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CDOT seeks public input on new marijuana-impaired driving campaign

The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched an online survey in hopes of gathering public input on creative concepts and messaging for a new marijuana-impaired driving campaign.

The survey, part of CDOT’s ongoing “Cannabis Conversation” initiative, will help to create a new awareness campaign that better resonates with cannabis users in Colorado.

“We want as many people as possible to weigh in on these concepts,” said Sam Cole, safety communications manager with CDOT. “Our goal is to capture feedback that spans a wide range of views, lifestyles and demographics to get a well-rounded perspective of how these messages are connecting with different audiences.”

Members of the public can take the survey at http://bit.ly/CDOTCannabisConvoSurvey, or view the creative concept animatics at http://bit.ly/CDOTCreativeConcepts. For more information on the campaign, visit ColoradoCannabisConvo.com.

Carl’s Jr to introduce CBD burger exclusively at one Denver location on 4/20

The putting-CBD-in-everything craze will reach a new level on Saturday when fast-food chain Carl’s Jr releases a specialty cheeseburger at one of its Denver locations topped with CBD-infused sauce.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the more than 100 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.

Carl’s Jr’s “Rocky Mountain High CheeseBurger Delight” will be sold Saturday exclusively at the burger joint’s location at 4050 Colorado Blvd.

Retailing for $4.20, the burger will have two beef patties topped with pepper jack cheese, Carl’s Jr’s “Crisscut” waffle fries, pickled jalapenos and a signature “Santa Fe Sauce” infused with 5 milligrams of CBD. Customers must be 18 or older to buy it and are limited two burgers. Sales start at 6 a.m. and will continue until supplies run out or the store closes.

Read the full story from The Denver Post.

After years of legal pot Colorado, Washington are mellowing out

SEATTLE — When Washington and Colorado launched their pioneering marijuana industries in the face of U.S. government prohibition, they imposed strict rules in hopes of keeping the U.S. Justice Department at bay.

Businesses would need to track plants and products with bar codes. Regulators would have to approve money invested to ensure it was not tied to criminals. Owners of pot operations would have to live in-state and pass background checks.

Five years later, federal authorities have stayed away, but the industry says it has been stifled by over-regulation. Lawmakers in both states have heard the complaints and are moving to ease the rules.

“There’s a saying in the business world: ‘Pioneers get slaughtered, and settlers get fat,’” said Greg James, publisher of industry magazine Marijuana Venture , based near Seattle. “These rules have made the entire industry very inefficient. We’re going to get left in the dust unless we change some things pretty quickly.”

Since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, eight others have joined them. California, Nevada, Oregon and Michigan are among the legal states that have taken a more permissive approach to out-of-state ownership and investment.

Lawmakers bring back bills protecting individual state marijuana rules

DENVER — A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has reintroduced legislation that would ensure states have the right to enact their own marijuana policies.

The Marijuana Business Daily reports the matching bills brought back to the House and Senate on Thursday would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to protect states’ ability to determine their own best approaches to cannabis without fear of federal reprisal.

Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Elizabeth Warren reintroduced the bill in the Senate.

The measure was brought to the House by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Republican Rep. David Joyce — co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The bills could offer solutions to problems that have vexed the marijuana industry, like banking and taxation issues.

Colorado authorizes medical marijuana use for autism

DENVER — Colorado has added autism spectrum disorders to the list of disabling medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana treatment.

Gov. Jared Polis signed a bipartisan bill into law Tuesday.

Autism spectrum disorders include autism, Asperger syndrome and other developmental disorders whose symptoms range from mild to severe.

Colorado law also allows medical marijuana use for cancer, glaucoma, HIV, PTSD, seizures and severe pain.

The law makes it easier for minors with disabling conditions to be added to Colorado’s medical marijuana registry. It also encourages state research into medical marijuana’s effectiveness in treating ovarian cancer, dementia and other medical conditions.

Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a similar bill last year, citing a need for more research.

Marijuana banking bill advances in US House committee

DENVER — Legislation that would provide federal protection for financial institutions that serve state-authorized marijuana and ancillary businesses passed a U.S. House committee on Thursday.

The House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 to advance the proposed bill after amending it to include provisions to provide a safe harbor for insurance companies and improve access of financial services to minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses.

“This is a historic and critical step forward for the nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Regardless of where members stand on legalization, they can agree that it is in the public interest to make banking available to cannabis businesses in states where it is legal.”

The proposal was originally introduced by Reps. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington state, both Democrats, and Ohio Republicans Steve Stivers and Warren Davidson. It now goes to the full House for consideration, the Marijuana Business Daily reported .

Banks generally balk at servicing the marijuana industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal.

As a result, a large portion of the fledgling industry is left to operate on a cash-only basis, which creates security, money laundering and other criminal concerns.

The measure would address that difficulty while helping cannabis businesses that have struggled to obtain the financing needed for operations and expansion.

“The SAFE Banking Act would go a long way toward improving safety, transparency, access and justice in the cannabis industry,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement.

Kevin Murphy, CEO of New York-based multistate operator Acreage Holdings, said in a statement that access to traditional banking services will have a “profound” positive economic impact in terms of creating jobs and tax revenues.

Financial industry groups such as the American Bankers Association and Credit Union National Association have come out in support of the bill, saying its members have found themselves in a difficult situation because of the conflict between state and federal law.

Among other things, the proposed measure would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing financial institutions that serve cannabis-related businesses that comply with state laws.

Federal legalization of hemp creates quandary for US police

PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal legalization of hemp arrived in the U.S. late last year and expanded an industry already booming because of the skyrocketing popularity of CBDs, a compound in hemp that many see as a health aid.

But now, just a few months after Congress placed the marijuana look-alike squarely in safe legal territory, the hemp industry has been unsettled by an unexpected development.

Truckers, now free to haul hemp from state to state, have been stopped and sometimes arrested by police who can’t tell whether they have intercepted a legal agricultural crop or the biggest marijuana bust of their careers. That’s because the only way to distinguish hemp and marijuana, which look and smell alike, is by measuring their tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and officers don’t have the testing technology to do so on the spot.

Marijuana, illegal under federal law , has enough THC to get users high. Hemp has almost none — 0.3 percent or less under U.S. government standards — yet drug-sniffing dogs will alert on both. Field tests that officers now use can detect THC but aren’t sophisticated enough to specify whether a shipment is legal hemp or low-grade illegal pot.

In a sign of the significance of the problem, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this month put out a request for information on private companies that might have the technology for field tests sensitive enough to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

“Nobody wants to see someone in jail for a month for the wrong thing,” DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said. “To enable us to do our job, we have to have something that can help us distinguish.”

It’s an unanticipated hiccup for the rapidly growing hemp industry, which relies on interstate trucking to transport hemp from farms to processing labs that extract the compound cannabidiol, or CBD, from the raw plant material. The pure CBD powder is then resold for use in everything from makeup to smoothies to pet food.

Kentucky and Oregon are big producers of hemp, and much of what they grow is processed in Colorado. Companies that transport the plant often drive through Oklahoma and Idaho, which is where some arrests have occurred.

Hemp remains illegal under Idaho law, and lawmakers there are scrambling to pass a legalization bill. Law enforcement agencies are urging them to include guidance on field tests.

To further complicate the issue, states that already have their own hemp programs must have them approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could take months.

“It’s the greatest example of the cart being put before the horse that I’ve ever thought of,” said Grant Loebs, who is on the board of directors of the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which has demanded better testing. “You’re trying to make hemp legal so farmers can grow it, but you haven’t put into place anything that’s going to keep marijuana dealers from taking advantage of a huge loophole.”

At least three truckers and two security guards transporting state-certified hemp have been arrested and charged with felony drug trafficking. Thousands of pounds worth more than $2 million combined after processing remain in warehouses in Oklahoma and Idaho as evidence while the cases play out.

This undated photo provided by Idaho State Police shows a seizure of 6,701 pounds cannabis that the owner says is industrial hemp but that Idaho authorities said was marijuana. Federal legalization for hemp has created a quandary for police as authorities lack the technology to distinguish marijuana from agricultural hemp at a roadside stop. (Idaho State Police via AP)
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Frank Robison, a Colorado-based attorney specializing in such cases, said he has about a half-dozen clients in similar situations in other locations. He declined to provide more information, citing his clients’ desire for privacy.

“What local law enforcement is doing is they’re stifling an industry that Congress intended to promote to help American farmers and help the American economy — not to make people nervous that they’re going to get tossed in jail over a (THC) discrepancy,” said Robison, who represents one of the companies involved in the Oklahoma case.

Robison and others hope the USDA will work quickly to create rules for validating hemp shipments that local law enforcement could use instead of relying on THC field tests, such as state agricultural certificates or lab certificates. That way, police could let a suspicious load through without arrests and if the hemp samples come back high in THC from testing done in a lab setting, authorities could pursue the grower or shipper after the fact.

Andrew Ross, a Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, is facing 18 years to life in Oklahoma if convicted after he was arrested in January while providing security for a load of state-certified hemp from Kentucky. Ross and a colleague were riding in a van behind a semi-truck filled with the plant that ran a red light and was pulled over.

Ross said he provided police in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with the state-issued license for the Kentucky farm that grew the hemp, the license for the Colorado lab that was buying it and chemical analysis paperwork for all 60 sacks of hemp that he said shows it was within federal guidelines for hemp.

That wasn’t enough for the officers. They tested the shipment and found it contained THC — although not how much — and arrested Ross, his colleague and the two truck drivers.

The charges against the drivers eventually were dropped, but their 18,000-pound cargo with a value of nearly $1 million after processing still is being held.

The case and a similar one in Idaho prompted the Oregon Department of Agriculture to issue a formal warning to hemp growers not to ship their crop across state lines.

Ross posted bail and continues to run his hemp transport business, Patriot Shield Security, from Denver while awaiting trial in Oklahoma. He said potential customers from places like Nevada, West Virginia and Wyoming say they now are afraid to send their hemp out of state.

“The whole industry has been turned upside down. Everyone is terrified. No one wants to transport anything,” Ross said.

Osage County First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Bodine-Keely said the seized hemp was still being tested. Some samples sent to a DEA lab in Washington, D.C., came back within the legal range for THC, but several were over, she said.

Based on the results so far, Bodine-Keely said she’s not convinced it’s all hemp.

“Part of it is hemp, and part of it is marijuana. It’s an ongoing case, and not only is it an ongoing case, it’s still an ongoing investigation,” she said.

But, she allowed, “It would be nice to have a different kind of test in the field that will actually tell what the percent is.”

____

Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Flaccus and Blood are members of AP’s marijuana beat team. Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus and Blood at http://twitter.com/MichaelRBloodAP . Follow AP’s complete marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana .

High Country: Floyd Landis is back in biking and powered by cannabis

The last time most people remember hearing the name Floyd Landis was likely in 2006 — the year of his notorious Tour de France win and subsequent doping scandal, stripping him of the title. He protested his innocence for four years, finally calling it quits on the fight and the sport of cycling when he came clean with an admission of using synthetic testosterone in 2010.

Suffering from chronic pain throughout most of his professional career and undergoing a hip replacement at age 31, Landis long relied on opioid-based painkillers (which are World Anti-Doping Agency-approved) and often turned to alcohol to help him cope.

Landis, 43, tried cannabis to help him kick his habits, eventually finding his way out of the darkness of chronic pain and rediscovering his enjoyment of life — a journey he ultimately credits to the hemp extract’s therapeutic benefits.

He relocated to Colorado in 2012 and launched Floyd’s of Leadville in 2016, which encompasses a traditional grow and dispensary operation along with a CBD-only line of products targeted toward athletes as a natural recovery supplement.

And now, Landis is aiming to rid even more athletes of post-ride aches and pains with the title sponsorship of Floyd’s Pro Cycling — a team focused on developing the best young talent in North America under the direction of his former teammate Gord Fraser. Based in Canada, Floyd’s Pro Cycling is racing a full schedule of North American road, gravel and mountain bike competitions in 2019 aboard Van Dessel bicycles.

The Floyd’s Pro Cycling 2019 team roster is comprised of:

Travis McCabe (USA), Serghei Tvetcov (ROM), Nick Zukowsky (CAN), Keegan Swirbul (USA), Jonathan Clarke (AUS), Carson Miles (CAN), Robin Plamondon (CAN), Alec Cowan (CAN), Noah Granigan (USA), Emile Jean (CAN), Noah Simms (CAN) and Jacob Sitler (USA).


Note: Floyd’s of Leadville has communicated with its Floyd’s Pro Cycling team members that they are under no pressure to use CBD, and that some full-spectrum CBD products still have small traces of THC, which is still a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Using the $1.1 million he received last year from the settlement of the Lance Armstrong whistleblower lawsuit, Landis told VeloNews upon the formation of Floyd’s Pro Cycling, “I wanted to do something with the money. I always felt like there was the perspective out there, and some of it was Lance’s talking points from day one, that the whole purpose of coming clean was about money. … And to me, if that money goes back into cycling, I don’t know, maybe it will give some closure to Lance, as well. I’m sure he has personal feelings about me and that’s always going to stay that way but at the end of the day, if this can bring some closure to that whole episode and actually benefits some young kids at the same time, then that’s some satisfaction.”

After kicking off their season taking podiums at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and winning the Tour de Taiwan earlier this month, I caught up with Landis to talk about getting back into biking and the power of the plant:

Aspen Times Weekly: How did the sponsorship of the cycling team come together and what is your hope this type of exposure achieves?

Floyd Landis: The idea came when I was in the team car with team director Gord Fraser of the Silber Cycling Team during last year’s Tour of Colorado. I still love cycling and so many professional teams were ending last year, this was a great opportunity to give back to the sport.

ATW: Has there been any pushback from event organizers because of its ties to cannabis?

Landis: Actually, it has been the opposite. We’re overwhelmed with invites from organizers, teams and athletes looking for sponsorship.

ATW: Since recreational legalization and the explosion of the CBD space since, how have you seen the stigma shift as to how the professional cycling world views cannabis?

Landis: Cannabis is becoming more accepted by not only athletes, but by the population as a whole. For many athletes CBD is their way back into the game without relying on addicting opioids and the damage they inflict. The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) has realized the benefits of CBD and removed it from their prohibited list, which says a lot. So yes, the perception of cannabis and CBD has dramatically changed in the last five years.

ATW: When and how did you first decide to turn to cannabis for relief? How is it a part of your daily regimen today?

Landis: I needed a hip replacement due to a crash on my bike. As time continued, the nagging pain continued and the doctors prescribed various opioids, which come with their own bad side effects. I was living in Colorado and tried cannabis and then CBD-only — both had positive effects. I was no longer in pain and started to feel like myself. I use CBD everyday in helping me recover from riding and reduce some pain from lingering injuries. I use THC when I want to relax and unwind.

ATW: How did you decide to launch a company of your own?

Landis: I came to the industry as someone with a lot of user experience and realized the benefits of both THC and CBD firsthand. I took that knowledge and with my experience of being a professional athlete, knew what was needed to create our CBD product lineup using Colorado-grown hemp and all tested by an independent, third-party laboratory.

ATW: How does the CBD line complement the THC side of your business?

Landis: They dovetail perfectly. While CBD and cannabis are different, there is some overlap with customers and what they want to experience. We have customers that are professional athletes, Olympic hopefuls and even 90-year-olds that are looking to improve their quality of life. Vastly different groups of people, but they all want the same thing: pain relief and relaxation.

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com or followed on Twitter @kshapiromedia.

Marijuana ER visits climb in Denver hospital according to study

Five years after Colorado first legalized marijuana, a new study shows pot’s bad effects are sending more people to the emergency room.

Inhaled marijuana caused the most severe problems at one large Denver area hospital. Marijuana-infused foods and candies, called edibles, also led to trouble. Patients came to the ER with symptoms such as repeated vomiting, racing hearts and psychotic episodes.

The study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, stemmed from tales of tourists needing emergency care after gobbling too many marijuana gummies.

“It was hard to know if these were just anecdotes or if there was a true phenomenon,” said lead author Dr. Andrew Monte of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

Three deaths in Colorado tied to edible products also prompted the study.

Emergency room records from Monte’s hospital show a three-fold increase in marijuana cases since the state became the first to allow sales of recreational marijuana in January 2014. Nearly a third of patients were admitted to the hospital, evidence of severe symptoms, Monte said.

In 2012, the ER saw an average of one patient every other day with a marijuana-caused problem. By 2016, the count was two to three per day.

That’s not enough to swamp the emergency department, Monte said, but it stresses an already burdened system.

Most people can use marijuana safely, Monte said, but with its increased availability and higher THC concentrations, “we may be seeing more adverse drug reactions,” he said.

THC is the part of marijuana that gets people high.

A growing cannabis industry promotes the drug as a cure-all while downplaying dangers, said Dr. Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist at Northeast Ohio Medical University who wasn’t involved in the research. More than 30 states now allow marijuana for at least medical use. New Jersey is debating becoming the 11th state to approve recreational pot. The U.S. government considers marijuana illegal.

“You can’t trust the people who sell the drugs to be upfront with the risk,” Messamore said, calling for warning labels similar to those on tobacco products.

The analysis confirmed edibles are trouble. Statewide, they made up less than 1 percent of total cannabis sales, measured by THC content. Yet 11 percent of ER visits were triggered by edibles.

Monte said edibles are too dangerous to be part of the recreational marketplace. Slow to kick in, their effects last too long for a good party drug, he said. They work better for those who want to use them as medicine.

Yet information on safe dosing is lacking, as Denver resident Arlene Galchinsky learned. She took a marijuana gummy for pain on top of a prescription narcotic, becoming so disoriented her husband called paramedics. Galchinsky, 79, didn’t go to the ER, but the experience shook her up.

“It was extremely scary,” she said of the feeling. “When was this going to go away? It was so frightening.”

In the state-funded study, there were 2,567 emergency visits at the Denver hospital caused by marijuana from 2012-2016. It’s not just tourists; 9 out of 10 cases were Colorado residents.

Seventeen percent of the visits were for uncontrolled bouts of vomiting. It was most often from inhaled marijuana, not edibles.

Twelve percent of the cases were for acute psychosis, where people without a history of mental disorders lose touch with reality. That was more frequently seen with edibles.

Intoxication and heart problems were other common complaints.

In an editorial, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called for more research on the benefits and harms of marijuana. She and co-author Ruben Baler wrote there is an “urgent need” for greater oversight of manufacturing and labeling as marijuana use increases with state legalization.

Monte, an ER doctor who specializes in toxicology, doesn’t use marijuana. “I’m too busy,” he said. “I can’t spend time being high.”

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

High Country: Aging and saging with Ellementa, Aspen’s new cannabis network

Although Colorado has been a recreationally legal state for five years now (and medicinally legal for far longer), the Roaring Fork Valley has lagged behind in the formation of a real cannabis community. Sure, there are a handful of high-profile conferences held throughout the year and a plethora of downtown pot shops, but what’s missing are more intimate and frequent gatherings that are found in larger legal cities that bring together the like-minded to share their passion for the plant.

Enter longtime local Wendy Elkin, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner and a certified functional diagnostic practitioner through her Aspen-based practice Ascend to Wellness (ascendtowellness.com), who has just launched a local chapter of Ellementa, an international women’s cannabis network.

Co-founded in 2017 by a trio of female entrepreneurs and medical cannabis patients, Ellementa has grown to host its monthly Gatherings in more than 50 cities in the United States, Canada and beyond to educate about the health and wellness benefits of cannabis and CBD.

Elkin joined Ellementa as an affiliate Gathering Leader late last year, and has since been readying to host her first official event, “Aging and Saging With Cannabis,” on Saturday, March 23, at the Aspen Chapel Gallery.

Her cause for deciding to lead the charge locally after discovering Ellementa on Instagram (@ellementawoman) stems from personal experience over the past decade.

“I have had a couple of serious illnesses in my immediate family and beyond the food piece of my expertise in helping treat them, I also started researching and learning about cannabis, incorporating its use into their regimens,” Elkin says.

She also is currently studying under Dr. Dustin Sulak, a Maine-based cannabis physician, to learn more about its formal medical applications and the most effective and efficient ways to put it into the healing protocol. While it’s an ongoing program, Elkin will soon receive a cannabis medicine certification, of which she says, “Adds a tool in my toolbox to promote optimal health. It’s definitely not a magic bullet, but this plant is so versatile and can address so many different ailments.”

Elkin also will welcome DeDe Osborn as a guest expert to partake in the evening’s conversation. A fellow student of Sulak, Osborn founded the website Grass for Geezers (grass4geezers.com), which aims to educate senior citizens about the choices they have when considering medicinal marijuana as a treatment.

America’s fastest-growing population of new cannabis users are people ages 50 to 65 and older. According to the fourth annual State of Cannabis data report — conducted by Eaze, California’s leading statewide cannabis delivery platform — the total number of women consumers grew by 92 percent in 2018. And a 2016 HealthAffairs study found that in states where medical marijuana is legal, those using Medicare part D — a benefit primarily for senior citizens — received fewer prescriptions for other drugs to treat depression, anxiety, pain and other chronic issues.

“We have such a large population in our area that are among this demographic who still believe in the stigma of cannabis. Science has come so far, but it’s not being shared community-wide and the focus here has long leaned toward the recreational side,” Elkin says. “There is so much misinformation out there and I am thrilled to start having this conversation and sharing the latest — and more importantly, accurate — information with the Roaring Fork Valley.”

The inaugural event will serve as an introductory cannabis education talk designed to inform older women about the basic benefits cannabis can provide to simply “feel better” (Ellementa’s official hashtag). Future topics Elkin already has planned include cannabis and sex, cannabis-assisted psychotherapy, cannabis-infused food and microdosing for stress, anxiety and depression.

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com or followed on Twitter @kshapiromedia.