Oct 3, 2010 8:45 PM by Matt Stafford
Colorado is one of just over a dozen states with medical marijuana laws, so it's also one of a few places you can find a medical cannabis expo like the one Sunday in Colorado Springs.
"We are learning new things about cannabis everyday," says Bob Wiley, a member of the Colorado Springs Medical Marijuana Council.
But they aren't the only ones, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration just released numbers showing a nearly 9 percent increase in drug abuse for people, ages 12 and up. Officials claim they learned that the increase was driven by marijuana.
"Marijuana is certainly the most widespread," says Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He goes on to add that he can't rule out discussion of so-called medical marijuana.
Locally, Wiley says he doesn't see the problem with the industry; aside from the positive tax revenue it generates, he says it's also safer for patients.
"It actually keeps people from having to go to a black market dealer to buy their medicine."
However, he doesn't disagree; the system is not always perfect. Marijuana, in some cases, is abused.
"There are people that will abuse any type of medicine," say Wiley, "You can't stop the abuse."
None of the dispensaries at Sunday's expo we're willing to talk on camera about how they help patients that they feel may have an abuse problem.
Colorado is working its own plan to cut down on abuse; it's a first-in-the-nation tracking program to keep cannabis product off the black market.
"The state wants to know every ounce that is legitimately sold in a medical marijuana center." explains Mark Goldfogel, who has responded by setting up a business to help store owners reach compliance - MJ Freeways. New regulations are expected in January. Goldfogel says he'll stay current with any updates from the state; not just being a businessman, but a patient who doesn't want to lose the ability to buy his medicine legally.
As for the federal government, who says Goldfogel's medicine is still illegal, they're saying that this year's study should be a caution.
"All of that, I think, should be a real wake up call to people here in this country," warns Kerlikowske.
For a look at the complete National Survey on Drug Use and Health, click here.
For information on substance abuse help, click here. You can also call the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at 1(800) 662-HELP (4357).