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WATCH: Recreational Marijuana Sales Aren’t So High

Why are Colorado's tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales so much lower than expected? It's probably not because of weak demand.

TIME Drugs

Colorado Hits a New High for Pot Sales

Pot Prices Double as Colorado Retailers Roll Out Green Carpet
An employee pulls marijuana out of a large canister for a customer at the LoDo Wellness Center in downtown Denver, Jan. 9, 2014. Matthew Staver—Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than $114 million worth of the drug has been sold since January

Colorado marijuana dispensaries sold an estimated $24.7 million of recreational marijuana in June, according to tax figures released Friday by state Department of Revenue.

The figure makes June the most successful month for dispensaries on record since January, when marijuana became legal for recreational use in the state. Marijuana sales in the state have been surprisingly strong. A recent study of the market found that more than 10 tons are being sold every month, and the average price for consumers was for $220 per ounce.

In total, more than $114 million worth of the drug has been sold since January, based on Colorado tax figures.

Not everyone is joining in. President Barack Obama visited the state recently, but, when asked, passed on the opportunity to take a hit.

TIME Crime

Seattle Thieves Steal $50,000 Worth of Pot By Cutting Hole in The Wall

Marijuana
Stuart Dee—Getty Images

Nice one, guys

You can’t fault the Seattle robbers who stole $50,000 worth of medical marijuana Wednesday for lack of creativity.

Local detectives reported that when they arrived at the scene of the crime—a dispensary “in the 5000 block of East Marginal Way South”—they found “a large hole cut into the side of the business and found marijuana strewn about.” The thieves may not get away with this cannabis caper for long though. The Seattle Police Department’s blog noted that detectives had recovered fingerprints, video surveillance, and other evidence from the scene.

Washington state is one of two states in the county, along with Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes. As the commercial marijuana industry has grown, dispensary businesses have confronted safety fears because wariness by banks to involve themselves in a business still illegal under federal law forces pot businesses to resort to trafficking in large amounts of cash.

TIME politics

Marijuana Should Be Legal, but …

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Nepalese Marijuana Paul Biris—Getty Images/Moment Open

We must treat drug use for what it is: a health, not a criminal, issue

Yes, it’s harmful, and yes, it should be legalized.

It’s not often that the White House responds directly to a newspaper op-ed, as it did last week when the New York Times editorial board published its opinion that the federal government should repeal the ban on the production, sale and use of marijuana. The Office of National Drug Control Policy swiftly responded, reiterating its stand that it “continues to oppose” legalization.

The editorial board listed sound arguments, including the social costs of prohibition. However, the board was remiss when it effectively brushed aside what it acknowledged are the “legitimate concerns” about marijuana’s impact on the development of adolescent brains. Even supporters of legalization, of which I’m one, must not underestimate those concerns. The ONDCP was right when it said, in its response to the Times, “policymakers shouldn’t ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences.”

Some proponents of legalization maintain that marijuana is harmless, but it isn’t — especially when it comes to kids. Indeed, I’ve spoken to many supporters of legalization. They don’t want their children using marijuana any more than those opposed to legalization do.

A body of research shows that marijuana causes structural and functional changes in the developing brains of adolescents. By stunting communication between brain regions, it impairs high-level thinking. There’s evidence that it impacts memory, too, and, for a small minority of kids, can trigger latent mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Also, marijuana users are more likely to suffer from clinical depression than others, though, as Ty S. Schepis, assistant professor of psychology at Texas State University, notes, “It’s unknown if pot causes depression; it may be that depressed people smoke pot.” What is known is that the often stated contention that no one gets addicted to pot is contradicted by the fact that an estimated 9% do. I once visited an adolescent treatment center where most patients between 14 and 20 were there because of an addiction exclusively to pot — anyone who says that marijuana isn’t addictive should talk to these kids. Indeed, in spite of a basketball net outside and other recreational facilities, it wasn’t summer camp; those kids had all suffered devastating consequences from their pot smoking, and most had tried to stop but couldn’t.

There are more reasons to worry that regular pot smoking could significantly impact a child’s life. The drug may cause something called amotivational syndrome, and adolescents who regularly smoke are less likely to have learned to deal with their emotions, to weather disappointments and to work through difficult times in relationships. In a number of studies, long-term marijuana users reported poorer outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures, including educational attainment, than nonusers.

If marijuana impedes kids’ biological and emotional development, why should it be made legal, especially when there’s evidence that legalization may increase the number of kids who try pot in the first place? First, the assumption of an uptick in use doesn’t take into account countermeasures that can and should be put into place. (Following the model of alcohol, the Times advocates a prohibition of sales to people under 21, but that ignores the research that shows that the period of adolescent brain development doesn’t end until the mid-20s.) Science-based regulations must be put in place and enforced. Next, education and other prevention strategies must accompany legalization, and they should be paid for by the savings and revenue that would come with legalization. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron calculated that if marijuana were legalized, the government would save $7.7 billion annually in law-enforcement costs, and it could bring in an additional $6.2 billion a year if pot were taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco. That’s $13.9 billion per year that could, and should, be earmarked to prevention campaigns, as well as treatment for those who become addicted.

The fact is, the illegal status of marijuana hasn’t stopped millions of kids from smoking it every day, and it may stop many from seeking help. No one should be arrested for smoking pot. Children should be educated and, if problems develop, immediately treated so they don’t escalate. People who are arrested for drug use are likely to descend into more use. Think about it. Take a child who does what so many kids do these days: she’s with friends, someone hands her a joint, and she tries it. Now she’s broken the law. If her use escalates and she winds up in the criminal-justice system, she’s entered one of the highest-risk groups for addiction. Kids punished for using are under great stress, which increases their risk. If they’re expelled from school or lose a job, their prospects are fewer. This recipe creates not only more drug use, but more dangerous use.

Until we become more effective in our prevention efforts, many kids are going to try pot. Some will smoke a lot, and some will become addicted. We must have a new conversation with them, treating drug use for what it is: a health, not a criminal, issue. We must legalize marijuana and take the decision to use or not out of the realm of morality and judgment. We communicate the message that bad kids use drugs, good kids don’t. But as a pediatrician I know put it: these aren’t bad kids; they’re our kids. We mustn’t stigmatize. Instead, we must educate and nurture them, and build their resilience so they grow up safety and healthily.

David Sheff’s latest book is Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, the follow-up to his New York Times No. 1 best seller, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. Follow him on Twitter @david_sheff.

TIME politics

Colorado Tightening Regulations on Marijuana Edibles

+ READ ARTICLE

Colorado officials are tightening the rules governing marijuana edibles in an effort to reduce the risk of accidental overdoses. Regulators were not only concerned about overdoses, but also wanted products to have more child resistant packaging.

Officials drafted an emergency rule on Thursday making it easier to tell how much THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, would be in the edibles for sale. The result of this action will be weaker edible products and new packaging.

Similar regulations have been implemented in Washington, the only other state where edible sales are legal.

TIME Crime

Lone Seattle Police Officer Responsible for 80% of City’s Marijuana Citations

Seattle Police Chief
Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole salutes during a singing of the national anthem with Mayor Ed Murray at her side on June 23, 2014 Ken Lambert—AP

Cop in question reportedly issued 66 of 83 marijuana tickets handed out in the Emerald City during the first half of 2014

Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole has been forced to reassign an officer on her staff after the employee in question reportedly issued 80% of the city’s marijuana citations this year.

Officials are investigating the matter following the publication of the department’s first biannual report relating to marijuana enforcement, according to a statement released by O’Toole on Wednesday afternoon.

The Seattle Police Department report found that 66 of the 83 marijuana tickets issued this year was done so by a single officer, who at times would scribble peculiar notes in the margins of the citations in question.

“Some notes requested the attention of city attorney Peter Holmes and were addressed to ‘Petey Holmes,’” said O’Toole. “In another instance, the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite.”

The police officer implicated in the incident has been taken off his regular patrol duties during the course of the investigation.

TIME nation

First Recreational Marijuana Legally Sold in Seattle Donated to Museum

In this July 8, 2014, file photo, Deb Greene, 65, Cannabis City's first customer, displays her purchase of legal recreational marijuana at the store in Seattle. Elaine Thompson – AP

A marijuana milestone saved for posterity

The first marijuana sold for recreational purposes in Seattle is being donated to the city’s Museum of History and Industry, the Associated Press reports.

Deb Greene, a 65-year old grandmother, purchased it at the store Cannabis City on July 8, when the state’s first legal, recreational marijuana stores opened. The retiree brought “a chair, sleeping bag, food, water and a 930-page book” so she could camp out overnight and be the first in line, the AP reported at the time.

She purchased two bags of legal weed, one for personal use and another that was signed by Cannabis City owner, James Lathrop, so it could be “saved forever,” Greene told the Seattle Times. “You don’t use history.”

As Greene told the Puget Sound Business Journal, “I wanted to be a part of this, this is part of the history of our city.”

MORE: The Rules About Pot Just Changed in Washington D.C.

MORE: House Votes to Help Pot Businesses Use Banks

MONEY

Should I Invest in a Marijuana Shop?

Have you ever wanted to be a personal-finance advice columnist? Well, here's your chance.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

I have an opportunity to invest in a store in Washington that will sell marijuana for recreational use. The returns are expected to be significant. But there is an ethical question for me: Should I invest in something that may hurt some people’s lives?

What advice would you give? Fill out the form below and tell us about it. We’ll publish selected reader advice in an upcoming issue. (Your answer may be edited for length and clarity.)

Thank you!

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TIME Drugs

The Rules About Pot Just Changed in Washington D.C.

Pot Marijuana Weed
Getty Images

Adults caught with up to one ounce of pot will be fined $25 in the nation's capital

Washington D.C.’s pot decriminalization policy went into effect Thursday, lowering the penalties for marijuana possession to just a $25 civil fine for adults caught with up to one ounce.

The law may still encounter some pushback from Congress, as the Republican-controlled House passed a bill Wednesday that includes an amendment to stop D.C. from using federal or local funds to implement the law. The bill was passed largely along party lines; only six Democrats supported the bill.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who sponsored the D.C. provision, told the Washington Post that pot is “poison to a teenager’s brain” and that the new law would treat teenagers in a dramatically different way to young people right across the Maryland border, where violators younger than 21-years-old are required to appear in court.

The Administration “strongly opposes” the House provision, writing in a letter released Monday that it poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan police department’s enforcement and violates the principle of D.C. home rule.

Washington D.C. has an extraordinarily high rate of marijuana arrests, ranked seventh out of 945 counties examined in a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report. There’s also a huge racial disparity in who gets penalized for smoking weed, according to the same report, which found that black people are eight times more likely than non-blacks to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Possession of any amount of marijuana in the District was formerly counted as a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It remains a criminal offense to smoke pot in the nation’s capital.

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