Colorado Marijuana News
DENVER — A Colorado proposal to widen a ban on certain types of edible marijuana advanced Thursday in the state House amid concerns that it could be too broad.
What lawmakers are trying to prevent is accidental ingestion by children who can’t tell the difference between a regular cookie or gummy bear and the kinds infused with cannabis. Lawmakers also worry that officials won’t be able to know when students have marijuana at school when the drug is in the form of an edible.Learn more »
DENVER — Authorities say a Wyoming college student who jumped to his death from a Denver hotel balcony ate more than the recommended serving of a marijuana cookie.
Police reports released Thursday said 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi consumed a little more than one cookie that his friend purchased from a pot shop.Learn more »
RED CLIFF — Voters here Tuesday retained two town council members and rejected a proposed ban on medical marijuana operations.
Anuschka Bales and Tom Henderson, both current board members, were both elected to four-year terms. But the election still leaves the seven-member board short two people. Town clerk Barb Smith said the town will post the vacancies, with a 30-day period for interested people to apply for the board positions.Learn more »
Different issues will be on the front burner when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws returns to Aspen for a legal seminar in May.
NORML has held a spring conference in Aspen for about 12 consecutive years. It’s not ready to abandon the town now that marijuana has been legalized for adults in Colorado, said Executive Director Allen St. Pierre.Learn more »
EAGLE COUNTY — At the Sweet Leaf Pioneer medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle, Dieneka Manzanares gets calls and visitors just about every day. Many are tourists, looking to buy legal marijuana while on vacation to the Vail Valley. Right now, she has to turn them all away.
Those calls and visits are familiar to Murphy Murray, the co-owner and general manager of the Tree Line dispensary in Eagle-Vail.Learn more »
GRANBY — A batch of drug-laced Chex-Mix delivered to Middle Park Medical Center staff around Christmastime has tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound found in marijuana, according to Granby Police Chief Bill Housley.
Though the department knows who delivered the treats and has transferred the case to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, Housley said the District Attorney’s Office is inclined not to prosecute the case due to a lack of intent to deliver the THC-laced treats to the hospital staff.Learn more »
The Snowmass community doesn’t need recreational marijuana shops, the town’s marketing board told Town Council at a meeting Monday.
The council determined in a work session last week that it wasn’t ready to ban or to regulate the sale of recreational marijuana because most members were concerned about damaging the town’s family-friendly reputation. It agreed that its first point of research would be to ask the members of the Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board what their thoughts were.Learn more »
SEATTLE — The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado — a discrepancy that illustrates the quandary the Justice Department faces as it allows the states to experiment with regulating a drug that’s long been illegal under federal law.
Washington state has been asking for nearly a year if the FBI would conduct background checks on its applicants, to no avail. The bureau’s refusal raises the possibility that people with troublesome criminal histories could wind up with pot licenses in the state — undermining the department’s own priorities in ensuring that states keep a tight rein on the nascent industry.Learn more »
This is the final part in a two-part series focusing on marijuana law enforcement and education.
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Editor’s note: This is the first part in a two-part series about the effects of legalized marijuana on children and law enforcement agencies.
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VAIL — When a structure on the ski hill comes down, for many it’s a sad moment.
Whether it’s Two Elk, destroyed illegally in 1998, or Jaz’s Cabin, destroyed in the name of the law in 2012, it’s been said it’s like losing a close friend or family member. Breckenridge skiers felt that sadness this week with the destruction of their beloved “Leo’s” cabin, but the dynamite used to destroy it was only the beginning of the explosion, as social media sites blew up with activity in response and Vail Resorts issued a press release on the matter.Learn more »
EAGLE COUNTY — Led Gardner is worried.
Gardner, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton, is concerned that legal marijuana in Colorado may prompt some people — specifically some of the valley’s high-end clients — to take their business elsewhere.Learn more »
DENVER – In their first month of legality, Colorado’s reefer retailers sold $45 million in legal reefer, and generated $3.5 million in tax and fee revenue for the state.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, January saw $14 million in legal reefer sales to adults, and another $31 million in medical marijuana sales.Learn more »
Ron Radtke is confident in his ability to run a successful business, whether it’s as a building contractor or growing and selling marijuana.
Admittedly, it took him a few years to learn the ins and outs of running a medical marijuana venture, but with the help of his son, Brian, Radtke is now confident that the successful business plan they’ve developed in Glenwood Springs will translate well in Aspen.Learn more »
EAGLE COUNTY — Colorado made history when we became the first state to legalize marijuana, but the Colorado Department of Transportation wants you to understand that driving under the influence of anything except good karma is a monumentally bad idea.
That includes the newly legalized marijuana, said Amy Ford, CDOT’s communications director.Learn more »
The Local Licensing Authority granted a recreational marijuana sales license to Ron Radtke on Wednesday for his East Hyman Avenue cannabis location.
Because state authorities require a due-diligence time period before opening, Radtke will have to wait until April to convert Green Dragon Aspen, currently a medical marijuana operation, to a dual operation. He plans to hold a soft opening at the store, located at 400 E. Hyman Ave., either today or Saturday.Learn more »
It’s hard to pin down just how long some people have waited for this day, but March 5, 2014, will go down as the historic date when anyone 21 and older could buy recreational marijuana legally in Aspen and Pitkin County.
Laws were put into place in 1937 prohibiting the use of the herb in the United States. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in the past decade, 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of seven states and the District of Columbia combined.Learn more »
Pitkin County is well known for all its different recreational possibilties, and Tuesday they added a new one to the list — marijuana.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners made county history by okaying two licenses that will allow the first two outlets to sell recreational pot legally within Pitkin County.Learn more »
Hot Sulphur Springs — County officials are working to clear the haze of marijuana confusion before they tamp down their marijuana employee policy.
During their regular public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the board of county commissioners had Sarah Urfer of ChemaTox Laboratory, Inc. provide some clarification to the murkiness of marijuana use. She provided insight on best testing practices, how to determine impairment and how to develop policy.Learn more »
DENVER — A southern Colorado county with two recreational marijuana stores has become the first in the state to announce tax totals from the new industry.
Pueblo County finance authorities announced Monday that its two shops had about $1 million in total sales in January, producing about $56,000 in local sales taxes.Learn more »
With recreational use and sales of marijuana now legal, state and local law enforcement agencies are reminding the public that driving under the influence of pot still is against the law.
In May, the Colorado General Assembly passed a controversial measure that sets a threshold for marijuana-impaired-driving arrests. A driver with five or more nanograms of active THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — per milliliter of blood at the time of impairment testing is likely to be cited on suspicion of DUI. The law states that the 5-nanogram-or-higher level “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.”Learn more »
An estimated 55 people packed a basement room at Aspen City Hall on Thursday to learn more about marijuana and the different ways in which it is sold and consumed.
The impetus behind the panel discussion on cannabis, coordinated by the Valley Marijuana Council, is the upcoming opening of a recreational marijuana shop in Aspen. Jordan Lewis, owner of medical marijuana operation Silverpeak Apothecary, on East Cooper Avenue, said he has the green light from state and local authorities and is aiming to kick off his recreational adjunct business by the end of this month.Learn more »
To provide a better understanding of the state’s new recreational pot industry and how it will affect the community, a local group plans to hold a series of meetings on the topic, with the first gathering scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Aspen City Hall, 130 S. Galena St.
The group is called the Valley Marijuana Council. Its members include the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Aspen Police Department, the Aspen Valley Hospital, the Aspen School District, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Silverpeak Apothecary and others. The group even has a website: ValleyMJCouncil.org.Learn more »
The advent of legal marijuana in Colorado has prompted local public school officials to revisit their policies and procedures regarding substance abuse, but they’re mostly waiting to see how things play out.
Under the law, recreational marijuana became a legal commodity on Jan. 1, but at this point most local marijuana retailers are selling just the medical variety to certified customers. In the Roaring Fork Valley, only Carbondale presently has a licensed, operating recreational marijuana outlet, although more are expected to open soon in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.Learn more »
SANTA FE, N.M. — A proposal to allow New Mexico voters to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana stalled Friday, putting the measure in doubt — for now.
At a disjointed meeting, the Senate Rules Committee failed to debate the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow for the possession and personal use of marijuana for those 21 years of age and older.Learn more »
Grand County considers zero tolerance pot policy for employeesFebruary 5, 2014 —
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — County commissioners may have agreed to allow recreational marijuana businesses, but they may prohibit their own employees from partaking.
Current regulations for county employees prohibit working while under the influence of any substance that could cause harm to themselves or others. County commissioners and staff agree this policy should continue, but things become murkier with marijuana’s legalization in the state of Colorado.
Commissioners must now decide if they’ll adopt a “zero tolerance” policy, meaning employees will be banned from smoking off the job, or if they’ll treat marijuana like alcohol, allowing employees the freedom to choose during their personal time.
“An individual can do what they want to do, that’s why I voted in favor of (recreational) marijuana,” said commissioner Gary Bumgarner during a workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 4. “You can work for Grand County, but you have to follow Grand County rules, which to me is zero (marijuana) until such time that science catches up.”
Marijuana produces two compounds as it interacts with the body, called metabolites. Enforcers can test for these metabolites to determine if a person has used marijuana, but the presence of a metabolite doesn’t necessary mean a person is high. One metabolite is inactive, meaning the tested person could have consumed marijuana months ago. The second metabolite is active, implying the marijuana was recently consumed, and the person could be under the influence of cannabis’s psychoactive effects.
Urine testing will show both inactive and active metabolites, but won’t differentiate between the two. Blood testing is the most practical way of telling how many of the metabolites are active, but is more costly and less convenient than urine testing.
Also clouding the issue is the lagging science on the lingering effects of marijuana – how different levels affect different people, how long it takes the “high” to wear off, and how to know the levels of active ingredients in each marijuana plant. Although Colorado’s Amendment 64 now regulates marijuana like alcohol, this lack of information makes marijuana use much harder to enforce than alcohol.
The commissioners and staff all agreed during the Tuesday workshop that no employee should be allowed to work while high, with active marijuana metabolites in his or her system. Some argue that a zero tolerance policy, prohibiting all marijuana use, is the best way to protect the county from liability.
“It’s just so much easier,” said Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola. “It’s easier to say ‘any marijuana in your system, you’re done’ … it’s easier for enforcement agencies.”
Still, commissioners Merrit Linke and James Newberry cited their reluctance to adopt a zero tolerance policy for marijuana use, with Linke saying it’s impractical and unenforceable and Newberry implying it created a double standard.
“We have broken new ground in Colorado, whether we like it or not,” Newberry said, referring to the state’s legalization of cannabis consumption for adults. “That we’re going to fire everyone with a trace of marijuana, that makes no sense to me.”
Because it was a workshop, the commissioners didn’t make any decisions or adopt any resolutions on the matter. Over the coming weeks, they’ll be bringing in experts to help them understand the issue further.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.
Doctor’s Garden in Roaring Fork Valley for recreational marijuanaJanuary 31, 2014 —
CARBONDALE — If the first two weeks of selling recreational marijuana are any indication of future business, James Leonard is going to be a happy man.
Leonard is a co-owner of Doctor’s Garden, a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in Carbondale that became the first dispensary in the Roaring Fork Valley to sell recreational marijuana, beginning Jan. 15.
The shop ran out of recreational pot Tuesday after two weeks of banner sales, although the shop still s is elling marijuana-infused edibles. The shop’s ustomers also can buy medical marijuana at the shop, which is still in stock, if they have a medical marijuana card.
“We had retail customers lined up outside the shop every day,” Leonard said. “Even when the lines died down, the inside of the shop was still packed. The X Games crowd hit us pretty hard.”
Leonard said he had customers from all over the world stop in either to buy marijuana or just to check out the shop. He cited customers from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, London, Russia, Australia, South Africa and throughout North America, including a heavy base of customers from Aspen.
“I think our shop has brought more people past the roundabout (in Aspen) downvalley than anything in recent memory,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
On Thursday, despite signs outside the shop stating the recreational marijuana was sold out, customers continued to pour in. In the time between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, at least 30 customers came inside either to buy edibles or to inquire when the recreational marijuana would be available again.
Leonard told his customers to look for more recreational marijuana around Feb. 10.
Debbie Hartman, of New Castle, made the drive to Carbondale to buy some edibles. She said she was delighted to see Carbondale step forward and allow the Doctor’s Garden to obtain a recreational marijuana license.
“It’s about frickin’ time,” she said. “It’s understandable that the shop is out of retail marijuana for the time being. So many people have been coming here, which proves how much the public wanted this.”
The Doctor’s Garden started off selling as much as a quarter ounce of recreational marijuana to customers but quickly scaled the limit down to an eighth of an ounce to accommodate more people. Leonard set the prices in three tiers — the lowest prices were awarded to Roaring Fork Valley residents, then Colorado residents were charged more, and out-of-state customers were charged the most.
For example, a gram of standard marijuana cost $20 to a valley resident, with that price already including the 38 percent tax required to sell recreational pot. A Colorado resident paid $25 for the same amount, and out-of-state customers paid $30.
Premium strains cost a little more, with the highest price going at $95 for an eighth of an ounce to an out-of-state customer.
“Supply and demand dictated the prices,” Leonard said. “Nearly everyone was happy to pay what we charged. Medical marijuana customers can still buy for much cheaper as they avoid the extra 25 percent tax we have to charge for retail marijuana. Plus, our products are really good.”
In the past two weeks, Leonard said the shop made an average of between $10,000 and $15,000 a day until the recreational pot sold out. He said the shop went through about 15 pounds of recreational marijuana in 13 days. He said the shop easily could have sold three times that much in the same amount of time.
One thing Leonard made sure of was that everyone had an opportunity to enjoy their first visit to a recreational marijuana outlet, from the youngest of customers to an 81-year-old woman who wanted to try some pot.
Leonard could have streamlined the process by prepackaging the marijuana, but he wanted people to take their time and have an opportunity to take it all in.
“I wanted to allow people to really enjoy the excitement and ask as many questions as they wanted,” Leonard said. “We let them check out the different jars with different strains. Most everyone wanted a close look and to smell the product. It was like watching a bunch of kids in a candy store.”
As the marijuana ran low, Leonard said employees were scraping jars to come up with as much pot as possible to accommodate the customers.
Another aspect that caught Leonard by surprise was how the shop became an unofficial spokesman for the town of Carbondale.
“We talked to a lot of people who had never visited Carbondale,” he said. “Almost everyone was shocked how beautiful it was here, especially with the killer weather and Mount Sopris out in all her majesty. A lot of people were intrigued by this community and said they’d be back, and not just to buy marijuana.”
Leonard said he owes a lot to the Carbondale Board of Trustees for getting their marijuana regulations in order so quickly.
“The town of Carbondale has been awesome throughout this whole retail marijuana process,” he said. “They obviously respect the word of the people who voted so overwhelmingly to allow recreational marijuana. I believe they truly represented the people’s opinion.”
Marijuana superstore proposed for EagleJanuary 24, 2014 —
EAGLE — A Denver-based group has proposed a $5 million marijuana superstore for Eagle.
Rocky Mountain Pure Retail Marijuana would include a 6,000-square-foot retail operation and a 22,500-square-foot indoor cultivation center to support the store. The proposal was submitted in late December and was reviewed by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission this week. In a split vote, commission members recommended approval of the proposed operation with a number of conditions. The Eagle Town Board will have the final say regarding the proposal, and the public hearing is planned for Feb. 11.
“It is our intent to work in cooperation with the town of Eagle to develop Rocky Mountain Pure, the nation’s premier retail marijuana destination, on the 5-acre parcel located at 1125 Chambers,” said applicant Ethan Borg of Colorado Cannabis Co., of Denver.
Borg noted that Colorado Cannabis Co. was established in 2009 and employs 30 people in three medical marijuana centers, a commercial infused product kitchen, a commercial cannabis extraction and concentrates laboratory and 14,000 square feet of medical marijuana indoor cultivation. All of these operations are located in the City and County of Denver.
“Rocky Mountain Pure will be a destination that Coloradoans and visitors alike will come to know as the location to not only purchase the best available products, but to learn about the wonders of cannabis and the last 90 years of prohibition, to enjoy the facilities and to even gather together for a cup of coffee in our world-class botanical gardens,” said Borg.
To that aim, Rocky Mountain Pure has proposed:
6,000-square-foot retail store.
22,500-square-foot indoor cultivation facility.
45,000-square-foot green house operation (for export product).
3,600-square-foot extraction laboratory.
12,000 square feet of “other commercial space.”
3,750-square-foot “prohibition museum.”
Borg said “an economic stimulus will be experienced in the town within a year. From the construction needs of a $5 million facility to the potential of generating more than $500,000 in tax revenues annually (year 5), Rocky Mountain Pure will simultaneously diversify and help to balance the economic base.”
While members of the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission did vote 5-2 to recommend approval of the proposal to the Eagle Town Board, members attached seven conditions to their action. The very first one goes to the heart of the issue.
In its deliberations, the planning commission members noted the town board has the ability to determine the size of retail marijuana facilities in the community.
“There was a lot of discussion about the size of the proposal. Some members felt it is terribly large,” said Eagle Town Planner Tom Boni. “This whole project is something quite different for the Western Slope and the some of the commission members felt it is not in keeping with the character of the town.”
Ultimately, Boni said the commission opted not to force the size issue and to leave that decision to the town board. Additional conditions suggested by the commission for the special use permit request included requiring a major development permit for the proposal and a requirement that Rocky Mountain Pure comply with all state licensing regulations. The town of Eagle does not have its own licensing procedures for retail marijuana, but instead requires applicants to comply with the state procedures.
The Eagle Town Board is slated to conduct its first retail pot special use permit review next week when the community’s existing medical marijuana dispensary, Sweet Leaf Pioneer, presents plans for a retail sales. In conjunction with the retail operation, Sweet Leaf is proposing a new cultivation facility along Marmot Lane.
This comparatively modest proposal prompted a letter from the attorney for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which recently opened a training facility along Chambers Avenue. Attorney John. T. DeCarlo voiced the organization’s strong opposition to the Sweet Leaf cultivation facility saying “it raises serious safety and environmental issues for young trainees who will be utilizing the training center.”
While Eagle has specifically limited retail marijuana operations, cultivation operations and medical marijuana dispensaries to two such operations each until the time the community’s population reaches 10,000, an interesting mix of proposals has emerged.
Sweet Leaf Pioneer has proposed both continuation of its medical marijuana operation and the retail and cultivation expansion. The Rocky Mountain Pure proposal includes retail and cultivation. A third proposal was also presented to the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission this week from Kim Barbieri for the New Hope Wellness Center. Barbieri operates the New Hope center currently located at Edwards.
The New Hope proposal in Eagle is for a medical marijuana and cultivation operation. The planning commission tabled action on the proposal until Feb. 4.
Colorado governor praises marijuana banking announcementJanuary 24, 2014 —
Gov. praises pot banking announcement
DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is responding with relief to word from federal officials that marijuana businesses will be allowed to access banking services.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers.
Hickenlooper’s spokesman released a statement Friday morning saying the news is welcome. Spokesman Eric Brown says Colorado hopes the guidance is specific.
Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.
Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.
Fraser, Colorado approves recreational marijuana storesJanuary 24, 2014 —
FRASER — Grand County residents could soon see the first recreational pot store open its doors in Fraser.
Fraser town trustees passed an emergency ordinance allowing for existing medical marijuana businesses to submit an application to open recreational marijuana stores.
Fraser is currently the only town in Grand County that has a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, Serene Wellness Fraser, the owner of which, Dan Volpe, indicated he would attempt to make the medical marijuana dispensary a recreational marijuana store.
Serene Wellness Fraser
Volpe said he would “most-likely” make the store a recreational pot shop, though is undecided whether he would keep a portion of the shop dedicated to medical marijuana or transition the store to a strictly recreational marijuana shop.
Under state law, a store can be operated as both a medical marijuana dispensary as well as a recreational marijuana store, so long as the two operations are physically separated.
To separate the two, shop owners would need to build a wall, though Volpe’s shop already has two rooms that are separated by a wall.
Volpe said he feels a responsibility to his longtime medical marijuana customers who have helped keep him afloat since opening the store in April of last year, though he would also like to take advantage of the ability to sell his product to anyone older than 21.
Volpe already operates one recreational marijuana facility in Empire, Serene Wellness Empire, which he has indicated has seen a large increase in business since making the transition from a medical marijuana dispensary to a recreational shop.
As part of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, the state imposed a 90-day period where only existing medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for and transition to a recreational marijuana shop.
If Volpe were to transition the store to a recreational marijuana facility, he would have to attain license from both the Town of Fraser as well as the state.
Fraser trustees passed the emergency ordinance during their regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22, with 5 yes votes and one no vote. Trustee Cheri Sanders was the dissenting vote, citing concerns about the required distance pot shops need from childcare facilities as well as concerns about the unchartered territory of recreational marijuana sales.
“I’m going to probably vote no on anything we have in front of us tonight, I don’t care how it reads, I don’t feel comfortable with it,” Sanders said. “I’m interested in continuing the moratorium, and then I can vote the way that I feel when I have gotten enough information.”
The board attempted to address the required distance a recreational marijuana shop could be located from a childcare facility by increasing the required distance to 500 feet from the originally proposed 200 feet.
The board chose to pass an emergency ordinance before the town’s moratorium on applications for recreational marijuana stores expired on Thursday, Jan. 23.
The board also discussed the requirement for stores to be located at least 500 feet from each other and decided to reduce that amount to 200 feet in order to provide a level playing field for any other potential pot businesses.
Trustee Vesta Shapiro discussed concerns with over-regulating recreational marijuana stores, which could potentially leave them vulnerable to being legislated out of existence.
“I get tired of people not listening to the voters,” Shapiro said. “Lets make the regulations reasonable and not put a stranglehold on a new industry just because it is new.”
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334