In a must-read story, the Stranger's Christopher Frazelle looks at the suicide of a woman in his building.
Within it, we find that Washington's got a ballot initiative, 502, that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in a manner similar to our own Amendment 64. Almost all of that state's medical-marijuana dispensaries are against the initiative. (Colorado's are split.)
But there's this, a little-known fact about one side-effect of marijuana, delivered by Frazelle with the full acknowledgement that "the rhetoric is polarized in both directions: The government tells you it's an insidious evil, the activists tell you it's merely an herb."
So take note, maybe:
It is an article of faith among marijuana activists (the sort of people Rosado was surrounded by at the Apothecary) that marijuana is harmless, that anyone telling you that smoking marijuana can lead to a psychotic break is spouting some Reefer Madness bullshit. And it's true that for the vast majority of adults, smoking marijuana does not cause problems. Scientists disagree about whether very heavy marijuana use can cause psychosis in people who would not otherwise become psychotic. But even a hardened skeptic like Dr. Mitch Earleywine—a psychologist on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the author of Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, and the star of at least one YouTube video passionately poking holes in studies that say marijuana can cause psychosis—says, "If you've had one schizophrenic episode or even something more modest, and then start smoking pot heavily afterwards, you're going to be more likely than not to have a second of those psychotic episodes." Moreover, marijuana will make a psychotic episode worse than it would be otherwise. "I think it's fair to say, if you're psychotic-prone, cannabis is not a good idea," Dr. Earleywine said. "Certainly anyone who has a twin with schizophrenia, a sibling with schizophrenia, a parent with schizophrenia would do well to stay away from the plant." People with bipolar disorder are also prone to psychosis and should only use marijuana "with extreme caution."
The backers behind Amendment 64, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, just released their theme song — did you know campaigns had those? — and you haven't heard something this catchy since 1967 when "When I'm Sixty-Four" from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band hit airwaves.
Here's the lyrics: "Take marijuana off of the streets. / Put it in a store. / We can make it harder for the teens to buy: Sell it like a bottle of wine. / Jobs for our people, money for schools — who could ask for more? / Strict regulation, fund education, yes on 64."
"We want voters humming this tune on the way to the polls," writes the campaign's advocacy director, Betty Aldworth. "After you listen to the song (maybe even a couple of times!), please share it with all the Colorado voters you know — especially those baby boomers who might recognize the tune — and encourage them to pass it along."
Update: We just heard back via e-mail from the study's author, Christopher Stiffler. Below are our questions followed by his written responses:
I just wanted to confirm that the MMJ study recently released was paid for by the Drug Policy Alliance.
"The Drug Policy Alliance contracted with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy for this particular analysis. It is important to note, however, that the analysis contained in the report represents independent analysis by CCLP staff. Part of our work here at CCLP is to provide independent, accurate economic and fiscal analysis on public policy discussions so that decision makers, whether they are legislators or voters, are able to make informed choices about the future of Colorado."
Also, can you speak to why your estimates are so much larger than what the Blue Book states, economically?
"First, I want to stress that we have tremendous respect for the work of the staff of the Colorado Legislative Council. The reason why our report differs from the Blue Book analysis is that I considered additional factors than those considered by Legislative Council staff.
"My analysis calculates state sales tax, local sales tax, excise tax, and savings to law enforcement. The Blue Book only provides an estimate of state sales tax. So the most accurate comparison is the estimate for state sales tax revenue. Our report estimates $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue. The Blue Book’s provides a range of $4 million to $22 million."
Lastly, Roger Sherman with No on 64 told Westword the report didn't take into account the added cost of drug treatment for schools — do you think that would be a significant amount?
"CCLP’s analysis focused on the state budgetary impacts of Amendment 64. The report focused much less on the indirect consequences. On page 6 of our study we reference some outside analysis dealing with consumption among teens. The Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Report suggest that regulating marijuana has a negative correlation with teen consumption, meaning regulation could be a factor in reducing marijuana use among teens. Nationwide marijuana use for high school students rose from 20.8 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent in 2011 while it dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent in Colorado. During this period, Colorado enacted regulations on the sale of medical marijuana."
——— ORIGINAL POST: Friday, Aug. 17, 4:24 P.M. ———
Much like the subject of gay marriage, any time there's a potential change in policy toward marijuana, there's a study somewhere saying how much money the state's missing out on if it doesn't act. Now, we have ours: The Colorado Center on Law and Policy says in a new study that the passage of Amendment 64 (backed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol) could generate $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue, and that that amount could double within the first five years after implementation.
According to the report, passage of Amendment 64 will:
• Initially result in $60 million annually in combined revenue and savings for state and local governments in Colorado, which could double to more than $100 million within the first five years of implementation.
• Save local and state law enforcement officials more than $12 million in the first year of operation.
• Generate $24 million annually in state revenue for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction program.
• Create more than 350 new jobs, the majority of which will be in the construction industry.
"Generating millions of dollars, creating new jobs, and benefiting our schools are not the only reasons to support regulating marijuana like alcohol," reads a statement from Betty Aldworth with CTRMLA. "It will also enhance public safety by removing marijuana from the underground market, which is currently steering all of the profits toward drug cartels and other criminal enterprises."
Of course, the competition's less impressed, says No on 64's Roger Sherman to Westword:
"It's not a surprise that a report paid for by an out-of-state, pro-legalization organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, overstates the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use," he maintains. "This report triples the estimate from the state's unbiased, non-partisan Office of Legislative Council in the Blue Book."
We've e-mailed the report's author, economist Christopher Stiffler, to confirm the connection with DPA — a New York City-based nonprofit with a Denver office, that focuses on "promoting alternatives to current drug policy that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights" — as well as answer some follow-up questions. We'll update when we hear back.
A piece posted on AlterNet from Martin Lee's new book, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, makes an interesting case: that the sudden increase in prosecutions of those in California's medical-marijuana industry was cover for the pressure Attorney General Eric Holder was facing due to the failure of the covert "Fast and Furious" program.
2,000 assault rifles and other firearms were sold to suspected traffickers for the Mexican drug cartels. It was intended as an intelligence-gathering ploy, but U.S. agents lost track of most of these weapons. ...
By early October 2011, there were calls for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Holder had perjured himself during testimony before Congress. Right-wing pundits described the scandal as “Obama’s Watergate." ...
But Holder had an ace up his sleeve, and he played it at a crucial moment. ...
On October 7, the same day Holder wrote a detailed letter to Rep. Issa, defending his handling of the Fast and Furious affair, four federal prosecutors in California held a hastily organized press conference in which they threw down the gauntlet and announced the start of a far-ranging crackdown that would nearly decimate the Golden State’s medical marijuana industry.
Whether it's true or not is unknown to me, but either way, as the book points out, half of California's dispensaries closed over a 10-month period.
The Atlantic Wire makes an interesting point: The story is being shared between the pro-pot and anti-Obama crowds alike, each thinking it proves their case.
Like the gun-walking scandal, it has remained niche, but no-less passionate issue for a specific subset of Americans. Type in "Holder" + "Crackdown" + "Marijuana dispensary" and 100,000 results show up of stories decrying the numerous alleged "lies" of the attorney general. But it has failed to go mainstream outside of a few one-off remarks on Bill Maher's HBO show. Similarly, Republicans can't seem to get Fast & Furious elevated to its alleged "Watergate"-worthy status, despite aggressive attempts by the GOP-led House to sue Eric Holder for refusing to provide documents related to the scandal, an action they pursued today. If this is a strength in numbers issue, maybe the two sides can join forces?
A release from U.S. Attorney John Walsh's office says that closure letters have been issued to 10 medical-marijuana centers in Colorado still located within 1,000 feet of a school. This is the third in a series of actions, and the smallest so far, though spokesman Jeff Dorschner confirms another wave of similar size will follow in the coming months. Also, one of the 10 is located in Colorado Springs, though it's unknown which center that is.
"Action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property if they do not discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana within 45 days from today, September 17, 2012," reads the statement. "Those who do not comply will be subject to civil enforcement actions and potential criminal prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)."
The most recent attempt came in the April-May period, with the U.S. Attorney's office saying all 25 centers that were notified had closed. This later proved inaccurate; just one example came when the so-affected Altitude Organic moved from its Colorado Avenue location to downtown.
Nonetheless, Dorschner says every targeted center has complied "without enforcement action being taken."
John Ingold at the Denver Post reported today that Michael Kopta and Alvida Hillery of Colorado Springs have sued the Colorado Department of Revenue over current county prosecution that the pair feels resulted from an unclear ruling by the state.
Here's the Post:
In the lawsuit ... attorney Sean McAllister argues that it is unclear whether dispensaries can start growing the moment prospective patients send in their application, when they're approved or at a later date.
It's not a trifling question because, as the criminal charges against Kopta and Hillery show, dispensary owners can face criminal prosecution if found to be over their plant limits.
"These center owners are not in the business to commit felonies," McAllister wrote in the lawsuit. "They are in business to comply with the law. ... They cannot comply with the law if it is ambiguous and results in an unclear application."
Indy reporter Bryce Crawford has received word that medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse, the subject of a controversial felony cultivation and distribution of marijuana case locally, has been found not guilty on all charges.
Attending advocate Audrey Hatfield, of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, had told us earlier this week that Crouse's fans were a little worried about the jurors selected for the trial, which started Monday. But Hatfield reportedly told Crawford this afternoon that those jurors sided with Crouse, who asserted that a paperwork snafu was to blame for any MMJ laws violated.
We'll follow up on this story in the days to come.
An event tonight from the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, held at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, was originally supposed to host the senior director of enforcement for the Colorado Department of Revenue. The idea was, you pay $10 and get a chance to learn more about upcoming industry developments.
The Waldo Canyon Fire has changed all that, so instead the 7:30 event will not feature George Thomson, and will serve a larger cause.
"This mixer will now be a FREE event, but we ask you to bring cash/check donations, non-perishable foods, pet foods, water, etc to donate to the Red Cross and other organizations in need at this time," reads the CSMCC's notification. "100% of the proceeds will go to help the fire victims, so we encourage each of you to come out and join us in bringing relief to our community. This event is open to the public, so please help us spread the word and hopefully we can collect many donations for victims!"
After many months of delay, the trial of medical marijuana patient Bob Crouse began this morning with jury selection. Crouse is a leukemia sufferer who used a tincture of cannabis to treat the side effects of his cancer, and is the latest in a string of MMJ patients to take their case to trial. The strategy has been fairly successful for some.
In our September profile of the longtime Colorado Springs resident, we looked at where his legal troubles began, writing, "Then in May, Colorado Springs Police Department officers knocked on his door, suspicious of his peaking utility bill, among other things. Crouse couldn't produce up-to-date patient renewal paperwork; he'd only recently been notified that the state had rejected it, because his recommending physician listed one address on one form, and a second on another."
For those interested in attending, the trial continues at 9 tomorrow morning at the El Paso County Courthouse. Meanwhile, Audrey Hatfield and her Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights have protested almost every court appearance Crouse has had to make, and this morning's 8 o'clock meet-up was no different. The following are some photos of the protest taken by Independent intern Wyatt Miller (with one noted exception).
And he does it again, this time in a conversation with Drug Enforcement administrator Michele Leonhart, who did her best impression of a brain-dead opossum when faced with Polis' straightforward yes-or-no questions like, “Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?”
Her response: "I believe all illegal drugs are bad."
It went on like this for the rest of the session, and it's for this reason that I hereby nominate the Boulder millionaire for the official title of Medical Marijuana Man. I mean, Polis could have asked Leonhart if it's better to be hit or not be hit with a hammer, and received a response akin to, "Hammers are tools, like all tools."
And speaking of tools, here's Politico detailing the administrator's response to another clear-headed representative's questions.
The scene was scarcely different with [Rep. Steve] Cohen asking these questions.
“Would you agree that marijuana causes less harm to individuals than meth, crack, cocaine, and heroin?” he asked.
“As a former police officer, as a 32-year DEA agent, I can tell you that I think marijuana is an insidious drug,” Leonhart replied.
“That’s not the question I asked you, ma’am. Does it cause less damage to the American society and to individuals than meth, crack cocaine and heroin? Does it make people have to kill to get their fix?”
“I can tell you that more teens enter treatment for marijuana.”
Of course, this all comes on the heels of the news that a study conducted by a Denver professor shows that medical-marijuana centers specifically do not increase teen use of cannabis.
"The data included nationally respected surveys of high school behavior, as well as drug test screens from patients entering federally funded drug treatment centers," reports Michael Booth at the Denver Post. "The economists' results found no relation between teen drug use and the availability of medical marijuana in their state."
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Amendment 64, last week released its second
TV ad web-only advertisement, this timed to coincide with Father's Day (much like its Mother's Day version).
This one shows a collegiate-looking dude "sharing his thoughts about the use of marijuana and alcohol with his father," reads a press release. "The young man explains to his father that they're a lot alike — they both work hard and have good jobs — but that unlike his father, the young man prefers to use marijuana to relax at the end of a tough day."
In other campaign news, on Monday Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited a medical-marijuana center in Denver in support of Amendment 64. "Johnson says that if he's elected president, medical marijuana businesses that are operating within state and local laws wouldn't have to worry about efforts by federal prosecutors to shut them down," reports the Associated Press.
Elisa Kappelmann, a local woman we first introduced you to in July of last year, was vindicated Monday when a jury returned a verdict of not guilty of all charges of possession and distribution of marijuana.
Kappelmann used to co-own Southern Colorado Medical Marijuana with her partner Don McKay, but was forced to take her name off of all paperwork. She now gets a second start with the end of her multi-year ordeal, that, like the similar case of cancer patient Bob Crouse, often included courthouse protests organized by local advocacy group Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights.
In the video below, taken immediately after the end of the trial, she has these words for the Fourth Judicial District Attorney: "Actually, I think we have a prosecutor in this town who doesn't follow the law, he follows his own agenda," she says. "Dan May's corrupt."
Tomorrow, the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will bring together marijuana stakeholders in a free summer forum titled "The Federal Challenge to Marijuana Reform." The action gets started at 7 p.m. at downtown's Penrose Library, and features speakers Mark Slaugh from the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, Mason Tvert of S.A.F.E.R. and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and Art Way from the Drug Policy Alliance. Sensible Colorado executive director Brian Vicente will be present as well, but likely not speaking.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May was a possible candidate, but event organizer and chapter co-chair Loring Wirbel says he's probably going to decline, as the discussion will likely center around the federal government.
"The White House picks and chooses what it wants to do, in the sense that Obama and Biden have both come out for gay marriage, for example — which is still a real struggle on the states’ rights front — but they don’t do that on marijuana," Wirbel says in summation of the topic. "And I think they’re a little frightened of the states’ rights argument to begin with, because then what happens with immigration reform?"
Wirbel says that while the Justice Department has been acting against medical-marijuana users in multiple states, it has done so "on a very spotty basis, cracking down on California and Colorado while not cracking down on others," he says. "So, we see it as being a very inconsistent and unfair federal response to these laws.
"I think we’ll probably mention, too, tomorrow, from the ACLU’s perspective, that we are horribly, horribly disappointed — and I say this on a national basis for ACLU — the organization is horribly disappointed with Eric Holder as an attorney general," says Wirbel. "We’d probably put him on the lines of, say, you know, John Ashcroft, John Mitchell, people like that. Not only for marijuana, or whatever, but [Holder's] prosecuted something like seven journalists under official-secrets, espionage-act type of thing, and has had a terrible issue with secrecy and whistleblowers."
A press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., says 74 percent of those spoken with in a poll conducted between May 7 and May 11 "want the Obama administration to respect individual state medical marijuana laws." The nationwide poll was commissioned by the MPP, and spoke with 1,000 registered-and-likely-to-vote people.
The poll informed voters that medical marijuana is legal with a doctor’s recommendation in 16 states as well as the District of Columbia, and in some of those states it is legal for licensed and tightly regulated individuals to grow and sell marijuana to qualifying patients. Respondents were then asked if President Obama should respect the medical marijuana laws in these states, or continue to use federal resources to arrest and prosecute individuals who are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
“The results of this survey demonstrate that there is virtually no support in the country for the Obama administration's crackdown on state medical marijuana laws,” says Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Project, in the release. “Across all demographic and ideological groups, the American people strongly believe the president should respect state medical marijuana laws, as he promised he would when he campaigned to be president.
"It is clearly time for President Obama to stand up to the members of his administration who are carrying out the morally wrong and politically unpopular policy of denying patients safe access to this beneficial medicine.”
In the end, it all came down to the presence, or lack thereof, of one supporter.
Sen. Nancy Spence missed the vote due to a family engagement, so the bill to impose a limit on the amount of THC that could exist in a driver's blood died 17-17 in a special session of the Legislature. It was the third attempt, including this and last year's versions, to enact the 5-nanograms-per-milliliter-of-blood limit.
"Our main concern with the 5 nanogram per se DUID bill is that it would unnecessarily criminalize the innocent," reads an e-mailed statement from Medical Marijuana Industry Group executive director Michael Elliott. "Colorado’s current DUID law, which bans driving while impaired to the slightest degree, has been successful and fair. We support Colorado’s current law, which has a 90% conviction rate and has led to a 19% reduction in traffic fatalities over the last four years.
"We will continue partnering with state agencies, such as the Colorado Department of Transportation, to build awareness about the dangers of drugged driving, and to help make our roads safer."
The bill had previously cleared the House and looked all set for to head for the governor's desk, reports the Denver Post's John Ingold.
The result was surprising for a bill that, again, appeared headed for passage before being tripped up late. Earlier in the day, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed the bill 4-1 this afternoon. That came after the bill received its final approval in the House this morning.
That meant the bill needed to pass only two votes — one today and one tomorrow — by the full Senate to head to the governor's desk. Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he supports the bill.
In one reaction, Colorado Public Radio reporter Megan Verlee tweeted that civil unions took up more of the public's interest, "but I think no bill this yr had a stranger life, near-death, ressurection [sic] and death than Pot DUI."