Harry Smith, esteemed network TV anchorman/correspondent and long-ago Denver broadcaster, sticks his nose into a jar labeled “Sublime” and sniffs.
“To an aging boomer like me,” he says, “it’s more than a little disorienting.”
He refers not to the odor, but to the newly legal, over-the-counter status of the marijuana and bud-based products available to any adult in Colorado.
Smith, now an NBC News contributor, returns to his old stomping grounds to lead a carefully balanced, journalistically proper tour of the local pot industry.
“Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush,” premieres Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. MST on CNBC.
“Innocent or insidious?” he asks. Both sides weigh in with heartfelt testimony. It’s either the end of Prohibition II or the beginning of a dangerous social experiment. Viewers will decide. Mostly, the documentary is wide-eyed regarding the big money involved.
“Everyone is seeing green,” Smith says, one of the hour’s many apparently irresistible puns.
The camera trails pot tourists from dispensary to dispensary, looks in on grows, observes a family trimming buds together, visits a private pot club in Colorado Springs, chronicles pipes, joints, bongs, vape pens and other acoutrements, and eyes the array of edibles — gummies to chocolates and more — flying off shelves since Jan. 1, 2014.
A brief detour checks out the debate in Greeley (true to its roots as a temperence colony) vs. Garden City (historically known for its vices). Then it’s back to shots of citizens inhaling, business owners trying to keep up with demand, and catered pot parties aiming to become “a fixture of polite society.”
A scientist warns of the effects on the teenage brain — including the potential of an 8-point drop in IQ over time — and notes 10 percent of users are likely to become dependent, physically or psychologically. Gov. John Hickenlooper observes the “terrible” message legalization sends to minors. Mason Tvert, provocateur and “the face of legal weed,” has his say.
The Denver Post gets a few nods, too. CNBC interviews The Post’s marijuana editor Ricardo Baca and Jake Browne, recently hired pot critic, who sees his work as being “on the right side of history.”
It’s all told with a slightly incredulous tone. “Marijuana editor”?! That wacky Colorado! But half of the retail pot sold here is bought by out-of-staters, Smith notes. And weed is expected to become a $100 million industry “in year one.”
“Where’s Cheech? Where’s Chong? Even they have moved on,” Smith says. We’re getting past the puns, we’re getting over the Haight-Ashbury references, we’re even outdistancing the image of Cheech & Chong.
This, Smith observes, “is the new normal.”
Joanne Ostrow: 303-954-1830, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/ostrowdp