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May 30th, 2017

Max’s View

Rolling Papers
***
The State of Vermont still has a $100 million budget deficit. And yet, shamefully, marijuana still hasn’t been legalized here.

“But max,” you exclaim, “think of the children.”

I AM thinking of the children. I’m thinking of the ones who just graduated high school and college and can’t find a decent job. When marijuana is legalized, some of them will be working at profitable pot farms. Some of them will be working at profitable weed shops.
And one lucky millennial will be the Pot Editor at The Burlington Free Press. Seriously.

On January 1, 2014, Colorado’s first legal marijuana stores opened for business. The plants and THC-infused edibles were heavily taxed and admittedly expensive. But legal weed was an immediate success. And Ricardo Baca was there.

“Rolling Papers” tells the story of Denver Post Marijuana Editor Ricardo Baca’s first year on the job.

The film is a tale of two industries. The legal marijuana business is slowly but surely taking hold in America’s Blue States, bringing peace, love, and tax revenue wherever it goes. The newspaper industry is holding on for dear life, scrambling for new ways to stay relevant and stay in business.

At first glance, The Marijuana Section of the Denver Post sounds like a sell-out marketing ploy. But Ricardo Baca and his team of writers take the project seriously. The film reminds viewers why investigative journalism is a force for good in this country.

Not long after pot stores opened for business, Baca got calls from shop owners with complaints about Dr. Jay’s brand edibles. Customers were complaining that Dr. Jay’s THC-infused chocolates don’t get you high.

Baca took the chocolates to a lab to get them tested. Sure enough: Dr. Jay’s products contained only negligible amounts of THC. Baca published the troubling results and called the owner of Dr. Jay’s to urge him to get his act together.

“So what if Dr. Jay’s promises 100mg THC and only delivers 10? What’s the big deal if a stoner only gets a little high?”

The problem is: if a customer eats a chocolate bar and feels nothing, she might go back and buy three chocolate bars of another brand that each legitimately contain 100mg THC. She could get dangerously high. A few incidents like that could cast a pall over the entire legal weed experiment.

In his biggest assignment as Pot Editor, Baca traveled to South America to report on Uruguay’s experience with legalization.
The reporter discovered that the two situations couldn’t be more different. In Colorado, voters chose to legalize marijuana via a state referendum. President Jose Mujica, in contrast, imposed legal weed on an unwilling population in a desperate effort to weaken drug cartels.

Rather than encouraging private businesses to sell top notch weed, El Presidente forced all pharmacies to sell subsidized bricks of low quality marijuana. Uruguayans agree that it is as cheap as it is foul.

Baca’s report on South America reminds us that while legalization is almost inevitable, the form that the legalization takes is still a work in progress.

It also reminds us that freakin’ Uruguay already has legal pot and we don’t. Decriminalizing possession is not good enough; full legalization is the right thing for our State budget, our economy, and our culture. Get it together, legislators!

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