CNN Highlights Marijuana Legalization 'Straining' Police in Colorado

On Thursday's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, substitute host Ana Cabrera presented a pre-recorded report in which she visited Colorado and informed viewers of the unintended consequences of Colorado's legalization of marijuana. 

The CNN host found that, instead of undermining the black market for marijuana as promised, illegal growers have been taking advantage of legalization to illegally export pot to other states -- "straining" the state's law enforcement.

Cabrera recalled some of the illegal marijuana seized by police:

Illegal cannabis cultivations busted by law enforcement in Colorado. These are images from inside alleged criminal enterprises hiding in plain site under the guise of the state's legal pot laws which regulate who, where and how much pot people can grow. 

She was then seen riding with Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher as he explained the problems legalization has caused his department:

CABRERA: Do you find people are coming here with the intent to create a marijuana or pot trafficking ring?

DAVID WALCHER, ARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF: There's no doubt in my mind.

CABRERA: Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher says it's a growing concern. Just last year, his narcotics team alone seized more than $3 million worth of illegal pot products.

WALCHER: It's everywhere, and it can be in any neighborhood, any neighborhood. We see them everywhere.

The conversation soon continued:

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CABRERA: Walcher says Colorado legalizing marijuana has strained his department. I'm curious if you see anything positive about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado?

WALCHER: No.

CABRERA: None?

WALCHER: None.

The report then moved to the CNN host speaking with Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper as he tried to spin the problem as one that can be fixed by cutting taxes on marijuana and increasing penalties for illegal activity.

After the piece concluded, Cabrera recounted Governor Hickenlooper cautioning other states to wait before they take their own steps toward legalization:

It's an issue that -- if not addressed -- could threaten not just Colorado's, but the country's, cannabis experiment. Now, Governor Hickenlooper advises the others states contemplating legalizing marijuana to wait as clearly Colorado continues to have some growing pains -- no pun intended -- more than three years since recreational sales began.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Thursday, April 20, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:

2:55 p.m. ET
ANA CABRERA: Illegal cannabis cultivations busted by law enforcement in Colorado. These are images from inside alleged criminal enterprises hiding in plain site under the guise of the state's legal pot laws which regulate who, where and how much pot people can grow. 

CABRERA: Do you find people are coming here with the intent to create a marijuana or pot trafficking ring?

DAVID WALCHER, ARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF: There's no doubt in my mind.

CABRERA: Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher says it's a growing concern. Just last year, his narcotics team alone seized more than $3 million worth of illegal pot products.

WALCHER: It's everywhere, and it can be in any neighborhood, any neighborhood. We see them everywhere.

(...)

CABRERA: Walcher says Colorado legalizing marijuana has strained his department. I'm curious if you see anything positive about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado?

WALCHER: No.

CABRERA: None?

WALCHER: None.

(...)

CABRERA: We talked with the Arapahoe County sheriff who said he feels like it's worse than ever, and that, you know, marijuana issues and problems are taxing his resources.

GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO): What is he talking about? That means he wasn't doing his job before.

CABRERA: Wasn't that part of the for those who were proponents of legalizing marijuana is that you would get rid of the black market?

HICKENLOOPER: Absolutely.

CABRERA: But the black market is still alive -- something the governor acknowledges. He says state regulators are working to address that.

HICKENLOOPER: We might actually lower the taxes to make it harder on the black market.

CABRERA: So it would make the pot cheaper for people?

HICKENLOOPER: Exactly, for everybody, but it would mean that somebody who's doing it illegally, then they're not going to make as much a profit. And we're going to raise the penalties so that you get caught illegally selling marijuana, you'll have a higher penalty to pay.

CABRERA: Sixteen people were indicted in March on a slew of charges, ranging from distribution of marijuana to racketeering to money laundering as part of cross-state raids at 19 different locations involving some 200 local, state and federal officials.

The suspects allegedly pumped out some 300 pounds of illegal pot per month for at least three years. Authorities say they were shipping and selling to people in Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri. Colorado prohibits carrying marijuana over state lines.

BARBRA ROACH, DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY: We're seeing ourselves as a larger source of supply for all our outer lying states than what we were before.

CABRERA: It's an issue that -- if not addressed -- could threaten not just Colorado's, but the country's, cannabis experiment. Now, Governor Hickenlooper advises the others states contemplating legalizing marijuana to wait as clearly Colorado continues to have some growing pains -- no pun intended -- more than three years since recreational sales began.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters