2016 RNC bid: Is legal marijuana Denver's elephant in the room?
Colorado continues riding high in the wake of marijuana legalization.
Image Credit: Marijuana
According to government data released this week, the city- and countywide murder rate has dropped 52.9% since recreational marijuana use was legalized in January. This is compared to the same period last year, a time frame encompassing Jan. 1 through April 30.
The shift accompanies a dip in violent crime overall, as sexual assault fell 13.6% and robbery and aggravated assault fell 4.8% and 3.7%, respectively.
The data pool's size is important to note, as eight murders compared to 17 in the same time frame last year may seem a blip on the radar. On the other hand, a full quarter of the year has passed. It may be too soon to definitively attribute these changes to marijuana legalization, but the possibility of a correlative pattern is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Background: All told, the first few months of legalization have been a boon to Colorado's economy.
In March 2014 alone, taxed and legal recreational marijuana sales generated nearly $19 million, up from $14 million in February. The first three months of the year have also earned the state $7.3 million in tax revenue — $12.6 million, if you include funds generated by medical marijuana. Legal cannabis sales are projected to reach up to $2.57 billion nationwide this year.
As a direct result, the Colorado state legislature has expressed plans to spend $33 million of these funds on school nurses and public education around marijuana. Ten percent to 15% is also expected to be distributed among the state's police departments, allegedly to be used on DUI enforcement. All this despite countless efforts on Mayor Michael Hancock's part to restrict the parameters around legalization:
Time will tell who gets the last laugh.
Also: As PolicyMic's Tom McKay points out, the fallout from legalization has been far from the crime-fuelled societal collapse critics warned about. Not only is violent crime down across the board statewide, the legislation's effects can be seen in a much wider array of spaces — one being the shifting priorities of Mexican drug cartels and the marijuana growers they employ.
"I wish Americans would stop with this legalization," Mexican grower Rodrigo Silla told the Washington Post last month. According to him, the financial burden placed on growers by the legal industry in the U.S. has made cultivating cannabis "not worth it anymore."
Consequently — and unfortunately — more growers are moving into the heroin industry to compensate for lost business.
But: Amid all these developments, the legalization wave shows few signs of dissipating. According to a High Times report, nine states are currently exploring legislative changes around marijuana use, yet another indication of the plant's expanding national prioritization.
A medical marijuana legalization bill was recently introduced in North Carolina. New York and Illinois have recently seen major steps forward toward permission for medical use. In California, law enforcement agencies may soon be required to return marijuana and related items seized from people whose cases were dismissed or acquitted.
And a recent Gallup poll indicates that 60% of Americans favor "eliminating [marijuana] prohibition," a number expected to reach 75% by 2023. Put simply, we may be nearing the end of a particularly grim chapter in American legal history.
The freeways surrounding MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. are about to be plastered with five billboards advocating the use of marijuana, and, in some cases, attacking football just miles from the game’s biggest stage.
Washington and Colorado are the only two states to have legalized marijuana, so theMarijuana Policy Project, an organization based in Washington D.C., decided this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos would be an opportune time to get their message out.
This isn’t the first time MPP has tried to steal the NFL’s stage. The group posted a billboard outside of Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in September telling the league to “Stop Driving Players to Drink,” and, as a football leaned against a foaming beer glass advised: “A safer choice is now legal here.”
Tvert is in New York City this week and says he is heading to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s office Wednesday to drop off a petition calling on the NFL to stop punishing players for using marijuana. He said that, as of Monday afternoon, the petition has over 12,000 signatures.
“It’s simply that people want the freedom to be stoned,” he said. “That’s all it is. And there’s a great deal of risk.”
“In my 37 years as a physician, the number of patients I’ve admitted to the hospital with complications from marijuana use is zero,” he said. “The number I’ve admitted due to alcohol use is profound.”
As far as using marijuana for medical reasons, last week Goodell didn’t waver from his message about use in the NFL.
“I’m not a medical expert,” he said. “We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”
Via USA Today
Central City [Colorado] is used to making history. The Rush to the Rockies got its start in May 1859, when John Gregory made the first lode discovery on Clear Creek. The town sprang up right above that find and grew so fast that it almost became the state capitol; today it's home to the historic Teller Opera House, Victorian buildings and casinos made possible by Colorado voters. And now Central City has made more history, as home to the first business granted a recreational marijuana retail sales license not just in Colorado, but the world.
Annie's, the recipient of the license, is housed in a historic building at 135 Nevada Street that dates back to 1864, was gutted by the fire of 1874, then was rebuilt. Over the years, it's been everything from a saloon to a garage to a tourist-trap jail exhibit. In 1992, it became the first place to be granted a casino license in Colorado: for Annie Oakley's Casino. (There's no evidence that the famous sharpshooter ever set foot in the structure, although her mentor, Buffalo Bill, did put on a show in the Teller Opera House -- so it's possible that Annie Oakley at least saw Central City.)
Like so many of the mom-and-pop casinos that opened at the start of gambling, Annie Oakley's closed when bigger casinos moved into town. The spot then reopened as Annie Oakley's Emporium, a convenience store. And it became a lot more convenient a few years ago, when it started stocking medical marijuana along with groceries and liquor.
This past April, the business was sold to Strainwise, which now has eight dispensaries in Colorado, with locations in Denver, Idaho Springs and Wheat Ridge as well as Annie's. The plan is for all eight to get retail licenses, so that they can sell recreational marijuana as well as medical marijuana starting January 1, explains Strainwises's Erin Phillips.One of the Denver dispensaries, the Grove, was the first to have a recreational-sales hearing in Denver, she notes. (Under Colorado rules, a local hearing comes after the state has signed off on a recreational sales license application -- for which only approved MMJ facilities can currently apply.) And yesterday, three of the five Strainwise centers in Denver were all approved for their recreational sales licenses.
But by then, the Annie's already had its license. Central City had nabbed another historic first by "processing it through a lot faster," says Phillips.
Then again, the Central City chief of police, who delivered that first recreational marijuana sales license, didn't have far to go: The police station shares a wall with Annie's.
"It's the same old bureaucratic piece of paper," Phillips says of this first license. "But we might put it in a fancy frame."
Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin made history last weekend by harvesting the nation's first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.
Hemp advocates said Loflin's harvest is a landmark event that could one day lead to larger-scale domestic farming of hemp for industrial uses such as food additives, cosmetics and building materials.
Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive substance that gets marijuana users high.
Loflin's 55-acre crop in southeastern Colorado's Baca County won't yield large amounts of hemp-seed oil and other by-products but is "quite significant symbolically," said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for advocacy group Vote Hemp.
The sale of hemp products in the U.S. reached an estimated $500 million last year, according to the Hemp Industries Association. Yet all of the hemp used for the products was imported because federal law prohibits its cultivation in the U.S. under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The last known commercial crop was harvested in Wisconsin in 1957.
Colorado's passage of Amendment 64 paved the way for legal cultivation of hemp, but Loflin chose to plant his crop earlier this year before implementation of the state's hemp-growing regulations, which are scheduled to take effect next year.
Loflin used social media to line up about 45 volunteers to hand-harvest his crop on Saturday and Sunday. Use of a mechanical combine, he said, would have harmed the plants' stalks, which can be used in construction materials and for animal bedding.
Loflin said some of his hemp seed will be pressed for oil and subsequently purchased by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a major user of hemp oil.
"We're very excited that Ryan has done this," said David Bronner, president of the company. "Ryan has kind of busted it open and taken this necessary step to make hemp a viable crop."
More than 1000 drug policy reformers came to Denver, Colorado to discuss an exit strategy from the war on drugs. The filming crew of the Drugreporter (http://drugreporter.net) produced a short video to feature the best moments of the conference.
Legal Weed Draws Tourists To Colorado, Washington, For 4/20 Marijuana Holiday
DENVER -- Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.
More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.
Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.
One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.
The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking – tobacco or reefer – is permitted on room patios.
Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.
Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado – meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries.
Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well.
"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."
The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities. The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend.
"4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."
The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago.
A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 .
After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday.
Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.
The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" – an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies.
"It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it."
Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup.
"It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."
Click on Magazine to see December 2011 Issue!!!!
Colorado marijuana effort seeks older, budget-minded voters
JULY, 7 2011 KRISTEN WYATT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — A campaign to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use in Colorado is aimed at middle-aged, budget-conscious voters — not the pot smokers typically associated with such efforts.
Two marijuana legalization advocates started a signature drive Thursday to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that they say would regulate and tax recreational marijuana to raise money for schools without making make weed available to all.
The representatives of the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" wore suits and stood on a public lawn before the state Capitol and made their case that marijuana legalization would raise needed tax revenues and save money spent on arresting and prosecuting small-time pot users.
Again and again, they talked about how they would aim to limit the legalization effort — only for adults and only in small quantities.
"It'll be the strictest control and regulation of marijuana in history," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, a pot-legalization group that helped put forward the proposed ballot measure.
Another of the organizers, Mason Tvert, said the campaign wants to appeal to Republicans and older voters, not just young people who typically turn up at smoke-filled pot rallies. A 2006 measure to legalize marijuana in Colorado was soundly defeated, as was a legalization measure last year in California.
"We think this is going to appeal to a lot more people," Tvert said.
If approved, the measure would make small amounts of pot legal starting in 2013. Marijuana could be sold at newly designated stores and subject to state licensing. Adults would be allowed to have up to six plants. And pot would be subject to sales taxes and an additional state excise tax of 15 percent, with the money designated for public schools. The proposal allows local governments to prohibit commercial pot sales.
"This is shifting from a prohibition paradigm to a regulation paradigm," Tvert said.
Tvert and Vicente brushed aside concerns that the amendment would set up a federal showdown over marijuana. They point out that medical marijuana is also illegal under federal law, but 16 states allow its use.
"It's time for states to step up and take the lead on recreational marijuana the way they did on medical marijuana," Vicente said.
But the suggestion to heavily regulate pot has miffed some marijuana activists, who are working on a rival proposal with fewer restrictions on marijuana. Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute said in a statement to reporters the existing petition shouldn't be considered full legalization.
"It is merely sentencing reform, nothing more," the statement to reporters said.
A ballot measure needs about 86,000 valid signatures to make ballots next year.
Take a Guided Tour With the World’s First Professional Pot Critic
By Alex Moore Wednesday, July 06, 2011 deathandtaxesmag.org
A. Definitely not the world's first and I will arm wrestle anyone that thinks otherwise. B. My job is still cooler. -UA
While one newspaper in California has made so much money selling ads to medical marijuana pharmacies that they’ve expanded circulation into new regions and hired three new full time staff, it’s a newspaper in Denver that has hired the world’s first full-time pot critic.
The critic, who works for the Denver “Westward,” remains anonymous—not because what he’s doing is illegal, but because, like any good restaurant critic, his ability to offer objective criticism on marijuana depends on pot pharmacies not giving him any special treatment. The good stuff, so to speak.
And by all means, the pot critic does seem to take his job seriously. “Yeah, I smoke weed,” he says, “but it’s still a job. I still have to write, and I still have to make deadlines.”
Aside from describing the actual pot and its high, part of the man’s mission is to guide readers to the best pharmacy experiences. Praise for the “sticky sweet of Tangerine Haze” is interspersed with ruminations like, “If I feel icky in a place, my Grandma is probably going to feel icky there. You know?”
He then quickly adds, “Not that my grandma smokes herb.”
We hear complex arguments about how legalizing marijuana will boost the economy. Boring statistics and law enforcement metrics aside, this guy is evidence that even marginal legalization has just created at least one brand new job. Never before have high schoolers been able to say, “I want to be a pot critic when I grow up.”
Check out the guided tour below, from The Daily