – $100 for a quarter ounce.
But not everyone is on board with the law. The governor of Colorado opposes legalized pot, and seventy towns across Colorado have banned sales in their communities. Addiction specialists are also concerned that legal marijuana will lead to higher rates of abuse, especially among young people.
Expert: There is a real profit motive now to get the new users who will turn into the heavy users who will turn into the profits, eventually.
Tom: A recent study found that marijuana can be addictive for about 10% of users. And heavy pot use could damage the brain structure in teenagers. Still, concerns haven’t stopped buyers from flocking to stores.
Colorado resident: We wanted to make sure we were the first ones, and they didn’t run out first.
Colorado resident: I sold my house a couple months ago to prepare to move to Colorado.
Tom: About a dozen states, including Arizona, California, Alaska and Massachusetts are pushing for legalization of weed as well.
Tom Hanson, Channel One News.
Scott: Washington State has also legalized recreational marijuana, but the shops won’t start operating until the spring.