Customers showed up in droves, lining up before dawn Wednesday, to be among the first to purchase pot legally in the US. Now folks across the country are asking: Is that a healthy or unhealthy move?
Regardless of that answer, residents from across Colorado, as well as tourists from neighboring states, were on hand New Year's Day to take part in the country’s first-ever sales of state-regulated recreational marijuana. Forty shops, in locations stretching from downtown Denver to high-end ski resorts, provided pot in easy transactions that required only the cost of the product and a flash of the customer's ID.
Marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is the most the most common illicit drug used in the United States. It adds that, "After a period of decline in the last decade, its use has generally increased among young people since 2007..." That was reportedly due to a perception of diminishing risks associated with marijuana use. Like alcohol and other drugs, long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction.
Many who purchased the weed legally had been incarcerated for possessing it illegally in the past. Many were longtime users who were looking forward to their first purchase of the drug made openly and honestly.
Supporters have praised Colorado's decision to begin legal marijuana sales in 2014 as an alternative to punishment and prohibition.
Cynics, however, are afraid the move will lead to more abuse, increased use by teens, and more cases of impaired driving. Governor John Hicklooper opposed the legalization, as did Denver's mayor, Michael B. Hancock. Both avoided scenes of celebration and locations of inaugural sales on Wednesday.
If you or someone you know has any type of drug addiction, there is help available. Click here for a treatment center locator. In Huntsville, you can call Bradford Health Services at (256) 895-3848 or the Mental Health Center of Madison County at 256-533-1970.