Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jan 2014
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Page: 4


Legal Recreational Use Starts Today, Spurs Celebrations, Warnings

WASHINGTON - After years of politicking and planning, Colorado will
make history today when it opens the first retail marijuana stores in
the United States, allowing state residents to buy up to an ounce of
the drug.

Out-of-state visitors will be allowed to buy a quarter of an ounce at
a time.

While proponents celebrated the long-awaited day, opponents warned
that the nation is about to launch a high-stakes experiment that will
lead to higher rates of drug addiction, lower academic scores for
children and more arrests for drugged driving.

As the "Rocky Mountain High" becomes officially enshrined in law, Sean
Azzariti, an Iraq War veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress
disorder, will make the first legal purchase at 3D (Denver's Discreet
Dispensary) at 8 a.m. on New Year's Day. He appeared in a television
ad in 2012 to explain how legalizing recreational use would help him
because his condition was not covered under the state's medical
marijuana law.

"Adults are using marijuana in every state across the nation. In
Colorado, they will now be purchasing it from legitimate businesses
instead of in the underground market," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for
the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver, which helped lead the
legalization campaign.

"It's a tough day to be part of a street gang in Colorado," said Neill
Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a
group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
Instead of focusing on pot smokers, he said, police will now be freed
to pursue "real criminals with everything they've got."

To prepare for the store openings, the Denver Post boosted its news
coverage, hiring a marijuana editor, creating a newsletter for readers
and a pot website that includes recipes for "cannabis-themed dinners"
and reviews of the latest pot films and marijuana strains such as
"triple diesel" and "granddaddy purple."

So far, the state has licensed 136 pot stores to begin selling the
drug to anyone over age 21, though not all of them are expected to be
up and running on the first day. All of the shops will have to operate
as cash-only businesses because they're prohibited from using banks
under federal law. State officials estimate the sales will generate
$67 million in tax revenue each year.

Twenty states allow marijuana for medical use, including New Mexico.
In Illinois, the law takes effect today. But Colorado and Washington
state are the only two that have approved pot for recreational use.
Washington state is expected to open more than 300 pot shops in June.
The two states are proceeding after the Justice Department in August
said it would not block their plans, even though Congress has long
banned marijuana.

Patrick Kennedy, a former Democratic congressman from Rhode Island and
the chairman of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), a group
that opposes legalization, called Colorado and Washington state
"canaries in the coal mine." He said his group will closely follow
trends there as a way to convince other states not to legalize marijuana.

And he said voters in those states should reconsider legalization,
predicting it will lead to more highway fatalities, increased
hospitalizations and higher dropout and truancy rates for

"We don't have to have other states go down this road and have to
learn the same hard lessons," Kennedy said in a conference call with

Drug addiction experts from Colorado joined Kennedy, saying treatment
centers in the state are already seeing more demand because of rising
rates of teen marijuana use. And they said the drug is far more potent
than a generation ago, increasing the risk of psychosis, brain
impairment and addiction for school-age kids.
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