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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs bill to pardon marijuana convictions

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Monday that allows him to mass-pardon Coloradans with minor marijuana possession convictions, although he has not said exactly how the process will work.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 1424 on June 15, the last day of the 2020 legislative session. The bill aims to make the legal marijuana industry more accessible to people of color and those who were previously convicted on drug charges that wouldn’t be crimes now. It expands the social equity program for marijuana business licenses to Colorado residents who have been arrested or convicted on a marijuana offense, been subject to civil asset forfeiture from a marijuana offense, or lived in an area designated as high crime or economically disadvantaged.

“For decades now, the Black community has been disproportionately criminalized because of marijuana while others have profited,” said Rep. James Coleman, a Denver Democrat and bill sponsor. “We have needed to act on this injustice for decades.”

In a last-minute move, lawmakers agreed to add another component to the bill: giving the governor the power to mass-pardon Coloradans for convictions of marijuana possession of 2 ounces or less, rather than doing them on an individual basis. Longmont Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer added the amendment after the pandemic forced him to drop plans for a more extensive marijuana expungement bill.

Polis signed the bill Monday night at Simply Pure in Denver, a dispensary owned by Wanda James and Scott Durrah, the first Black couple in the country to own a dispensary, a cultivation facility and an edible company, according to their website.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Banking for marijuana companies included in Congress’ new $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

Cannabis industry advocates applauded House Democrats on Tuesday after a new $3 trillion federal stimulus bill included provisions to allow marijuana businesses access to banking.

Introduced by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act includes wide-ranging goals to address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, from offering financial assistance to state and local governments to forgiving student loan debt.

Wrapped into the massive, 1,815-page bill is an initiative led by Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow legal cannabis businesses to leverage traditional banking services.

Proponents of the bill, which passed the House on its own last September, say it promotes public safety by offering the marijuana industry an alternative to dealing in cash — a factor experts say is motivating an increasing number of burglaries at dispensaries and cultivations. The SAFE Banking Act has been under review by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs since last year.

Cannabis industry advocates applauded House Democrats on Tuesday after a new $3 trillion federal stimulus bill included provisions to allow marijuana businesses access to banking.

Introduced by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act includes wide-ranging goals to address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, from offering financial assistance to state and local governments to forgiving student loan debt.

Wrapped into the massive, 1,815-page bill is an initiative led by Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow legal cannabis businesses to leverage traditional banking services.

Proponents of the bill, which passed the House on its own last September, say it promotes public safety by offering the marijuana industry an alternative to dealing in cash — a factor experts say is motivating an increasing number of burglaries at dispensaries and cultivations. The SAFE Banking Act has been under review by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs since last year.

Read more via The Denver Post.

4/20 parties from online concerts to workshops to celebrate the marijuana holiday

420 for a Cause

Local musicians, comedians and service-industry personnel have been financially devastated by event cancellations and restaurant closures due to the coronavirus. That’s why 420 for a Cause is focusing its efforts on raising money for organizations like the Colorado Restaurant Association and Colorado Comedy Relief Fund, which benefit those hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. And it’s bringing in A-list entertainment to do so. Expect live sets from bands including The Disco Biscuits, Thievery Corporation, Lotus and Motet, as well as comedians like Doug Benson, Beth Stelling, Jonah Ray and more.

The event starts at 1 p.m. at 420foracause.com and is scheduled to run 4 hours and 20 minutes (fittingly), with a countdown to 4:20 p.m. and a ceremonious “bud drop.”

4/20 Smoke-in with Snoop Dogg

It wouldn’t be a bonafide weed-smoking holiday without an appearance by Snoop Dogg. In honor of the digital debut of Dr. Dre’s critically acclaimed album The Chronic, available on streaming platform for the first time on April 20, DJ Snoopadelic will spin a set on cannabis publication Merry Jane’s Instagram. Tune in and get your groove on starting at 5:20 p.m.

420 YouTube Live

If podcasts are more your thing, join a live broadcast that brings together weed-focused programs I’m Too Effing High, Weed + Grub, and Great Moments in Weed History for an evening of thematic conversation, comedy, cooking demonstrations, and more fun. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. on I’m Too Effing High’s YouTube channel.

4/20 at The Coffee Joint

The Coffee Joint, a social consumption lounge in Denver, is known for regularly hosting workshops and networking events. Since it can’t host them in person right now, it’ll be moving some events online to celebrate the holiday. On April 18-20, the shop will be streaming live podcast recording sessions, games, painting lessons and giveaways on its Instagram and Facebook pages.

4/20 World Record

Meetups on video platform Zoom have quickly become a popular quarantine pastime. On April 20, California-based cannabis entrepreneur Tony Diepenbrock is hosting a virtual conference in hopes of setting the world record for the most people consuming cannabis on video chat. RSVP at 420worldrecord.com to be one of 1,000 people to receive a Zoom invitation. The smoke session takes place at 5:20 p.m. Colorado time. Diepenbrock is also accepting donations and selling T-shirts to benefit the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit focused on exonerating those serving jail time for nonviolent marijuana crimes.

4/20 Special from Nightmares on Wax

Several musicians have taken to social media during quarantine to broadcast live concerts. On April 20, Coloradans can start celebrating at 11 a.m. with a 4/20 special set from renowned DJ Nightmares on Wax, who will be performing from his iconic studio in Ibiza. Follow Nightmares on Wax on Instagram to get a notification when he goes live on IGTV.

Read more via The Denver Post.

High Country: Silverpeak and 520 Grill team up for a first-of-its-kind dine-in dispensary in Aspen

Professional race car driver, serial entrepreneur, and extreme athlete are three titles Chapman Ducote has held over the past 20 years. And now at the dawn of a new decade, he’s added yet another one to his hat: cannaboss.

As the new CEO of pioneering luxury cannabis dispensary Silverpeak, Ducote and co-owner James Young acquired the licensed store in Aspen and High Valley Farms, its cultivation operation in nearby Basalt for $8.35 million in January (DBA Silverpeak Real Estate) from previous owner Jordan Lewis.

Ducote exclusively shared with the Aspen Times that he’s entered into a partnership with longtime local Troy Selby, chef and owner of 520 Grill, which opened in Silverpeak’s neighboring space in 2010. By the end of the year, the company’s second act plans to grow into the largest cannabis retail chain in Colorado with more than 20 newly acquired and rebranded Silverpeak dispensary locations, plus six new grow facilities across the state.

Ducote is confident that despite coronavirus, expansion plans will remain on-schedule.

“This was already in the works before the pandemic,” Ducote told me during a phone interview. “[Coronavirus] fast-tracked our agreement so, we’re sort of full steam ahead in making the switch-over. Troy is a great guy with a great restaurant …. and more importantly, a great reputation, which commands a tremendous amount of my respect.”

Added Selby: “It’s always just been the two of us down here for the last 10 years. Rebranding the building and being able to work together officially, we will come out of this stronger together and even more of a desirable destination for tourists and locals to come hang out and have an experience that’s beyond the norm.”

Under the new arrangement, Selby will remain at the helm of what, as of April 20, is now Silverpeak Grill — the first-ever dispensary in the country to operate an adjacent restaurant (unlike the cannabis consumption-friendly restaurants that have opened in cities like Los Angeles). A soon-to-be-announced additional hospitality concept will take over the current Silverpeak Mercantile space this summer, which Selby will also manage. Plus, the 520 Grill brand will still live on in the form of a food truck in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Opening a food truck has been a dream of mine for years,” Selby said. “That’s a great thing about this — it’s not an ownership as much as it is a merger of brands. We’re an actively involved partnership that’s creating a new and different vibe.”

The soft opening, billed as Silverpeak Grill To-Go, includes a limited menu of 520 favorites for take-out. Once Selby is able to welcome his loyal customers back inside to dine-in, he and his staff will keep most of the menu largely the same, but with the addition of CBD infusions and hemp-based add-ons using oil sourced from High Valley Farms.

Though adult-use legalization has swept the country since Silverpeak first opened its doors as one of Aspen’s first medical dispensaries in 2009, few marijuana retailers rival its signature high-end experience. An interior-design overhaul was completed in 2013 by the Argentinian architecture firm Tanagram Design, resulting in a shopping environment that sparked the trend of cannabis with class.

“That’s the interesting thing about Silverpeak … it’s a very well-known brand worldwide. There’s a global audience coming to Aspen and they’re seeking out the best. Silverpeak is the store they know and choose,” said Ducote, who originally got into the industry seven years ago through a colleague at his credit card processing company, Merchant Services, where he recently stepped down as CEO after 16 years; he also consults with Delta Carbon Yachts for the Americas and splits his time between Aspen and Miami. “We want to build on that recognition, which is why we’ve chosen to use our brand as the platform and carry that DNA across all of our other stores and cutting-edge concepts.”

Silverpeak will make significant interior cosmetic changes to mimic the look and feel of its acclaimed, design-forward dispensary inside Silverpeak Grill in the coming months. The team is hopeful to celebrate a grand opening whenever restaurants resume regular operations.

“I thought that going back to being myself [after coronavirus closures lift] was doable, but thought, ‘Why not take advantage of this timing and do something bigger and be a part of something that has never been done before?,’” Selby shared. “I cannot wait to have people back in the space together talking, gathering and eating.”

“As important as driving business to all three spaces will be, giving patrons this whole new experience that just doesn’t exist anywhere in the world is very exciting,” said Ducote. “That’s really what it’s all about for us.”

Colorado’s marijuana businesses should be eligible for federal coronavirus aid, Polis tells Congress

Colorado’s cannabis industry is allowed to remain open to provide “critical” services during the coronavirus pandemic, but because marijuana is a federally controlled substance, dispensaries and other businesses are ineligible to receive stimulus funds to help offset the economic impacts caused by COVID-19.

Many say they’re struggling.

Gov. Jared Polis, however, is hoping to lend a helping hand. On Monday, Polis sent a letter to Rep. Jason Crow, D-Aurora, a member of the House Small Business Committee, urging the committee to reconsider allowing cannabis businesses to apply for federal aid.

“Unfortunately, a large number of small businesses in Colorado are not eligible for these loans due to their involvement in the state-legal cannabis industry, which is a major employer and tax revenue generator in our state,” Polis wrote.

The implications of this reach wider than marijuana dispensaries, cultivations and manufacturers in a legal state, Polis argued, since Small Business Administration loans for coronavirus disaster relief are not available to ancillary businesses, such as legal and consulting firms, that serve the industry either.

“As you can imagine, there are hundreds of Colorado companies that fall into the latter category, from HVAC companies and lighting equipment suppliers to law firms and accounting firms,” Polis said.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Charlotte Figi, the Colorado girl who inspired the CBD movement, dies following illness suspected to be coronavirus

Charlotte Figi, the Colorado Springs girl who, as a gleeful and fragile child, launched a movement that led to sweeping changes in marijuana laws across the globe, has died from complications possibly related to the new coronavirus.

She was 13.

Charlotte’s death was announced by a family friend Tuesday night on the Facebook page of her mother, Paige Figi.

“Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever. Thank you so much for all of your love,” read the post, which also asked the public to respect Figi’s family’s privacy.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Cannabis consumption up among American seniors

While marijuana use among young people has remained steady, it’s up among American seniors, according to a new analysis.

Doctors Joseph J. Palamar and Benjamin Han surveyed 14,896 people and found that among Americans 65 and older, 4.2% reported using cannabis, up from 2.4% in 2015.

The study’s authors said the increase probably has little to do with legalization. Instead, people hear about marijuana’s potential medical uses and want to try it.

They’re also doubtful that these seniors are trying marijuana for the first time.

However, it appears the increase in cannabis use is driven largely by those who do not have multiple chronic medical conditions, the study found.

Palamar is an associate professor of population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Han is with the New York University School of Medicine. Their research was published earlier this week in Jama Internal Medicine.

“There were significant increases among women, individuals of white and nonwhite races/ethnicities, individuals with a college education, individuals with incomes of $20 000 to $49 000 and $75 000 or greater, and married individuals,” their study found.

Possible health benefits

Cannabis use among older adults with diabetes jumped by 180% between 2015 to 2018, 96% among those with other chronic diseases, and 150% among those receiving mental health treatment.

Palamar cautioned older adults that it might not be the reefer they remember. It’s likely stronger, and your body also isn’t the same, Palamar told United Press International.

Colorado kids remain steady

As for teenagers, the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found youth marijuana use remains at one in five, the same as it was in 2013. That’s also the national average.

Availability may have changed since legalization, but youth attitudes in Colorado have not, according to the study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The latest statewide Healthy Kids Survey shows about half of the youth surveyed said marijuana is risky. They said felt it was easy to get but a mistake for underage youth to use it.

Marijuana remains illegal in Colorado for those under age 21.

Youth responded that they think four of five of their peers use marijuana. The Healthy Kids Survey found that only one in five actually do.

Young people who have trusted adults in their lives are less likely to use marijuana. According to the Healthy Kids Survey, youth who know their parents think underage use is wrong are 72 percent less likely to use marijuana. Youth with caring teachers are 28 percent less likely to use, and those who feel they have an adult to go to for help with a problem were 30 percent less likely to use.

Colorado’s first licensed cannabis R&D firm to study marijuana’s effect on Alzheimer’s disease

A Denver-based company hopes to be the state’s first to study the effects of marijuana on Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a newly available research and development license in the city.

MedPharm Holdings plans to apply for a Denver marijuana R&D license to test delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids’ effects on Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans have the disease, a degenerative brain disorder that affects a person’s memory and thinking skills. While there are drugs that help ease symptoms, they do not change the course of the disease.

Albert Gutierrez, CEO of MedPharm, sees Alzheimer’s as “one of the biggest things that’s plaguing our country now and in the future.” That’s why he’s excited about cannabis’ potential to treat it.

“We haven’t yet tapped into what this plant can really do to help alleviate the symptoms,” Gutierrez said. “We hear a lot of anecdotal evidence as far as helping with epilepsy or helping with arthritic pain… now it’s time to put the cannabinoids to the test and really understand what cannabinoids and what doses and what delivery methods really help deliver that relief.”

Read more via The Denver Post.

Basalt police seek help identifying man who broke into marijuana dispensary

Basalt police are seeking help identifying a man who broke into the Roots Rx marijuana shop Tuesday night.

Police believe the suspect hid outside the business in the Southside neighborhood until employees closed and departed, according to Sgt. Aaron Munch. The shop closed at 8 p.m. The burglary occurred at about 8:30 p.m. He was able to gain access in a way police didn’t want to discuss.

“The alarms went off,” Munch said. “By watching surveillance video, he just got scared and took off.”

The man unlocked a deadbolt on the front door and ran off without taking any product or cash. Munch said Roots Rx had complied with state law and kept all products locked.

The pot shot’s alarm company got an instant notification that the on-premise alarm was triggered and called police. Two officers from Basalt and a Pitkin County deputy sheriff arrived on the scene shortly and checked the store for an intruder.

Munch said the cameras captured images of a clean-cut man approximately 30 years of age. While the images are in black and white, he was wearing a green jacket and black pants with a Sorrell-type pair of boots.

Store employees didn’t recognize the man as a regular customer. Munch said if anyone has information about the suspect, they are urged to call Basalt Police Department at 970-927-4316.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Colorado won’t stop employers from firing workers for marijuana use off the clock

Colorado legislators decided Wednesday not to advance a bill that aimed to protect employees from being fired for using marijuana in their personal time.

The 10 members of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee voted unanimously against the bill, HB 20-1089, after nearly three hours of testimony from people on each side.

Though the bill would have done nothing to prohibit employers from administering drug tests, many committee members cited the lack of an adequate test to determine whether an employee is intoxicated in the moment — much like a breathalyzer does for alcohol — as a reason to table it. Others thought the proposed change to the law was too broad.

“The concern about keeping a workplace safe and not having a reliable method for testing people’s impairment, the interest in maintaining a productive workplace, I think those are compelling,” said Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster.

“I do find some compelling arguments of people needing to use cannabis for medical reasons,” she added. “The bill, I think, is much broader than that, than trying to narrow in on that conversation about how we make sure that people don’t lose their jobs for taking something they need to make it through the day.”

Read more via The Denver Post.