Bad Press Threatens Marijuana Industry

Ever since marijuana became legal in Colorado over a year ago, news media have been looking for salacious stories to definitively link marijuana to increased crime and violence. Last year, headlines were made when a student jumped to his death after eating marijuana candy and another man killed his wife after eating a marijuana cookie.

Most recently, the suicide of Luke Goodman, a 23-year-old college student in Keystone, Colorado, has caught the attention of the media. According to CBS Denver, Luke shot himself after ingesting five 10 mg edible marijuana candies. The normal dose is just one 10 mg candy.

Goodman had no reported history of depression or mental illness and his parents blame the marijuana. “It was completely a reaction to the drugs,” said Luke’s mother, Kim Goodman, to CBS Denver. “It was completely out of character for Luke.”

It would be ignorant not to say that ingesting 50mg of THC did not have some contributing factor to Luke Goodman’s suicide, but does it prove marijuana is a public menace? Of course not. According to a study conducted by the UCLA, approximately one-third of all suicides in the United States involve alcohol, yet very few of those make national headlines.

Elsewhere in the United States, anti-marijuana politicians continue to push a prohibitionist agenda that conflicts with reality. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently criticized marijuana legalization, calling the tax revenue generated by legalization “blood money.”

“This should not be permitted in our society, it sends the wrong message,” Christie said. “I’m not going to put the lives of children and citizens at risk to put a little more money into the state coffers, at least not on my watch.” What is ironic is that in his state both gambling and alcohol are legal. What kind of a message does that send to children?

The Keystone incident and Christie’s words matter because they affect the national narrative. When people like Christie call marijuana dangerous, people inevitably go out to prove that statement true. Although the marijuana industry has enjoyed newfound acceptance, it is a tenuous relationship.

Right now in Colorado, a bill is making its way through the state legislature that would repeal a 2014 law that requires edible marijuana manufacturers to make their products “clearly identifiable … with a standard symbol indicating that it contains marijuana and is not for consumption by children.”

For months there have been debates about what “clearly identifiable” means, and there is some merit in that debate, but repealing regulation is the wrong way to deal with the issue. Appearances matter. Consumer education matters.

In the wake of Luke’s suicide, regulators don’t want to be seen passing a bill that loosens restrictions on the product that is blamed, unfairly or not, for his death. All it takes is bad press or political positioning to capitalize on such a bill and use it to impose even tighter regulations on the industry.

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