A Look Inside Colorado’s Pot Industry


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By Ben Cort, Board Member, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM); Director of Business Development/CeDAR at the University of Colorado Hospital. This guest column is shortened from an article which originally appeared in CADCA’s  website.

Last month I was honored to speak at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum about marijuana legalization in my home state.  When people hear what is going on, when they see the pictures and advertisements, the reactions are inevitable: shock, outrage, anger and even fear.

I live in Colorado, work inside of substance abuse treatment, am in recovery myself and I have three young children in public school, that’s my platform.

Make no mistake about it, we did not just legalize weed in Colorado we christened the commercialization and industrialization of the marijuana industry in Colorado.  We welcomed in a new industry that knowingly promotes an addictive and harmful substance SO THAT PEOPLE COULD MAKE MONEY. The business of business is to make money and when there is money to be made people will signup no matter how messed up the means are.  Let’s take a quick look at how the money is and will be made inside of this industry.

As of this writing there are 47 stores in Colorado that can sell recreational weed, there are about another 300 in the queue. Already the competition is fierce and the marketing wars are heating up, imagine what will come next. Right now we have everything from free T-shirts with your weed purchase and take-out orders to home delivery and a $1 joint when you show your ski pass for the day. For these businesses to continue making the huge money they are making they will need to do two things: 1) engage new users, 2) convert current users to more frequent users.

The crowd hides and runs after hearing shots at Denver's 420 celebration on April 20, 2103.  Three victims were shot at the rally.

The crowd hides and runs after hearing shots at Denver’s 420 celebration on April 20, 2103. Three victims were shot at the rally.   Photo: Joe Amon/ The Denver Post

To differentiate themselves from the competition they will offer the most amount of THC they can for the lowest price possible, sound like some potential for trouble? Our weed in Colorado is so strong (20-30 percent THC in its smoked form) that we have a strain called “green crack.” We also have a full range of edibles and concentrates, these businesses are diversifying and engaging with new (and younger) customers through new products.

Our concentrates, which are advertised aggressively, are 80-90 percent THC, and are often smoked on a super-heated needle and puts the smoker on their back with one hit.  Our edibles come in gummies, fruit sodas, suckers, candy and yummy looking baked goods that are so potent that a single pot brownie in Colorado comes with a warning that it has to be cut into fourths before consuming.

I’m guessing the 2-year-old child who ended up in the ER a few miles from my house last month didn’t read the label on the weed cookie she found before eating it.

A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man from the mistakes of others. Consider that old saying and the plight of Colorado when considering legalization in your home state.

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4 comments

  1. One must wonder what was on the minds of the Colorado school teachers. On the one hand, sure, schools can always use more funding. Though tax revenues were far over-estimated (likely because of under the table dealing), there is still some new funding.

    But on the other hand, we ALL know marijuana legalization will lure thousands of more adolescents. Let’s not fool ourseleves. And we know adoloscents are far more vulnerable to the adverse medical affects of marijuana- lower IQ, less motivation, poorer cognitive abilities, greater likelihood of drug induced mental health issues such as schizophrenia.

    Plus we know that the perpetrators of the Columbine High School and Aurora theater massacres were drug users who smoked, or who had smoked pot in prior years. And we know marijuana can induce schizophrenia.

    So there is a very strong possibilty that the drug culture in the Denver area created the monsters that perpetrated those crimes. And it could be that in the aftermath of the two most vicious, senseless crimes in Colorado history, Coloardans, in a spate of unfathomable stupidity, legalized the narcotic (marijuana) that was ultimately the underlying cause of those heinous mass murders.

    • thoughtfulness

      The teachers actually had a press conference and came out against it. “We will not support school building at the expense of our students.” When the people heard them, how could they vote for it?

      Makes no sense other than the fact of big money poured into convincing them.

  2. Thus on the one hand, the lure of MJ tax revenues for Colorado schools can be appealing. On the downside however, we get more mental illness, more schizophrenia, lower IQs, lower cognitive abilities, lower drive to exceed and excel, physical laziness, academic laziness, etc, Plus once in a while, kids mentally deranged from pot use may decide to bomb or shoot up a school.

    Not so good for the learning environment, wouldn’t you say?

  3. Judging the reactions, comments and beliefs of many others, I think it’s crucial for our general understanding that a critical distinction is made. The condition of using marijuana and becoming ‘high’ is the intoxicated state. And usually that condition is characterized by sedation. The critical distinction is that the suspected harms develop from prolongued marijuana use that for some can induce or exacerbate underlying mental illnesses. And then some of those mentally ill , not necessarily while ‘intoxicated’, may at some point be homicidal.
    Also, the biological complexity involved regarding how the cannabinoids of marijuana interact with the brain’s natural ‘endocannabinoids’, the receptors, the production of dopamine and serotonin, etc. is all very interesting. Science does not quite yet understand all the ramifications, Yet it stands to reason that inserting cannabinoids into the brain that will ‘trick’ the brain’s chemistry, may indeed permanently and adversely affect that intricate chemistry.