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Speaker: Colorado pot laws lined with pot holesTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Courtesy Photo­Image
Fun-loving caricature from a medicinal marijuana ad
Courtesy Photo­Image
Medical marijuana vaporizer

Several Colorado elementary school students were suspended April 22 after officials discovered they were selling and trading stolen, loose-leaf marijuana and edible forms of the drug at school.

On March 11, 19-year-old college student Levy Thamba Pongi consumed a little more than one marijuana cookie that his girlfriend bought at a Colorado pot shop. Pongi then jumped off a balcony and fell four floors to his death.

Pongi and college friends were in Colorado on spring break to get high on marijuana. His friends told police that they consumed no other drugs.

The cookie was reportedly cut in six pieces – one piece each for six people — but Pongi ate an entire cookie, then became highly agitated and jumped to his death, according to the Associated Press

Firefighters in Colorado have responded to at least 31 butane hash oil explosions this year, compared with 11 last year, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, AOL News reported May 6.

In March, a Tennessee woman stabbed her husband to death because he was “worshipping the NASCAR race.” The woman said God told her she should not smoke marijuana all day and night, and only needed to smoke pot to relax at night.
“I love to smoke it,” she said, according to a report by WJHL Channel 11 television. “Sometimes when I do, I start seeing things that others don’t.” 

Legal marijuana oppent Bob Doyle recently told such horror stories in North Platte, speaking to about 50 community leaders on May 14 at the North Platte High School.

Doyle is the Executive Director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance. Although he's been a tobacco oppenent for 20 years, he’s more concerned these days with the legalization of marijuana than tobacco — marijuana that is much more potent than ever before.

After years of growing medical marijuana, growers can now precisely feed, breed and prune pot plants in climate-controlled greenhouses, raising the THC content – the psychoactive ingredient — to heretofore unmatched levels.

Doyle said marijuana proponents caught Colorado by surprise, mounting an effective campaign for legalization before the opposition got organized.

“The mistake we made here in Colorado is that we didn’t pay attention,” he told the Bulletin. “My hope is to help any place avoid the disaster we have in Colorado, by showing how advanced the industry is and the problems we have.” 

Doyle now sees the birth of the next tobacco industry.

“I spent 20 years showing how tobacco companies could normalize a dangerous drug,” he said. “Commercialized drugs are the most used drugs. And, the same thing is happening with marijuana.” 



In the Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana, nearly 85 percent of the money for the legalization measure came from out of state, Doyle said.

First, marijuana was legalized for medical use, then voters legalized it for retail sales. 

Proponents said it would fatten the treasuries of government with a new source of tax money.

Legalization has brought in millions in new tax revenue, but government treasuries will have to pay more legal, health, social, and regulatory costs as time goes by, he said. Legalization costs are as much as 10 times the income, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center.

For instance, as medical marijuana expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

If the trend continues, non-alcohol drugs such as marijuana will overtake alcohol in traffic fatalities around 2020, the study said.


Medical uses

When medicinal marijuana became legal in Colorado, a variety of thinly-disguised markets appeared, Doyle said. 
One medical dispensary offered “Free Joint Friday for Females.”

Keef Cola, a bottled marijuana-based drink available in a variety of flavors, offers the “Gateway to Relief,” according to that ad. Two-for-one deals were offered at Denver’s Altitude and Wellness Center, where buyers could “stop by and say high,” and catch some live music. The only limit on special prices was “two per patient.”

The ads didn’t look like medical ads; they looked like recreational ads, and often the pot that was sold was used for recreational use, Doyle said. It’s a thin line between relief from anxiety and just getting high for the fun of it.

Doyle said the clear medical uses for marijuana – relief from seizures, post traumatic stress disorders, cancer pain and multiple sclerosis — could be solved soon by “sativex,” a prescription drug that is about to be marketed.

Doyle said legalization proponents want to make a lot of money and legalize more drugs. National companies have plans in place to for packaging, advertising and distribution. 

Doyle cites Keith Stroup, the head of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, who said back in 1979, "We will use [medical marijuana] as a red-herring to give marijuana a good name.” 

According to Doyle's presentation, legalization proponent Ethan Nadelmann, who leads the national Drug Policy Alliance, said in November that his long term goal is “safe and legal access to all drugs. Cocaine. Heroin. Hash. Ecstasy.”

Nadelmann wants people to have the right to get drugs of any kind, hold them, use them and pass them along in small quantities, NBC News reported.

The only country that currently comes close to such a program is Portugal, which in 2001 decriminalized the getting, having, and taking of a 10-day supply of any drug, NBC said. That’s not enough for Nadelmann, who wants to move drug-users out of the criminal justice system entirely and relocate them in the realm of public health, according to Doyle's presentation.

Doyle also said vapor smoking devices, commonly sold to cigarette smokers, are also marketed to marijuana users as a handy, odor free device.

“I found the presentation interesting,” said Capt. Lynn Williams of Troop D of the Nebraska State Patrol, headquartered in North Platte. “He makes very valid points.”

“Nebraska would have to look long and hard before considering legalization because of the social problems that would bring,” Williams said.

“What’s encouraging is the interest and the people paying attention to what’s happening,” Doyle said. “The mistake we made here in Colorado is that we didn’t pay attention.”

This report was first published May 21 in the Bulletin's print edition.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 6/12/2014
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