After Promoting Colorado's 'Costco of Weed,' NBC Notices Surge in Stoned Driving

While NBC eagerly touted Colorado legalizing marijuana at the start of the year, even promoting one Denver store that hoped to become the "Costco of weed," on Monday's Today, correspondent Miguel Almaguer finally noticed a downside to legalized drug use: "More than half of Colorado's 61 arrests made in January for impaired driving involved someone who was high." [Listen to the audio]

NBC joins ABC and CBS in belatedly covering the negative consequences of legalizing pot after initially promoting the move. CBS This Morning hyped Colorado's "marijuana munchies" before discovering pot contaminated with mildew and e-coli. ABC's World News proclaimed an "historic" "pot revolution" in the state before reporting on the legal marijuana trade becoming a popular target for criminals.

On Monday, co-host Matt Lauer informed viewers: "A new ad campaign launches in Colorado today. The focus is warning drivers in a state where marijuana is now legal of the dangers of smoking and then getting behind the wheel."

Almaguer followed: "The million-dollar ad campaign pokes fun at stoners. A series of commercials showing marijuana users spacing out....Paid for by the Colorado Department of Transportation, the ad campaign is the state's first push to remind drivers marijuana should be treated like alcohol, both impair your judgment, both can land you in jail."

After Almaguer noted the number of stoned driving arrests, Colorado state trooper T.W. Cox explained: "The potential to find somebody who's high is going to be – is greater now."

During a ride-along with Cox, Almaguer wondered: "How dangerous is a high driver?" Cox replied: "High drivers are extremely dangerous. It's exactly the same as someone who's on alcohol."

Where was that kind of investigative journalism before the law passed? Or even when it first went into effect in January?

Following Almaguer's report, Lauer observed of the new ad campaign: "I think using the humor does get your attention." News reader Natalie Morales added: "Important message. Absolutely."

Co-host Carson Daly then decided to make the topic a joke once again: "SNL had a funny bit about it this weekend, they said the signs you're going to see now on the highway say 'speed up.'" That prompted laughter from the cast.

Here is a full transcript of the March 10 segment:

8:17 AM ET

MATT LAUER: A new ad campaign launches in Colorado today. The focus is warning drivers in a state where marijuana is now legal of the dangers of smoking and then getting behind the wheel. Here's NBC's Miguel Almaguer.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Don't Take the High Road; Colorado Cracks Down on Stoned Drivers]

MIGUEL ALMAGUER: The million-dollar ad campaign pokes fun at stoners. A series of commercials showing marijuana users spacing out. A reminder while it is legal to smoke pot in Colorado, it's against the law to be high behind the wheel.

ANDREW FRIEDMAN [CO. DIR. OF MARIJUANA COORDINATION]: This is the first public education campaign. There'll be many to come.

ALMAGUER: Paid for by the Colorado Department of Transportation, the ad campaign is the state's first push to remind drivers marijuana should be treated like alcohol, both impair your judgment, both can land you in jail. For state police it's no joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN A [POLICE OFFICER]: And you're going to count out loud, "One thousand one, one thousand two."  

ALMAGUER: More than half of Colorado's 61 arrests made in January for impaired driving involved someone who was high.

T.W. COX [COLORADO STATE TROOPER]: The potential to find somebody who's high is going to be – is greater now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [POLICE OFFICER]: I'm going to have you follow the tip of this red pen with your eyes and your eyes only.

ALMAGUER: Today near Denver, the mile-high city, more than 200 officers are being trained to become DREs, drug recognition experts. Trooper T.W. Cox just graduated. How dangerous is a high driver?

COX: High drivers are extremely dangerous. It's exactly the same as someone who's on alcohol.

ALMAGUER: Budding into a half-billion-dollar industry in Colorado, these new ads target young men.

FRIEDMAN: We have a youth prevention campaign that's going to both focus on talking to the youth directly and then also talking to parents and teachers about how to talk to youth.

ALMAGUER: Launching today across the state, the commercials use humor to warn stoners about something that's no laughing matter. For Today, Miguel Almaguer, NBC News, Denver, Colorado.

LAUER: The dribbling's getting on my nerves, but I think using the humor does get your attention.

NATALIE MORALES: Important message. Absolutely.

CARSON DALY: SNL had a funny bit about it this weekend, they said the signs you're going to see now on the highway say "speed up."

[LAUGHTER]  

LAUER: Exactly.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.