Pot poisonings spike in two states; Colo. governor says legalizing 'a bad idea'

by Will Hall |

DENVER (Christian Examiner) – Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed a ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in 2012, told CNBC Friday "the jury is still out" about the legalization of pot in his state.

"We don't know what the unintended consequences are," he said, pointing out to Squawk Box host Joe Kernen that he voted against the measure—which passed 55 percent to 45 percent—and opposed it "as publicly as humanly possible."

Hickenlooper, who was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said his concerns were about the health and safety of children.

"Can we keep it out of the hands of kids? All the top neuroscientists say this high-THC marijuana can diminish long-term memory in teenagers," he said.

Hickenlooper added that if he "could've waved a wand the day after" voters approved recreational marijuana, "I would've reversed the election and said 'this was a bad idea.'"

Now, year-end public health data shows the governor's fears are well-founded, the Associated Press is reporting.

Information prepared for a presentation to Colorado's legislators this week shows "the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received 151 calls for marijuana exposure last year, the first year of retail recreational pot sales. That was up from 88 calls in 2013 and 61 in 2012, the year voters legalized pot."

"Calls to the Washington Poison Center for marijuana exposures jumped by more than half, from 158 in 2013 to 246 last year," according to AP. The greatest concern: "young children accidentally eating marijuana edibles. Calls involving children nearly doubled in both states: to 48 in Washington involving children 12 or under, and to 45 in Colorado involving children 8 or under."

Moreover, around half of Washington's calls last year involved hospital visits—most treated and released from an emergency room. "Ten people were admitted to intensive care units — half of them under 20 years old," said Gene Johnson, AP's writer.

Recreational pot use is legal in four states and 24 states permit medical marijuana—Congress has blocked the District of Columbia from legalizing pot, although 70 percent of voters approved a ballot measure in November.

Ironically, the AP reports "many of the products involved in Washington's exposure cases are found at the state's unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries, but not licensed recreational shops, which are barred from selling marijuana gummy bears or other items that might appeal to children. Medical dispensaries far outnumber legal stores across the state."

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