Colorado Marijuana News

Grand County puts off Highland Lumber rezoning decision

July 15, 2014 — 

The Grand County commissioners decided to table a proposal to rezone the former Highland Lumber building on U.S. Highway 40 in Tabernash, which might become a medical-marijuana grow facility.

Wells Fargo Bank took ownership of the 11-acre parcel and building after foreclosing on the owner.

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Grand County planning board says no to proposed marijuana grow facility

July 15, 2014 — 

Grand County Planning Commission voted four to two against issuing a special use permit for a proposed marijuana grow facility near Granby.

The Department of Planning and Zoning recommended the commission approve the permit.

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Grand County commissioners to hear marijuana permit request

July 14, 2014 — 

The Grand County commissioners will conduct a public hearing regarding a special use permit for a marijuana cultivation facility near Granby.

The board will consider the application on Tuesday, July 22, in the Grand County Administration Building in Hot Sulphur Springs.

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Vail pot moratorium moves forward

July 5, 2014 — 

VAIL — While resort towns elsewhere were quick to jump into retail marijuana sales, Vail continues its wait-and-see approach.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that will extend the town’s current moratorium on retail marijuana sales in town. The town had been working through the spring on perhaps making a final decision on whether or not to ban retail sales in town, facing a self-imposed July 31 deadline.

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Silverthorne Town Council votes to extend hours for retail marijuana shops

June 26, 2014 — 

People looking to purchase marijuana in Silverthorne after sundown are now in luck.

On Wednesday night, the Silverthorne Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance extending the hours of operation at retail marijuana shops. Shops can now operate from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Prior town code required them to lock up by 7 p.m.

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Vail bans retail pot another year

June 17, 2014 — 

VAIL — The Vail town council voted unanimously to extend its temporary ban on retail marijuana for another year in order to gather more information and observe other towns such as Aspen, who have legalized retail sales.

The town had set a self-imposed July 31 deadline to make a decision on retail sales, but council members said the past year has raised too many questions, with not enough time to answer all of them.

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Public hearing on retail pot in Vail is Tuesday

June 16, 2014 — 

VAIL — A public hearing has been scheduled during the Tuesday, June 17 Vail Town Council meeting to continue discussions regarding policy options on the topic of retail marijuana sales. The item is listed sixth on the meeting agenda, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers.

The Vail Town Council will be reviewing a list of nearly 60 questions and issues forwarded by members of a 16-member working group that has been convened by the town to explore the topic. Representing various organizations throughout the community, the working group has met twice to help shape the public policy discussion.

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Eagle County issues eight retail marijuana licenses

May 16, 2014 — 

EAGLE COUNTY — A longtime local business family landed one of Eagle County’s rare retail marijuana licenses.

Jim and Kristin Comerford will add The Vail Bud Brewery to their roster of local businesses, which includes Subway sandwich shops, Vail’s Qdoba Mexican Grill and a real estate development company. They’ll partner with another local dispensary owner, Dave and Dieneka Manzanares of Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle.

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Avon takes moves to ban retail marijuana

April 28, 2014 — 

AVON — Town Council members took the first step toward banning retail marijuana sales and grow operations at the April 22 meeting, passing on first reading an ordinance that would ban retail and grow operations in town.

The council voted 6-1 for the ban, with council member Jake Wolf casting the lone dissenting vote. In casting his vote, Wolf noted, as he has in the past, that more than 70 percent of town voters in 2012 voted to approve Amendment 64, the state constitutional amendment that legalized the possession and consumption of marijuana by people 21 and older.

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Eagle-Vail dispensary to get first marijuana vending machine

April 28, 2014 — 

EAGLE-VAIL — Greg Honan thinks he might be blazing a new trail in the medical marijuana business. Stephan Shearin hopes he’s right.

Honan is the owner of the Herbal Elements medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle-Vail. He recently partnered with Tranzbyte, a company specializing in the technology of marijuana, to put the first ZaZZZ vending machine in the dispensary.

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Tabernash resident floats ideas for marijuana co-op

April 24, 2014 — 

TABERNASH — Agritourism is new a way to experience Colorado’s unique heritage, and now a Grand County group is trying to combine it with another of the state’s fascinations – legalized marijuana.

“We have fabulous marijuana at this altitude,” said Susan Kuglitsch, of Tabernash, a proponent of cannabis agritourism in Grand County. “That secret will get out quick. We’d like to (promote enjoying) it responsibly in a nice family setting.”

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Colorado advances edible marijuana restrictions

April 18, 2014 — 

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.

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Police: Student ate more pot than recommended

April 18, 2014 — 

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.

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Medical marijuana ban fails in town of Red Cliff

April 2, 2014 — 

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.

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New pot issues on NORML’s front burner for Aspen conference

April 1, 2014 — 

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.

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County receives marijuana license applications

March 25, 2014 — 

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.

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Granby medical workers unknowingly ingest THC in holiday treats

March 24, 2014 — 

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.

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Officials: Pot and Snowmass not a good mix

March 19, 2014 — 

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.

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FBI balks at marijuana background checks in Washington, but not Colorado

March 14, 2014 — 

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.

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Western Slope police officers watch weed industry evolve

March 14, 2014 — 

This is the final part in a two-part series focusing on marijuana law enforcement and education.

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Recreational pot is here — now what?

March 13, 2014 — 

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 Resorts issues statement on mountain ‘smoke shacks’

March 12, 2014 — 

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.

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Is legal marijuana harming Colorado business?

March 12, 2014 — 

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.

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Retail reefer sales brisk in market’s first month

March 12, 2014 — 

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.

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More pot choices for Aspen

March 10, 2014 — 

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.

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State launches campaign to discourage pot-impaired driving

March 8, 2014 — 

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.

“We did extensive research about medical and recreational marijuana users’ perceptions of marijuana’s effects on driving,” Ford said. “We heard repeatedly that people thought marijuana didn’t impact their driving ability. Some believed it actually made them a better driver.”

Impaired is illegal

It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, of course, the same as it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance, Ford said.

“We have been providing CDOT with a voice from the marijuana community,” said Michael Elliott, Marijuana Industry Group executive director. “We want this new industry to thrive, and the best way to do that is to ensure marijuana users and the industry understands the laws and regulations, and consumes marijuana responsibly.”

The DUI limit is 0.08 blood-alcohol limit. Get caught driving with 5 nanograms of active THC in your whole blood, and you’ll be prosecuted for a DUI. However, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment, not the level of THC, Ford said.

A DUI will cost you just over $10,000 in court costs and attorneys fees. Driving high will cost you about the same.

“As Coloradans now have more access to marijuana, we want them to be aware that law enforcement is trained to identify impairment by all categories of drugs and alcohol,” said Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Drug recognition experts are highly trained law enforcement officers who can detect the impairment of drugs and today we celebrate the graduation of more than 20 new DREs in the state.”

Using marijuana medically can also result in a DUI, Hernandez said. If a substance has impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle it is illegal for you to be driving, even if that substance is prescribed or legally acquired.

In 2012, there were 630 drivers involved in 472 motor vehicle fatalities in Colorado. Of the 630 drivers involved, 286 were tested for drugs. Nearly 27 percent of drivers tested positive, and 12 percent testing positive for cannabis.

When combining substances, there is a greater degree of impairment. If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of a sober driver. If the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober driver, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Aspen grants second recreational pot license

March 6, 2014 — 

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.

Radtke, who aims to sell recreationally the first week in April, also operates Green Dragon Colorado, a medical facility in Glenwood Springs.

Pitkin County's first day of marijuana sales a success

March 6, 2014 — 

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.

The people of Colorado voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana in 2000 and voted to decriminalize marijuana in 2012, leading up to the first recreational shops opening in the state on Jan. 1 of this year.

Two shops opened in Pitkin County Wednesday to sell recreational marijuana — Stash, located at the Aspen Business Center, opened Wednesday at 9 a.m., while Silverpeak Apothecary in Aspen opened its doors at 1 p.m.

There was no customer line at Stash at 9 a.m., but customers began to regularly file in by 9:30 a.m.

“It’s silly that smoking was a criminal act,” said Jenn, who gave only her first name, one of the first customers to purchase recreational marijuana at Stash. “With all the drinking and alcohol abuse, ... I think pot is harmless. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”

Bryan Welker, 38, does marketing locally and showed up at Stash on Wednesday morning to shoot some pictures and take in the scene. When Welker realized he was first in line and could be the first recreational customer in Pitkin County, he enjoyed the “happy accident” and bought some marijuana.

“It does feel like I’m supporting the long tradition of being a bit of a rebel that Aspen kind of fosters,” Welker said. “It’s a unique and fun thing to be part of and a little historic. This should have been legal a long time ago. Science is 100 percent clear that alcohol and prescription drugs are far, far more harmful to society than marijuana.”

For both Welker and Jenn, it was about time that marijuana was available legally. Both agreed it was a personal choice that shouldn’t be controlled by the government, and both didn’t mind paying a little extra right now for the recreational weed.

Paying “a little extra” may have been an understatement. The prices were high at both shops for recreational pot compared with medical prices. Not only was there the 37 percent tax rate on the sale of recreational marijuana, but both shop owners decided to start out with prices that were up to four times more expensive than comparable medical marijuana amounts.

At Silverpeak, the medical price for an eighth of an ounce of the “Jilly Bean” strain of marijuana was near $40. To buy the same amount recreationally on Wednesday, the cost was $105 before taxes.

Welker said he hopes the prices will balance out and drop once the initial wave of excitement concerning legal recreational pot passes.

“If the prices continue to stay as high as they are now, there’s a chance the market will seek better prices from underground sources,” Welker said. “Now that it’s legal, this industry is moving beyond the back-alley deals, and I don’t think anyone wants to go back to that, but price drives everything. For me, it’s better to pay our government a little extra than the cartels. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that.”

There was no average age at either shop Wednesday, with customers ranging from their early 20s to folks in their 60s and 70s.

A couple from Texas came into Stash early Wednesday and didn’t want to use their names but said they were in their 60s and hadn’t smoked any marijuana for more than 35 years.

“It may be better on you than alcohol, so we’re going to try it,” the husband said.

The couple also bought a vaporizing unit to partake with. A vaporizer is an alternative to burning marijuana or tobacco that avoids the inhalation of many irritating toxic and carcinogenic byproducts.

“We don’t like the smell and how the odor soaks into everything,” the wife said. “A vaporizer is supposed to be easier on your lungs, so we’ll give it a shot.”

At Silverpeak Apothecary, a moderate line formed before the 1 p.m. opening and stayed steady for most of the afternoon, with business picking up as the day went on.

“It was a great first day,” said Silverpeak owner Jordan Lewis. “If our early returns are any indication and with more advertising and word-of-mouth, I think we’re going to do real well.”

Ellen Haas, 72, who lives in Basalt, was the first medical marijuana customer/patient to purchase from Silverpeak Apothecary four years ago. She returned Wednesday and was ushered to the front of the line to become the ceremonial first recreational customer at Silverpeak.

Haas suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and smokes marijuana to ease the pain in her joints. Haas considers Lewis like a caretaker for her.

“He knows what’s good for me and recommends what he thinks is best for my condition,” she said. “I trust him completely.”

Haas smoked marijuana to help with her arthritis before medical marijuana was available. She has adult children that she discusses her marijuana use with. She talked to her kids about the benefits of marijuana and how it helps her.

“I think it should be legalized, and I’m surprised it took so long,” Haas said. “It should be something that’s available to everyone of the proper age.”

After Haas made the first recreational purchase in Aspen, both Hass and Lewis signed a Silverpeak T-shirt that will be donated to the Aspen Historic Society.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo was at Silverpeak at 1 p.m. He’s been working with Lewis as part of the Valley Marijuana Council and was curious to see the reaction from the public concerning the first recreational outlet in Aspen.

“I’m here because it’s a historic occasion for Aspen and the state,” DiSalvo said. “I’m also interested because of our Valley Marijuana Council. We’re going to have another meeting tomorrow with the middle school about responsibilities. I’d like to see this happen and happen responsibly in Pitkin County. I believe Jordan is doing this the right way. I don’t know the business inside and out, that’s for sure, but this certainly seems like a well-thought-out project.”

The customers at Silverpeak were a mix of Roaring Fork Valley residents and people from all over the world, including Michigan, Florida, Texas and South Africa.

Jameel and his friend, Alessandra, who both gave only their first names, were visiting Aspen from Johannesburg to ski and hang out. Both were amazed to find recreational marijuana available.

“We felt like trying some fun gummy bears today,” Jameel said. “We visited another shop down the road, but all they had was medical-use marijuana, and they directed us here to Silverpeak. This is exciting and awesome. It’s a completely new concept to us to buy marijuana over the counter.”

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com

County gives recreational pot the green light

March 5, 2014 — 

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.

The commissioners gave the initial green light to Silverpeak Apothecary in Aspen, allowing it to supply its recreational marijuana from its established grow house near Redstone. Owner Jordan Lewis already has a license to sell recreational pot, but needed to garner the board’s approval that his grow operation had all its permits and inspections completed and approved by the county.

Lewis is set to begin the new venture at 1 p.m. today, but Silverpeak won’t be the first outlet to sell recreational marijuana in Pitkin County because STASH, owned by Patrick Garrett, also earned approval from the board to begin selling recreational weed today.

STASH, located at the Aspen Business Center, had its recreational license approved and plans on opening at 9 a.m. today, making it the first shop to sell recreational pot in the county.

“We’ve been working so hard to get everything in order as per the county,” Garrett said. “Our plan has always been to be the first to sell recreational in Pitkin County. We’re already the first to convert fully to a recreational outlet.”

Garrett said his business still would take care of their medical patients’ needs. He said they’ll have to charge the correct taxes, but can adjust the price of the medical marijuana to make it much more affordable than recreational.

STASH also has an application in for approval of a recreational marijuana grow facility near Snowmass, but that license will come back for approval next week as Patrick continues to work with county attorneys to bring the grow facility up to county code.

The commissioners voted, 3-1, to approve Lewis’ retail cultivation facility in Redstone, which will allow marijuana from that facility to stock the recreational shelves at Silverpeak. Commissioner Rachel Richard was not present as she’s at a meeting in Washington, D.C. until Thursday.

Lewis said it’s been a long and winding road to reach the point of selling recreational pot since he got into the medical marijuana business three and a half years ago.

“It’s a very happy time,” Lewis said with a broad smile. “I guess I’m upset (commissioner) George (Newman) didn’t finally throw me one vote. I’ll never be happy until George votes “yes” on something.”

Newman has been consistent in voting “no” to marijuana operations in any area that is zoned residential or agricultural.

If Lewis hadn’t left the Tuesday meeting right after his approval, he would have heard Newman vote “yes” concerning Patrick and STASH. The commissioner’s approved the STASH recreational license by a vote of 4-0.

“I’ll support this license (STASH) because it’s within an area zoned commercial,” Newman said.

Patrick said he expects to offer more than 20 strains of marijuana today and won’t put any extra limitations on how much a person can buy. In Colorado, in-state residents can purchase up to an ounce per day, while out-of-state customers can only purchase up to a quarter of an ounce daily.

Lewis plans on selling less variety at first to keep the transactions moving smoothly during the initial sales, and if need be, limit how much customers can buy to allow more people the opportunity to purchase his pot.

“We need to see what the demand is,” Lewis said. “We’ll ration our supplies accordingly. We’ll start with five or six recreational strains and edibles, where we have 15-20 different strains on the medical side. We want to limit the options at first to expedite the process, and we’ll set prices based on market value and adjust accordingly. This has been a very expensive process and we do need to cover our expenses. We’ve socked away quite a bit of product to get us through the next few months. We’re sourcing some on the open market and we’ve also basically been stockpiling in anticipation of this.”

Commissioner Rob Ittner called Lewis and Patrick “trailblazers” and urged them to be leaders in this new business. He encouraged both owners to continue with their involvement in educating the public and to make sure their employees receive proper training and education.

“Aspen is more than ready for this,” Lewis said. “People have been very patient but we’re still getting asked constantly when we can sell recreational.”

Lewis said a typical eighth of an ounce sells for between $25 and $50 for medical patients. He expects the recreational prices to begin at $25 to $30 for a gram, so an eighth of an ounce of recreational will cost more than $100.

“It’s going to be expensive,” Lewis said. “The taxation issue bumps up prices quite a bit. Hopefully that’s a small price to pay for legal marijuana.”

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com

Commissioners seek clarity on marijuana science

February 27, 2014 — 

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.

Marijuana may now be legal for adults in Colorado, regulated similar to alcohol, but that’s about where the similarities between the two substances end. County commissioners and staff all agree having workers stoned on the job is unacceptable, but proving an employee is high isn’t as simple as a roadside test or blowing into a breathalyzer.

“It’s not like alcohol, it doesn’t eliminate the same way,” Urfer told commissioners.

For drug testing, employers often use blood or urine testing to determine if tetrahydrocannbinol, or THC, was present in the body. THC is the psychoactive substance in cannabis plants that causes a person to get high. According to Urfer, THC will only remain in a person’s system for around one to four hours, regardless of how much marijuana was ingested.

But THC also leaves behind a telling metabolite as the body processes it. Although both urine and blood testing are commonly used to find the metabolite, Urfer has a strong preference on which type of test she prefers.

“Blood, blood, blood,” she told commissioners. “I don’t want to ever see another urine sample as long as I live.”

That’s because urine samples only indicate use within the last 1 to 4 weeks. With blood, tests can usually determine if a person was high within the last 24 hours.

County staff also brought up concerns about prolonged marijuana use affecting employees’ productivity levels, even if they’re never high at work. Urfer explained these concerns aren’t unfounded. As THC moves through the body, its metabolites bind to the brain.

For marijuana chronic users, this can lead to a tolerance of some of the drug’s side effects, like memory loss and the munchies, but “unfortunately, that (also) means they have a chronic central nervous system depressant in the body, which slows them down,” Urfer said. “It can cause depression, slow reaction time (and) issues with perception.”

For adults, however, these effects are reversible within one to six months once a person stops consuming marijuana. But Urfer stressed that in children under 18, marijuana causes permanent brain damage.

The nuances surrounding marijuana use have baffled lawmakers in other areas as well. Urfer was a key source for the Colorado state legislature as state officials drafted up new DUI regulations. Legislators finally settled on a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood as the legal limit in determining if a driver is impaired. Urfer took issue with that level however, explaining to Grand County commissioners that impairment for most people starts at 1 nanogram per milliliter.

“There was some serious confusion in the legislature about the (scientific) literature,” she explained.

Urfer said that in her opinion, lawmakers ultimately attempted to compromise by selecting a high number that’s essentially made up and not based on sound science.

Beyond consulting policymakers, Urfer has had her plate full since her lab took over much of the state’s blood-alcohol and blood-drug testing. Toxicology analysis at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was suspended last July, and terminated altogether in October, after public concerns over the accuracy of their testing. An independent lab later verified the state’s testing integrity, but CDPHE officials decided not to resume testing at the state lab. They found private labs like ChemaTox had done an adequate job handling the state’s testing needs, at more competitive prices.

With all her expertise, Urfer’s ultimate recommendation for the county’s marijuana employee policy was simple – zero tolerance.

“Because of the complications we just talked about … it has always been my recommendation to people concerned about impairment on the job that they just not allow marijuana, period, to avoid any argument later,” Urfer said.

Commissioners are taking Urfer’s insight into consideration, but have yet to adopt any formal policy.

Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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