Nightly News   |  December 12, 2010

Pot entrepreneurs smell opportunity in medical laws

Demonized by some but celebrated by others, marijuana has had a place in American culture for decades. Now, as CNBC’s Trish Regan reports, it seems poised to become something else again: commonplace, and out in the open.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: Marijuana has had a place in American society and culture for decades, demonized as a corrupter of youth in the jazz age, celebrated by the counterculture of the '60s. Now it seems poised to become something else again, commonplace and out in the open. It's still illegal, but 15 states and the District of Columbia now allow the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and that has triggered a bomb in places like Colorado . Here's CNBC's Trish Regan .

Mr. SCOTT DURRAH: We're going to do a quiche today.

TRISH REGAN reporting: At a cooking class in downtown Denver , a new twist on classic cuisine.

Mr. DURRAH: You can add whatever you'd like to your quiche.

REGAN: The ingredients are common...

Mr. DURRAH: Put a little sprinkle in there.

REGAN: ...except for one, a Colorado -grown herb.

Mr. DURRAH: So it's always important to make sure that you have high quality pot. This is breakfast.

REGAN: Pot is going mainstream, and leading the way are people like Scott Durrah and Wanda James . Do you represent the new generation of cannabis entrepreneurs?

Ms. WANDA JAMES: Definitely. When you look around this industry and the people who have come into the industry, there's lots of professional people. This is America 's new hot industry.

REGAN: Wanda and Scott are branding and marketing medical marijuana under their label, Simply Pure , a line of cannabis-infused edibles.

Ms. JAMES: Every time you have one of our products, they will affect you the same al the time. It's like going to Starbucks , you know what you're going to get.

REGAN: In just the first year since the boom, the state has collected more than $21 million through sales tax and a host of licensing fees. Medical marijuana laws are already on the books in Washington , DC , and 15 sates, and support for legalizing marijuana has never been greater.

Unidentified Man #1: And an eighth of the headband.

REGAN: In tough times medical marijuana is one industry that's putting people to work.

Unidentified Man #2: These oyster crackers are really popular, too.

Mr. DURRAH: You're looking at a time when the economy is basically in the toilet. Real estate brokers...

Ms. JAMES: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DURRAH: ...contractors...

Ms. JAMES: Insurance.

Mr. DURRAH: ...city agencies, insurance companies...

REGAN: And yet...

Mr. DURRAH: ...our suppliers.

REGAN: ...people are still smoking pot ?

Mr. DURRAH: Exactly.

REGAN: There are more pot dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks -- too close to home for some.

Ms. STACEY HOWELL (Concerned Parent): You don't want it invading your state . How am I trying to teach my kid that it's still an illegal drug , federally it's still illegal.

REGAN: What kind of signal are we sending to our young people ?

Ms.. JAMES: What kind of signal does it send to your children when you have a fully stocked refrigerator with Coors Light or with, you know, Budweiser in it?

Mr. DURRAH:

REGAN: It's a debate that rages on in Colorado and across the country as the medical marijuana movement brings us closer to imagining what the legalization of pot might look like. Trish Regan , CNBC, Denver.

HOLT: You can see a lot more of Trish Regan 's reporting