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Now what? Marijuana legalized in ColoradoTell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by 420Magazine.com
Super duper pot plant

Voters in Colorado passed a Constitutional amendment on Election Day that makes it legal for people 21 or older to buy, use and share less than an ounce of marijuana.

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Residents can also grow up to six pot plants in their home.

One pot plant can produce two or more ounces – even five, according to the marijuana facts website – "420 online magazine."

An ounce of good-quality pot can cost around $250, so it’s possible that Coloardo homeowners could earn $3,000 per year legally growing pot.

But before anyone in Nebraska takes out a loan to buy potting soil and grow lights and move to Colorado, consider that Colorado officials still don’t know what to do with the new law.


Approach, avoidance

As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on NBC news after the votes were counted, “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug.”

As of Dec. 4, the U.S. Departem of Justice has not said how the federal government plans to react to newly legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington states.

However, the Department of Transportation announced that marijuana is still a violation of its internal polices and any DOT employees, regardless of whether or not they're using marijuana in compliance with state law, face suspension or termination for marijuana use.

According to news commentator Thom Hartmann, the DOT said pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, and train engineers will continue facing drug tests for marijuana.


Monster

“It seems like they created a monster,” Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer said. “It’s apt to lead to unregulated widespread usage. It was controllable, and now it will be farther outside the realm of control.”

The complex Colorado Constitutional amendment is 8 pages long, but essentially it gives local governments – cities and counties -- the right to regulate the use of pot, to put conditions on how and where it is used, and to tax it.

The amendment passed by a healthy margin — 55-45 percent. The margin was greater in Colorado mountain resort areas, but the majority of voters in 16 counties on the eastern plains of Colorado – nearest Nebraska -- rejected it.

Kramer said pot is still apt to trickle back to the North Platte area.

“It’s like 3.2% beer when we were younger,” he told the Bulletin. “When people could buy 3.2 beer at age 18 in Colorado, many a six-pack was smuggled back to Nebraska.”

Kramer doesn’t want pot legalized in Nebraska.

“It stays in your system longer than alcohol,” he said. “I have to have people drug free coming in and out of work. How do you do that if it’s legal? And, how do you control the taxes if people can have plants in their house?”

Kramer also suspects it will contribute to a sense of entitlement.

“Some people can’t take care of basic needs,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll do better if they are stoned.”

Advocates say the trend to legalize marijuana is sweeping the country, with 21 states already allowing medical marijuana, including Colorado, where it was adopted in 2000.

On Election Day, returns were somewhat mixed. Colorado, Oregon and Washington all held votes to let adults legally have an ounce or so of pot. Somewhat surprisingly, Oregon voters, known for a prevailing liberal attitude, shot it down.

Voters in Massachusetts approved medical marijuana. Voters in Arkansas shot that down.


Health

In the last three years, more than 6,000 studies have been published in scientific journals about the cannabis plant, according to NORML, an national organization that works to legalize marijuana. Much of the research has focused on the plant’s effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system acts like a bridge between mind and body, helping different types of cells communicate with each other, according to a comprehensive Cable News Network report by Jacque Wilson.

According to NORML and the National Cancer Institute, people’s bodies make natural cannabinoids -- active chemicals that cause drug-like effects through the body. The reason pot makes a person feel good is because the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — works like those natural chemicals.

Dr. Julie Holland, author of “The Pot Book,” says medicinal marijuana is most often prescribed to combat nausea and stimulate appetite. And, it is also prescribed to manage chronic pain.

On the other hand, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that marijuana causes an increase in the heart rate, which could put users at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens similar to cigarette smoke.


Mental effects

People with a family history of mental illness are also at a greater risk for seeing the drug’s mind-altering effects. A number of studies have linked chronic marijuana use to increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, according to DrugAbuse.gov.

Some critics say that pot limits mental activity, but researchers have found no decrease in intelligence among adults who smoke.

However, they have found that teens who smoked pot heavily (at least four days a week) lost an average of eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38. Adults who had smoked as teens tended to show more pronounced deficits in memory, concentration and overall brainpower in relation to their peers.

Kids’ and teens’ brains are still developing, Holland says, which is why they may be more vulnerable to the drug’s effects.


Movin' it

There is no shortage of pot heading down the interstate highway, regardless of state and federal laws. It's not clear if it is coming or going west. The Nebraska State Patrol often finds marijuana in cars and SUVs traveling both ways on I-80.

On Nov. 18 a Nebraska State Patrol trooper found more than a ton -- 2,300 pounds -- of marijuana in the back of a rental truck headed east near York.

And, as recently as Nov. 30, a state trooper found 25 pounds of marijuana in a car zipping east past North Platte on I-80.



This report was first published Nov. 14 in the print edition of the North Platte Bulletin. It has been updated.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 12/4/2012
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