Local panel talks unintended consequences of legalizing marijuan - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Local panel talks unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana

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Panel discussing unintended consequences of marijuana legalization Panel discussing unintended consequences of marijuana legalization

This month marks five years since Colorado legalized marijuana, and the topics of regulation as well as the effects on the state continue to permeate in communities. 

At a luncheon Thursday afternoon, the Colorado Springs Latter-Day Saints Business Group hosted a panel discussion. 

The LDS Business Group is a local chapter of the Brigham Young University Management Society. The society, attached to BY - which is the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States - is dedicated to service in the community as well as helping to train and develop leaders. 

"Today's panel is looking at the intended and unintended consequences of marijuana," said Dr. Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado Springs Economic Forum. 

On the panel, an emergency department physician, a narcotics officer, an economist, and an advocate for protecting Colorado's youth. 

According to emergency department physician Dr. Lucas Hennings, people are starting to treat marijuana as harmless. 

"We've seen a sort of shift in thought, in people believing marijuana is a drug. Now they believe that is a safe substance," said Dr. Hennings. 

This in turn, he says, has led to parents, siblings, and others leaving around edibles kids can and do easily get their hands on. 

"These kids will come into the emergency department completely comatose, and need to stay in the intensive care unit often times needing ventilator support, and that's one of the biggest problems we're seeing," Dr. Hennings went on. 

Colorado has taken steps to reduce the likelihood of children getting their hands on edible marijuana. A new law that took effect on October 1, 2017 bans edibles from being shaped like humans, animals, fruits or cartoons - forms that can be confused with candy.

The state is also requiring more prominently displayed potency information on cannabis products labels. In a previous interview, the topic was addressed by Mike Hartman, the executive director for the Colorado Department of Revenue, "Marijuana products in shape and branding should not be enticing to children and we want consumers to be educated about the potency of the products they are buying, these rules ensure that to be the case." He was not at the panel discussion on Thursday.

Additionally, according to present law enforcement, legalization has done nothing to stop black market sales. 

"People assume that the fact that we legalized means the black market has gone away or is going away," said Dr. Bailey. 

In fact, Commander Sean Mandel of Metro Vice Narcotics says that black market dealings have increased since legalization. Since legalization his departments has also shut down over 500 illegal groves in El Paso county alone. 

On top of increased illegal activity, Mandel says their department has been overwhelmed with calls from concerned citizens who believe they've witnessed illegal dealings. 

To combat both health and legal issues, all professionals on the panel suggested several things, but agreed on one big thing. 

"I think education is a big part of it, educating people that marijuana is still a substance, and it needs to be treated as a substance instead of something that is completely harmless," finished Dr. Hennings. 

This panel is an example of the strong opinions that encompass both sides of the issue. Click here to read our coverage of Colorado's five years of marijuana.

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