Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pot Has Changed Colorado's Economy

As medical marijuana has become the fastest growing industry in Colorado, discussions on the drug have gone from dorm rooms and parties to the Colorado Convention Center and classroom.

The University of Denver this week is hosting a series of debates tackling marijuana-relates issues, from the harms and effects of medicinal marijuana to current and possible future Colorado laws regulating the drug. The three debates follow last weekend’s Colorado Cannabis Convention that was, by square footage, the largest cannabis convention in the history of the country.

Multiple vendors and attendees at the Colorado Cannabis Convention pointed to the convention itself as proof that marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable in Colorado. The event featured more than 300 booths offering everything from holistic healing to glass blowing. The convention was promoted as a family friendly event; no marijuana was allowed on the convention center’s premise.

“Colorado is lucky enough to be setting a precedent for the rest of the states that are looking to take this direction to go off of,” said Amanda, the office manager of Green Docs, a medical marijuanaconsulting firm. “I think this (convention) is a fantastic catalyst for things to come.”

Though always quick to point out the alleged medical benefits of marijuana, every vendor interviewed at the convention said they are pushing for the flat out legalization of marijuana. Michael Lerner, the organizer of the Colorado Cannabis Convention, said on Thursday that the medical marijuanamovement was “absolutely” a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana.

Andrew Schultheiss, the district director for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said in a public discussion at the Colorado Cannabis Convention that the widespread legalization of marijuana could happen in the foreseeable future.

“The number of members of Congress who are willing to say, like Jared Polis, that marijuana should be legalized, flat out, is growing,” he said. “Ten years ago you would not have found more than two or three members of Congress willing to say that.”

However, Dane Stauder of The Fitter, a shop specializing in marijuana pipes, pointed out thatmarijuana is still far from being legal in Colorado. He said his shop often gets visitors from outside of Colorado who are under the impression that anyone can smoke marijuana anywhere, which is simply not the case, he said. Currently, only Coloradans with debilitating illnesses who get a doctor’s referral for marijuana can posses the drug.

And as Colorado Cannabis Convention attendee Andrew Louzau stated, even a cancer patient who has a medical marijuana card can get kicked out of their home in Colorado if they live in federally assisted housing. Federal law prohibits the consumption of drugs in federally assisted housing, Denver law prohibits the consumption of marijuana on-site at dispensaries, leaving some patients with no place to consume marijuana, he said.

Lawmakers who participated in Saturday’s marijuana discussion urged for patience as they make small steps towards reducing restrictions and penalties on marijuana.
“This is new territory,” said Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt. “As we work through the regulatory regimes that we put in place...we’re going to have unintended consequences or wrinkles...we’ll have to iron out.”
"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are."
- Dale Carnegie

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