Marijuana legalization debated at Freedom Conference | SteamboatToday.com

Marijuana legalization debated at Freedom Conference

— For journalist and Fox News contributor Mary Katherine Ham, it was difficult to take a side during Friday’s Freedom Conference debate on marijuana legalization.

“You’re both disappointingly reasonable in your point of view,” said Ham, who moderated the debate between Mason Tvert, director of communications with the Marijuana Police Project, and Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen.

Both men presented different facts and statistics to make their points about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and Ham asked how the data and research could be assessed.

As Laugesen said, there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.”

“In this debate, you can find data and statistics to back any point of view,” Laugesen said.

The debate at The Steamboat Grand was one of the sessions during the Freedom Conference, put on by The Steamboat Institute, a conservative group which, according to its website, promotes the "five basic founding principles of this great country: limited government, lower taxes, free markets, strong national defense and individual rights and responsibilities."

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When asked about the unintended consequences of marijuana legalization, Laugesen and Tvert both had viewpoints on potent edible marijuana products that have been blamed for accidental marijuana overdoses in the state.

Laugesen said edible products have been “an absolute disaster.”

Tvert said edibles were a good example of unintended consequences because of how the rules for edibles were rolled out and how the rules have been working.

“Infused (marijuana) products affect the body very differently,” Tvert said.

It takes longer for people to get high, and it is a different kind of high.

Tvert said the state has introduced new rules to change how edibles are sold. Packaging and label requirements have changed, and edibles, such as a candy bar, now have to be individually portioned.

State officials have been discussing requiring a universal symbol on edible products.

There has not been an easy solution. Laugesen asked what could be done to label a bowl of granola infused with marijuana.

The black market for marijuana and drug cartels in the marijuana business were also debated.

“We have cartels that have bought out and rented warehouses all over the state,” Laugesen said.

Laugesen mentioned the lawsuit filed against the state of Colorado by neighboring states that feel they have been negatively impacted by legalization in Colorado.

“They will assure you the cartel is alive and well in Colorado and exporting marijuana to their states,” Laugesen said.

Tvert said he does not think anyone knows the extent of the black market, and it would be unreasonable to expect it to disappear within 18 months of the passage of Amendment 64.

Ham ended the debate by asking the men what they thought the opposing side's position would prove to have been oversold in 18 months.

Laugesen said it would be that legal sales of marijuana would generate tax revenue for schools and that it was truly regulated like alcohol.

Tvert said it would be that Colorado would be hurt economically and teenage use of marijuana would skyrocket.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland