The Changing Face of Marijuana and Marijuana Policy (2/3

Medical marijuana

Continuation of article by Dr. Kevin Sabet (2/3)

Washington and Colorado are on the brink of opening their first retail marijuana stores. Uruguay is also following a model of state-based marijuana selling. What exactly will happen now is anyone’s guess, but we can make some educated projections based on what is already beginning…

1) We are on the brink of creating “Big Marijuana” in this country similar to “Big Tobacco” of yesteryear.A powerful industry has emerged off the heels of “medical” marijuana and now is transitioning to be ready for full legalization.

An executive from Microsoft is teaming up with a former Mexican president to try and “mint more marijuana millionaires than Microsoft”[1]in his goal to create a national brand, the “Starbucks of Marijuana.”Perhaps most frightening of all, a multimillion dollar private equity fund has launched to support the marijuana industry, with its head commenting that his “phone has barely stopped ringing.” [2]

2) US States have failed miserably at controlling marijuana for “medical” purposes – are they really set up to successfully handle full legalization?

Dr Kevin Sabet

Two independent reports released within days of each other last month documented how Colorado’s supposedly regulated system is not well regulated at all.  In the first of the two audits, the Colorado State Auditor concluded that there were inappropriate recommendations made, a whopping 50% of recommendations were made by only 12 physicians, that the state had not “established a process for caregivers to indicate the significant responsibilities they are assuming for managing the well-being of their patients,” and that the state “cash fund” was out of compliance.[3]The second audit[4]concluded that the city of Denver “does not have a basic control framework in place for effective governance of the… medical marijuana program.”

3) The experience of Colorado and Washington thus far should give those concerned with public health and safety pause about legalization.

Mass advertising, promotion, using items that are attractive to kids – like “marijuana lollipops,” “Ring Pots,” “Pot-Tarts” etc. – are all characteristics of current “medical” marijuana policy. Already in Colorado since 2014, children as young as two have been rushed to the hospital for accidentally ingesting marijuana cookies. Laws are being passed to push legal possession laws to those under 21. Sensible regulations like keeping marijuana stores away from schools and making sure marijuana isn’t smoked in public are being shot down by a money-hungry industry.

Colorado has already experienced a version of what they are tasting now through the expansion of medical marijuana since 2009. Drug-related referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana have increased. During 2007 – 2009 an average of 5.6 students tested positive for marijuana.  Between 2010 and 2012, the average number of students who tested positive for marijuana increased to 17.3 students per year. In 2007, tests positive for marijuana made up 33 percent of the total drug screenings, by 2012 that number increased to 57 percent. 

A member of the Colorado Taskforce charged to regulate marijuana who also works for a drug testing company commented to the press that “A typical kid (is) between 50 and 100 nanograms. Now we’re seeing these up in the over 500, 700, 800, climbing.”[5]Additionally, in Colorado, though traffic fatalities fell 16 percent between 2006 and 2011 (consistent with national trends), fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana rose by 112 percent.[6].


  1. Ex-Microsoft exec plans ‘Starbucks’ of marijuana. (2013, May 31). United Press International. Retrieved from: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/05/31/VIDEO-Ex-Microsoft-exec-plans-Starbucks-of-marijuana/UPI-41161369985400/
  2. The Economist, see http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21586584-sensible-drug-policy-decision-federal-government-once-tokers-delight
  3. Colorado Office of the State Auditor. (June 2013). Medical Marijuana Regulatory System Part II Performance Audit. Retrieved from: http://www.leg.state.co.us/OSA/coauditor1.nsf/All/C9112BFFDE1559CE87257BA5007AE40F/$FILE/2194B%20MedMarijPart2%20June%202013.pdf
  4. Office of the Auditor, Audit Services Division, City and County of Denver. (July 2013). Medical Marijuana Licensing Performance Audit. Retrieved from:http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/741/documents/Audits%202013/Medical_Marijuana_Licensing_Audit_Report_07-18-13.pdf
  5. See Conspire! Drug Testing Results and “Drug Testing Company Sees Spike in Children Using Marijuana” found at http://denver.cbslocal.com/2013/03/06/drug-testing-company-sees-spike-in-children-using-marijuana/
  6. Colorado Department of Transportation Drugged Driving Statistics 2006 – 2011, Retreived http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/alcohol-and-impaired- driving/druggeddriving/drugged-driving-statistics.html.