ABC Promotes Legalized Pot in ‘the Land of Starbucks’; CBS Mentions Shortages, Restrictions, and Opposition

Reporting on the news Tuesday that recreational marijuana is now legal in Washington state, ABC news correspondent Neal Karlinsky filed a story to ABC’s Good Morning America that stands as the latest pro-marijuana story out of many over the last few months across the networks. Reporting from a pot shop in Seattle, he gushed that Tuesday was “bound to be an interesting day.”

Karlinsky provided no opposing viewpoint to sale of marijuana in The Evergreen State or the drug as a whole. Instead, he interviewed a grandmother who showed up at one pot shop a full 24 hours before it goes on sale and a man who came out of retirement to become a marijuana grower. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

The overjoyed grandmother said fondly that:

I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime and to be able vote for it and to be able to enjoy it legally was just a awesome thing in my life. 

Meanwhile, Karlinsky proclaimed to viewers that “[t]he land of Starbucks” now had “another high habit for sale” to those over 21. The man who emerged from retirement told him that “[t]his is so exciting” and is “just like being a pioneer” and “it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

After mentioning the shortages that are expected with the limited number of growers in the state, Karlinsky closed by glamorizing: 

Regardless, there will be celebrations today. They won't be sleepless in Seattle, but they might be sleepy. Stores can open for the first time in history at 8:00 a.m., though, to quote the owner here, they will open today at high noon. 

Over on CBS This Morning, CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz reported from the same pot shop that Karlinsky and NBC’s Joe Fryer did a day earlier (Cannabis City in Seattle) and produced a well-balanced report that presented both sides. Unlike the CBS This Morning report Monday on pot critics, Diaz’s story did present an opposing viewpoint. 

Diaz cited a statistic that one in five 10th graders in Washington already are using the drug and that parents should take action to talk to them about the dangers of smoking marijuana. In full, she played a radio ad being broadcast across the state by the state health officials. Narrated by Dr. Leslie Walker of Seattle Children’s Hospital, she iterated: 

Now that it's legal for those over 21, it's more important than ever to talk to your kids about the risks of marijuana. 

She also mentioned the restrictions pot shops have, which include being “prohibited within a 1,000 feet of schools, parks, child care centers and libraries.”

Finally, on NBC’s Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie mentioned the story for 12 seconds during a news brief in the 7:30 a.m. half hour. She remarked that “[i]t is a historic day in Washington as that state’s first retail marijuana stores open for business.” She reminded viewers that the topic was covered on Monday’s Today and that “only a handful would begin operating at first, including just one in Seattle.”


The complete transcript from the July 8 Good Morning America segment is transcribed below. 

ABC

Good Morning America

July 8, 2014

7:12 a.m. Eastern

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Washington state is trying something new today. Pot shops open for business this morning, two years after the of marijuana was legalized in that state and ABC's Neal Karlinsky is inside one of those stores in Seattle. Good morning. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New This Morning; High Times in Washington State; Legal Recreational Pot Goes on Sale]

NEAL KARLINSKY: George, good morning. This store is called Cannabis City and later today, this will be the first place in Seattle to legally sell marijuana. You can see in the showcases they’ve got the pipes, the bongs out. The marijuana hasn't arrived yet, but later today, it will be in these showcases for what is bound to be an interesting day. Today, in the home of the Super Bowl champs, everyone is talking about another kind of bowl, legal pot. This grandmother of three and competitive runner showing up to be first in line, a full 24 hours early.

DEB GREENE (CUSTOMER): I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime and to be able vote for it and to be able to enjoy it legally was just a awesome thing in my life. 

KARLINSKY: Remember, this isn’t medicinal marijuana. The land of Starbucks, now officially  with another high habit for sale to anyone over 21. 

BOB LEEDS (POT GROWER): This is so exciting. It's just like being a pioneer. I came out of retirement to do this and it's the best thing I’ve ever done. 

KARLINSKY: It turns out voting for legal marijuana is easier than enacting it. 

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER (with joint in corner of his mouth): Legalize! 

KARLINSKY: While two dozen stores will open in Washington, of all the applications to setup in Seattle, so far only one has been approved: Cannabis City, where they expect attendance to be, pardon the cliche, high. 

AMBER MCGOWAN (MANAGER, CANNABIS CITY): We anticipate for 10,000. Hope to goodness we don't get that much because we don't have that much product. 

KARLINSKY: You really think you’re going to have 10,000 here tomorrow?

MCGOWAN: Hopefully not, but legally, we have to anticipate for it. 

KARLINSKY: They expect a shortage too, since less than 100 of the 2600 people who applied to be pot growers have been approved. There just isn't a lot of legal marijuana available. Regardless, there will be celebrations today. They won't be sleepless in Seattle, but they might be sleepy. Stores can open for the first time in history at 8:00 a.m., though, to quote the owner here, they will open today at high noon. George?

[Laughter]

STEPHANOPOULOS: You knew that was coming. Alright Neal, thank you.

ROBIN ROBERTS: He couldn't resist that. 

The complete transcript from the July 8 segment on CBS This Morning is transcribed below.

CBS

CBS This Morning

July 8, 2014

7:03 a.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: We'll begin with this story because, in Washington [state], they are taking a big step this morning becoming the second U.S. state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Washington Lights Up; Second State to Allow Recreational Marijuana Sales]

A small group of specialty stores will open in just a few hours. 

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHICS: The Seattle Times - “Opening for Pot Stores But Few Will Open,” The New York Times - “Still-Divided Washington prepares for Start of Recreational Marijuana Sales,” Los Angeles Times - “Marijuana Shortages Expected on First Day of Business in Washington State,” The Denver Post - “Washington Poised to Start Legal Marijuana Sales”]

JEFF GLOR: Washington voters approved pot sales in the 2012 election, the same time as Colorado, but the new law in Washington is taking longer to roll out. Adriana Diaz is at a shop in Seattle where sky high prices are expected on opening day. Adriana, good morning. 

ADRIANA DIAZ: Good morning, people are already lining up at this store called Cannabis City the first and so far the only recreational marijuana shop in all of Seattle. Beginning today, they can sell to anyone 21 years and older. Workers at Cannabis City were busy putting the finishing touches on their store Monday. 

JAMES LATHROP (CANNABIS CITY OWNER): I think this is one of the major local events in Seattle history, for sure. 

DIAZ: Customers here will be paying $20 for a gram of marijuana. 

DEB GREENE: A bowl once in a while? Yeah.

DIAZ: But those with high hopes of scoring a cheap hit could soon be in for a buzz kill. The 25 approved shops statewide are supplied by only about a dozen licensed growers. Demand during the first few days could send prices soaring as much as $25 per gram, three times higher than on the black market. The Top Shelf Store in Bellingham has just 19 pounds of marijuana on hand. 

JOHN EVICH (TOP SHELF CANNABIS INVESTOR): If there's 200 people in line, we probably won't limit the product. If we look outside and there's a thousand people in line, we're going to limit probably to two or three grams per person. 

DIAZ: Some estimates suggest the state can generate as much as $2 billion in tax revenue during the first five years of marijuana sales, but puffing up in public remains illegal in the state and marijuana edibles are not yet available. Pot shops are also prohibited within a 1,000 feet of schools, parks, child care centers and libraries. In a state where 1 out of 5 10th graders already use marijuana, Washington health officials are urging parents to take action, even releasing this radio ad. 

DR. LESLIE WALKER (SEATTLE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL): Now that it's legal for those over 21, it's more important than ever to talk to your kids about the risks of marijuana. 

DIAZ: The law passed fairly easily in Seattle and surrounding areas, but was challenged in other parts of the state and protesters are expected to show up at some store openings today. Jeff. 

GLOR: Ariana, thank you very much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division