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Marijuana business booming for Colorado

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On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any resident of the state 21 years old and up can buy marijuana and marijuana derived products. On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any resident of the state 21 years old and up can buy marijuana and marijuana derived products.
DENVER -

During just the first two months of 2014, the state of Colorado has pulled in more than $6 million in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana.

On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any resident of the state 21 years old and up can buy marijuana and marijuana derived products.

And business is booming.

Business at Medicine Man Denver, one the state's largest marijuana dispensaries, has tripled since January, according to employee Elan Nelson.

“We have a serious case of plant overload right now,” Nelson said. “We’re actually expanding onto the other side of this building to an additional 20,000 square feet.”

Nelson said a lot of benefits have come from the legalization of marijuana in Colorado like tax revenues, job creation and insularly businesses.

But it is not a free-for-all. The state government has put strict rules into effect that go along with the growing and selling of marijuana. The law requires extensive tracking of each plant grown.

In Medicine Man Denver’s vegetative grow room, each plant is tagged and tracked by the state. Plants are even color coded to indicate whether it is to be used for recreational or medicinal purposes.

Taylor West with the National Cannabis Industry Association said marijuana shouldn’t be openly sold to just anyone.

“What we’re saying is that it is a product that can be and should be regulated and taxed in a way similar to how we handle alcohol,” West said.

To West, the legalization of marijuana makes sense.

“We’re talking billions and billions of dollars that are currently on an underground market with nobody checking IDs, nobody verifying the product purity, or that it’s free of contaminants,” West said.

In North Carolina, Ignacio Almazan, Raleigh chapter coordinator of N.C. Normal, said the Tar Heel State is missing out on $250 million in tax revenue a year.

“Just look at Colorado. They’re pulling in money left and right,” Almazan said.

Some North Carolina lawmakers believe the legalization of marijuana is too dangerous.

“Just because people are doing it and violating the law, doesn’t mean we should make something legal,” said Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).

Moore believes marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to other addictions.

“If we’re really trying to deal with the issue of substance abuse, the answer is probably not in expanding the drugs that are available,” Moore said.

In the past, a handful of lawmakers have tried passing bills that would legalize recreational or medical marijuana but have been voted down every time.

But that may change in the short session that began May 14. Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret, Jones) will soon introduce a bill that would allow CBD oil in North Carolina for children.

CBD oil is an extract from the marijuana plant that’s low on THC and high on CBD, and it’s believed to reduce seizures in epileptic children. Several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), are on board.

Moore said this bill is not a broad medical marijuana bill but rather one that will help children.

As for Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) and Rep. David R. Lewis (R-Harnett), in the past they have introduced bills to reconfigure North Carolina's medical marijuana laws.

Most recently on April 11, 2013, the representatives introduced bill H941 that would require the Legislative Research Commission to study medical marijuana related issues such as distribution and possible revenue.

Alexander said he plans on reintroducing a similar bill, in the short session that started May 14, that would allow for a broader medical marijuana bill.

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Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>