In a novel approach to the severe rash of addiction that currently plagues the United States, a Colorado pot shop has teamed with a local nonprofit to fight substance abuse.

Marijuana StoreTeam Fort Collins, a group based in Larimer County, operates a “responsible retailer” program that helps liquor stores and bars prevent alcohol abuse and addiction. The organization, which works with alcohol retailers in Fort Collins and nearby Loveland, plans to change its name to the Responsible Association of Retailers.

Organic Alternatives, a Fort Collins pot shop, announced in October that it would be the first marijuana dispensary to join the program. Team Fort Collins was created in opposition to legalization when it appeared on the ballot in 2012, but officials with the group say they’ve “turned a corner” and now focus on preventing underage cannabis use.

“No matter what people choose to do in their adult lives, let’s work together to make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of kids,” said Executive Director Gordon Combes. “It just made sense to work with retailers to see how to work together.”

Extended to the marijuana industry

Coombes said Organic Alternatives allowed Team Fort Collins to extend its anti-addiction program into the legal weed industry. The program involves secret shoppers who try to buy pot from member stores without identification. Retailers who fail to ask for ID are alerted to the problem and given a chance to fix it.

But Team Fort Collins does not call the police on wayward businesses. This makes it more likely shops will participate, since the penalties for mistakes are minimal and the program is self-enforced. Pot shops stand to lose a lot of money if police catch them selling weed to minors.

Keeping kids safe

Marijuana Store Pot ShopTeam Fort Collins is also working to help shops educate users on the best ways to store cannabis so kids can’t get it, Coombes said. Critics of reform have repeatedly complained that edible marijuana is especially appealing to children, who may not realize the food contains THC.

“Oftentimes, kids get the first touch of these substances by getting it from mom and dad,” Coombes said.

Marijuana is not known to be highly addictive, unlike alcohol and most controlled substances. Cigarettes have an addiction rate over 30 percent, while heroin hooks more than 20 percent of users and alcohol about 15 percent. Weed, on the other hand, is addictive for just 9 percent of users.

Still, that small amount of suffering is worth fighting. Most pot shops are honest members of the business community, and the Team Fort Collins approach could offer an effective way to fight substance abuse in Colorado.


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