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Weed Tourism: The New Vacation

Residents of Colorado can expect a new kind of tourist spending money to fill up their state coffers: They are about to receive visits from all kinds of people who want to smoke dope. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado puts a whole new spin on the words “Rocky Mountain High.”

In Colorado, the new law allows each resident of the state to cultivate six plants, only three of which can be mature. If this law goes unchallenged by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a husband and wife team recreationally using marijuana could own a total of 12 plants.

In addition to the growing plants, each person can possess up to an ounce of harvested marijuana and can give—as a gift—up to an ounce of marijuana to another person. Visitors to the state are also permitted to possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use.

That brings a new kind of carpetbagger to Colorado: Where some states have casinos and others offer internet betting cafes, organized and well financed businessmen are looking to cash in big time on tourists coming for recreational marijuana in Colorado. You can bet that the people who bankroll these recreational operations will keep a close rein on their interests.

Almost 55 percent of voters approved the measure in November. However, the highest concentrations of yes-votes came from tourist centers such as Aspen, Vail, and Telluride. Residents of urban areas such as Denver were less enthusiastic.

An excise tax of 15 percent will be charged on the wholesale cost of nonmedical marijuana, and establishments that want to process it or sell it must pay an application fee of up to $5,000. Facilities that are already approved for the manufacture or production of medical marijuana will not have to pay more than $500 for the license. The new amendment requires that the first $40 million raised shall be allocated to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund.  There is also the promise of less money spent on prosecuting adults who possess small quantities of the drug.

The new law regulates the concentration of THC to be no more than 0.3 percent of the cannabis product. Individuals who grow it must do so behind locked doors and not in public view. Licenses, required for cultivation facilities as well as production plants, testing facilities, and retail establishments, will not be issued until October 2013.

That gives plenty of time for opponents of the amendment as well as federal officials to debate the merits of this new state law. About 20 million people smoke marijuana in a given year, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 9 percent of them will go on to become addicted. NIDA states that chronic users exhibit poor memory retention and substandard learning aptitudes that can last for many weeks.

Clinicians who treat addicts express additional concerns about their patients in substance abuse treatment who have used marijuana regularly over extended periods. Typically they suffer from panic attacks or anxiety attacks, and they lack motivation to do positive things with their lives. Now they will be told this drug is legal.

If you have concerns about a friend or family member who is already using marijuana—even as Coloradoans wait to see how the federal government will respond to this law—contact a substance abuse treatment center. Recreational marijuana in Colorado or in Washington, where it has also been approved, instigates serious repercussions that will need to be addressed.

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