Pot’s Real Price: Colorado’s Example for Legalization in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Legalized marijuana seems to be coming soon to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - but at what cost?

What to Know

  • Marijuana legalization is probably coming to NY, NJ and CT soon, but there are many questions about the impact
  • Colorado, where pot has been legal for years, offers a number of real-world lessons for the tri-state
  • "Pot's Real Pirice" is a five-part series looking at Colorado's example and what it may mean locally

The cannabis craze has caught fire across the country, with ten states already passing recreational marijuana laws. Now, with legalization on the horizon for the tri-state, Colorado may offer a good example of what life can be like with legal weed.

Marijuana has sparked profitable opportunities for large-scale growers, producers and retail distributors in the Rocky Mountain state. Colorado’s Department of Revenue reported more than $266 million in revenue since recreational marijuana became available for consumption in 2014.

NBC New York went there for a five-part series, "Pot's Real Price," examining both the opportunities and the risks in legalization. 

Medicine Man is one of Colorado’s most successful cultivation companies. “The cannabis industry has created 20,000 direct jobs and probably just as many indirect jobs," operator Andy Williams said. But the potent profits haven’t just caught the eye of legitimate businesses, they’ve also sparked black-market investment.

A ride-along with Aurora police offered a first-hand look at an illegal grow house, when SWAT officers raided a home in an upscale housing development. Colorado allows residents to grow up to 12 plants for personal use.

In this Aurora home, officers seized more than 740. Statewide, between 2016 and 2017 marijuana seizures double from 3.5 tons to 7.3 tons.

It’s fueling an underground pot pipeline, moving Colorado-grown product to states where it is still illegal. State police officials cite hazy perception and lax laws as the incentive for black-market growers.

One school district in Colorado Springs expressed their concern over the accessibility of marijuana. Despite the fact that there has been no significant increase in youth using marijuana, parental pot use has become a problem for schools to manage.

That question and many others weigh on the mind of legislators in the tri-state, as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all look at slightly different ways to regulate the product.

There is talk that New York won’t allow people to grow plants for personal use in an attempt to curb black market production. Some local municipalities are moving to make recreational marijuana illegal and head off state plans.

Want to know more? Reporter Sarah Wallace took listeners behind-the-scenes of covering this story in NBC 4's weekly podcast The Debrief. Listen to the episode below.

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