CNBC ORIGINAL REPORTED BY NBC'S HARRY SMITH TAKES VIEWERS INSIDE COLORADO'S $600 MILLION POT INDUSTRY
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., December 19, 2014—One year after Colorado became the first place in the nation to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, CNBC, First in Business Worldwide, returns to the state to report on a social experiment unlike any the country has ever seen. NBC News Correspondent Harry Smith tells the story of a rising American industry that's created fortunes – and controversy -- in a new one-hour documentary, "Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom."
The CNBC Original, premiering Monday, January 5th at 9PM ET/PT, profiles some of the entrepreneurs who've profited the most from the new law, including the family behind Medicine Man, among the largest and most successful of the more than 500 pot stores in Colorado. As fast as Medicine Man has expanded, the business is targeting even more explosive growth as legalization spreads to other states. The documentary also looks at some improbable success stories connected to the pot boom, including a former Navy welder whose company in Ohio is on track to make $10 million this year manufacturing extraction machines for the marijuana industry.
Proponents of legalization argued that it would help put the marijuana black market out of business. Smith reports that, on the contrary, just 60 percent of the pot consumed in the state today is sold legally. CNBC cameras follow two underground pot dealers – one of them a U.S. Army veteran who advertises on Craigslist, and another who says he transports 150 pounds of pot a year, "in the mail, like everybody else does." And there's more: Colorado's Attorney General, John Suthers, says his state has become a black market supplier to Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and up to 40 other states. "You're the new Mexico," suggests Smith. "We are," answers Suthers.
Sales of recreational marijuana may be hot in Colorado, but they still haven't caught up with medical marijuana. Families from across the country are flocking to the state for "Charlotte's Web," a rare strain of cannabis that many believe has significant medicinal value. Smith profiles ten-year-old Braden Fleming, a child with a form of epilepsy called Doose Syndrome that causes him to suffer frequent seizures, including one while he was being interviewed. Braden, among a new breed of so-called "medical refugees," is one of roughly 12,000 children nationwide on the waiting list for what his family hopes is a life-changing drug.
The documentary also explores the increasingly jarring intersection between pot and the workplace, as Colorado's employers work to reconcile a more open marijuana culture with workplace rules that enforce zero tolerance. The telltale signs of marijuana use can linger in a person's system for weeks, but there is currently no reliable way to determine if someone is actively high. CNBC takes viewers inside Lifeloc Technologies, a company working to create a next-generation breathalyzer. Smith speaks with Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who was fired from his job for testing positive for THC, and who now awaits a State Supreme Court ruling that could ripple across the country.
Though much of the marijuana in Colorado is still being smoked in joints or pipes, Smith reports on a growing trend of indulging it in other forms, like highly potent concentrates known as "wax" or "shatter." Smith explores a rapidly expanding part of the marijuana business – edibles – visiting the bustling kitchen at Dixie Brands, a company that offers pot-infused sodas, mints, and chocolate bars, and aspires to be the General Mills of edible pot. With some one million recreational users visiting or living in Colorado, there are sharp debates over how marijuana edibles should be labelled, portioned, and packaged, so novices don't end up taking too much, and that they don't fall into the hands of children.
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Mitch Weitzner is Senior Executive Producer and Vice President of Long Form Programming. Wally Griffith is the Senior Producer. Deborah Camiel and Reid Collins, Jr. are Producers and Michael Beyman is Field Producer. Nikhil Deogun is Senior Vice President and Editor in Chief of Business News for CNBC.
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