The Dangers of a Marijuana Gold Rush

Pot legalization is coming. What we can learn from Colorado and Washington.

My neighbor’s son packed up his car and headed west to find his fortune, like thousands of other people who heard about a modern day gold rush.

But it isn’t a pot of gold they seek, just pot. Specifically, the business of pot.

The hope of those filling the west-bound highways in a modern wagon train is that they will learn the business of legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington and then come home to open their own businesses as more states see the tax benefits of legalization.

Early reports from the West are positive, or at least they were. Both Washington state and Colorado report a huge tax influx to the treasuries and a strange side benefit – crime is down: win-win.

Not quite.

One of the media interlopers who ventures west to find out what this whole pot craze is about was the terminally acerbic New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Dowd decided to try some legal pot-filled chocolate in her hotel room and ended up temporarily paralyzed in a fetal position on the hotel room floor, fearful she had died and no one told her.

The next day Dowd was told that the chocolate bar she ate should be broken up into 16 pieces for novices.  She was given no instructions and there was none on the packaging. A website called The Cannabist took the time to interview the people who sold the chocolate to Dowd. They say Dowd was given a thorough explanation of how to ingest the chocolate pot. Dowd did not answer The Cannabist’s request for a response.

 The Dowd column has gone viral and has provoked a slew of reaction columns because it gets to the core problem with legalized pot.  People who are not regular pot users will try it, may overdo it and then have an adverse reaction: adverse reactions like falling off a balcony to your death or shooting your wife.

There seems to be little question that pot will be legalized in every state because of the immense tax benefits and the fact that the benefits have thursfar outweighed the risks.

But we cannot and should not ignore what is happening in Colorado or Dowd’s column, even if she did ignore long and explicit warnings not to eat the whole bar. Colorado and Washington are doing every other state in the union a favor by being the beta testers.

The problems are easily fixable, but there are many:

– Warnings and instructions should be put on the packaging of legalized edible marijuana. The pot dispenseries are fighting this, but should want it for legal reasons alone.

– There is really no good reason to sell pot-laced candy that is attractive to children. The Colorado legislature is dealing with this now and the practice is expected to end.

– Finally, there have to be some standards and maximums for the THC level, the chemical in pot that causes the user to get high.

I should point out that I am not a pot user.  I tried it in college and ended up in a Dowd-like state.  It’s just not for me.  But I clearly understand that the arguments for its legalization far outweigh those for its continued prohibition.  I also see the same thing happening with legalized pot that happened with state lotteries, casinos and legalized gambling: Morality crumbles under the weight of government greed.

Pot is coming.  And we should all thank Maureen Dowd’s claimed near-feels-like-death experience for sounding the alarm that should make it safer.

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.