CNBC ‘s Harry Smith on Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom

Veteran newsman Harry Smith joined me Monday on The Russ Belville Show on to discuss the premiere of the new CNBC documentary “Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom”.  We had a long-ranging discussion on the changes he’s seen in the Colorado marijuana industry since his last report, how marijuana documentaries are dominating the cable news ratings, and what, if any surprises he found while putting together the new episode.

The Russ Belville Show:  You get to be the New Year’s baby as far as new marijuana documentaries… Tell us about this newest iteration of the series you’ve been doing.

Harry Smith:  We did an hour documentary earlier in 2014 in February, sort of documenting the roll-out of recreational marijuana in Colorado.  Believe me, I’ve spent almost a month out there in the past year, and every day I’m out there, I’m kind of amazed at what’s going on, on a bunch of different levels.

TRSB:  Well, Harry, you give us an interesting perspective.  We’re on 420RADIO; this is a show that’s dedicated to marijuana and the people who are listening are very knowledgeable about the subject.  You come to this as someone from a hard news, mainstream background.  What was most surprising to you in discovering this new marketplace?

HS: Where do I start?  I think one of the big differences is the western part of the United States vs. the eastern part of the United States.  There’s very, very little medical marijuana around New York—it does exist in New Jersey in a limited way, it exists in Massachusetts in a more growing way, but it’s still very limited.  It’s not like there are dispensaries on street corners like there are in California and there are in Colorado and elsewhere in the West.  So all of this is still new to a huge segment of the audience.  And I think as it’s rolled out in the West, it’s become more and more sort of, excuse the expression, not the acronym, but a normal part of the culture.  And for people back East still, it’s just an eye-popping event.

TRBS: Edibles did get a lot of headlines in the first few months of legalization in Colorado, due to the high-profile deaths that happened to the young student who jumped off of a balcony, and also the man who had shot his wife – apparently he’d also been involved with some painkillers in some sort of way.  But as you did reporting on this, Harry, what was your take on the edibles market and how that unfolded in Colorado?

HS:  I think one of the real general issues around the edibles was you had people coming off of airplanes… listen, we’ve stood in dispensaries for days and days at a time and watched budtenders very carefully walk people through—this is what you need to do, this is what you can take, have you ever tried this before, when’s the last time, etc. People are very mindful, the people we met working behind the counters.  There are people coming in from out-of-state who haven’t used cannabis in years.  They take it back to their hotel room, they take a bite, it’s 20 minutes later, I don’t feel anything, it’s 40 minutes later, I don’t feel anything, they take another bite, and the next thing you know the whole thing’s gone.  That’s a lot of milligrams in a very short amount of time, and for a system that’s not used to it, folks have ended up in very uncomfortable positions.  So, as a result, you see a lot of kind of pushback from regulators, you see a lot of real efforts to cooperate within the edibles industry.  So that’s one of those things that I think is still kind of a work in progress.

You can watch the entire interview with CNBC’s Harry Smith below.


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