Corner Brook PhD teaches cannabis course in Colorado

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Corner Brook PhD teaches cannabis course in Colorado

Paul Seaborn saw something happening all around Colorado that was worth studying, so he lobbied the University of Denver to let him teach a course on it.

Seaborn, originally from Corner Brook, is now an assistant professor teaching the business of cannabis.

"There's never been this type of industry so everything that happens is a first and it's great for our students to be a part of that and to understand it," he said.

Seaborn was back in Newfoundland Tuesday for a conference at Memorial University on the challenges and opportunities of legal cannabis.

He dropped by the St. John's Morning Show to explain his work and what he teaches his students.

"[We're] covering some history because it's important to understand how this product became illegal and then how it came back into being legal," he said.

There is also a focus on what makes the industry similar to others, and what sets it apart — and Seaborn said there's been plenty that makes it different.

Colorado passed legislation to make weed legal in 2012, and introduced full legalization in 2014. Since then, Denver has grown to have more weed dispensaries than Starbucks locations.

"The big numbers that people love to hear are the total sales — $1.6 billion in the state of Colorado last year and that generated about $250 million of state tax revenue and even more at the local level," Seaborn said.

'Certainly a nice boost'

Despite being far away from Newfoundland and Labrador, Seaborn said he's watched with anticipation as the province worked out its framework for legalization.

While Colorado went with a model completely driven by private businesses, he said there is merit in the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation overseeing licensed retailers.

"It builds on the NLC's expertise and I think it seems to fit, and it does still leave a role for private business on the retail side," he said.

It's unclear what the tax revenue will be for the province in the long run, but Seaborn said any amount is a bonus.

"Those numbers are not going to run your economy but they certainly are a nice boost when you think about something taking place in the black market before that's now fully legal and benefiting all the residents."

'No magic test'

On Tuesday, Seaborn will address the conference at Memorial University to speak about impaired driving and marijuana.

The tests for suspected high drivers vary from place to place. While Newfoundland Labrador uses police officers trained in drug recognition, Colorado uses blood tests.

"There's no magic test. In Colorado at least we're using a blood test that requires taking someone to a hospital, and even those tests are not really clear what they mean for impairment."

​And while nobody has really got it figured out yet, there hasn't been a catastrophic spike in (vehicle) crashes, Seaborn said.

"It's certainly an area everyone is trying to find a better solution to, but at the same time, life has gone on in Colorado and we haven't seen any particular outbreak of fatalities or traffic issues."