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Study looks at legalization's impact, Illinois gets MMJ, and more 

CannaBiz

High impact

Last week, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (rmhidta.org)— a multi-agency task force that spans Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — released data gathered by its analytical arm that attempts "to document the impact of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in Colorado."

Somewhat dramatically titled "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact," the 66-page report offers findings like:

• Traffic fatalities declined 16 percent between 2006 and 2011, consistent with the national average, but fatalities involving drivers who tested positive for cannabis increased 114 percent. It was also in this time span that medical-marijuana dispensaries exploded across Colorado.

• Colorado's 2011 average for youths age 12 to 17 who are considered current marijuana users was 10.72 percent; the national average was 7.64 percent, its highest level since 1981. For Coloradans age 18 to 25, the current-user rate was 27.26 percent, as compared to the national average of 18.7 percent.

• Youths saw the emergency room for marijuana-related reasons an average of 741 times per year between '05 and '08. Between '09 and '11 that number increased to 800.

In regard to youth usage, RMHIDTA director Tom Gorman told Westword he's not buying the argument that regulation keeps marijuana out of the hands of young people.

"If you make a substance more available, if you make it cheaper, if you lower the perception of risk, kids are going to use more dope," he said. "Putting it behind the counter isn't going to have an impact on that at all, because we're not only diverting marijuana to other states, we're diverting it within our own state — to people under 21, to non-patients."

Lincoln looks on

About a week after New Hampshire became the 19th, Illinois became the 20th medical-marijuana state, thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn signing House Bill 1 on Aug. 1. "The bill, sponsored by Representative Lou Lang, (D-Skokie)," reads a release from the National Cannabis Industry Association, "creates a framework for the licensure of as many as 22 cultivation facilities and 60 dispensing organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualifying patients."

Hats off

Local activist Audrey Hatfield, president of Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights, will be honored at 8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 11, with a roast and award ceremony. "This is Gonna Be Brutal!" reads a flier from host Speak Easy Vape Lounge (2508 E. Bijou St., speakeasylounge.info).

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