Tonight, CNBC and reporter Trish Regan will unveil their second in-depth look into American marijuana, and specifically medical marijuana, in Marijuana USA, which will air at 8 p.m. on CNBC. It'll repeat tomorrow at 6 and 10 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.
We got the chance to speak with Regan on Monday about Colorado medical marijuana; the plight of grower Chris Bartkowicz; the difference between Colorado's and Kentucky's take on marijuana; the drug atmosphere in Lisbon, Portugal and more. Look for more with Regan in Thursday's Independent.
ON THE DECISION TO COVER MMJ:
"I just think from a journalist’s perspective, it’s a fascinating story. You’ve got a lot of tension there between state and federal law. You’ve got a whole lot of money at stake — billions of dollars — for both the entrepreneurs that are on the front lines of this industry, as well as the governments that could potentially reap the rewards through all the tax revenue that’s generated from marijuana. And just the individual stories of the people themselves that are willing, essentially, to risk it all for the chance to be on the front line of this industry. That really just ads up, to me as a journalist, as a fascinating story — and one that hadn’t been done."
ON THE REACTION TO CNBC'S FIRST DOCUMENTARY, MARIJUANA INC.:
"It was huge. It was the most successful original documentary in CNBC programming — 38 million people tuned in to see it. I had a lot of confidence going in that this was a tremendous piece of journalism — that these were really compelling in-depth stories that hadn’t been told before; that it was a fascinating look at a quasi-legal industry — but I still was really surprised and overwhelmed by this huge response. I mean, we just saw such a large number of people tuning in and just some serious interest in the topic."
ON COLORADO'S MMJ SCENE:
"Colorado is the emerging market of pot, I mean, it really is. I had spoken with a lot of my contacts out in California when I was originally trying to explore what more could we do on this subject, and some of them had relocated to Colorado, because they said, 'This is unbelievable out here. It is taking off, over night seemingly!' And it’s really been since the Holder memo. Within the blink of an eye, Colorado all of a sudden had more pot dispensaries than it did Starbucks and liquor stores combined — Denver, anyway, did.
“And I think Colorado has had a really interesting approach. They’ve tried to put in place a lot of regulation, which has been both good and bad for the industry. But I knew after hearing all of this that it would be a great place for us to be, and much of the documentary is actually focused there for that reason.”
ON HER THOUGHTS AFTER SPEAKING TO IMPRISONED GROWER CHRIS BARTKOWICZ:
"Bartkowicz was done in, in part, because of his own brazenness and willingness to invite cameras in to see his marijuana grow. That said, it was a tough position for him to be in, because he took the Holder memo, literally, at its word. And if you read through it, the Holder memo actually gives the federal government still a lot of opportunity to go after anyone whom they consider [illegal]. So I think that Bartkowicz was a little bit naïve in assuming that somehow that would release him any potential conflict with the feds."
ON KENTUCKY VS. COLORADO IN MARIJUANA USA:
"There’s a very different attitude in Kentucky towards marijuana. There’s a much more conservative attitude. There is a real effort on behalf of the state, and the feds, to really police this. They’ve essentially made a living off of trying to apprehend marijuana growers and trying to stamp out any marijuana activity from the economy. If you’re the law enforcement officer that’s receiving money via the state, or federal funds, to go after marijuana, naturally, you’re gonna go after marijuana."
ON LISBON'S RELAXED DRUG LAWS AND SUBSEQUENT DROP IN YOUTH DRUG USE:
“The minute I head that, I knew we had to get to Portugal, and we had to report on it. It’s something that really most people, I don’t think, are familiar with. You think of Amsterdam when you think of drugs — you don’t think of Lisbon. But Lisbon’s actually the place that has a far more tolerant policy. You will not go to jail for possessing an individual use of any drug, be that heroin, cocaine or marijuana.”