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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.

Colorado marijuana sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019

Last year was the most lucrative 12 months for cannabis sales in Colorado since the state’s voters legalized recreational marijuana.

Medical and recreational cannabis sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019, up 13% from 2018, according to data from the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. Marijuana tax collections also hit an all-time high, at more than $302 million in 2019.

December closed out the year with strong sales totaling more than $144 million, up 6.7% compared to the previous year. But that wasn’t the biggest month of 2019; instead, August topped the calendar year with $173 million in sales.

All told, Colorado marijuana sales now have hit $7.79 billion since recreational sales began in 2014.

Truman Bradley, the newly appointed executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said the revenue increases in Colorado track with expectations.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Former Aspen businessman found guilty on marijuana trafficking charges, faces 32 years in prison

A former Aspen businessman faces up to 32 years in prison after he was found guilty Friday of six felonies in connection with a marijuana trafficking organization that duped investors and shipped pot out of Colorado.

Scott Pack, 41, was convicted by an Arapahoe County jury of two counts under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act — pattern of racketeering and conspiracy; a first-class drug felony; and conspiracy to cultivate marijuana, according to a news release from the 18th Judicial District. He was also found guilty of two counts of securities fraud.

Pack, who now lives in California, was indicted in June 2017 along with 19 others after an investigation that started in August 2016. At that time law enforcement found an illegal marijuana operation at a site in Elizabeth, which is southeast of Denver.

Investigators discovered 845 marijuana plants weighing 2,535 pounds worth more than $5 million.

“Coloradans did not pass Amendment 64 to become the Wild West of Weed. Despite the perception that marijuana is completely legal, it is not,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in the news release. “Colorado created a regulatory framework that we defend by aggressively prosecuting those, including the rich, who choose greed over our laws.”

Pack was at the top of the drug enterprise, according to the news release, and played a pivotal role, taking the proceeds of black market marijuana as well as soliciting investors to back the enterprise through fraudulent statements and empty promises. None of the pot was sold legally in Colorado.

That was the beginning of an investigation that uncovered a major drug trafficking organization that was involved in illegally cultivating, processing and distributing marijuana and marijuana products to at least five states, according to the release.

“This defendant thought he could avoid prosecution by having subordinates do all the dirty work. He thought he left no trail.  He told them, ‘If anything happens to you, I have the money to hire the attorneys. So none of this can touch me,’” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Darcy Kofol, who tried the case with Senior Deputy District Attorney Laura Wilson. “He was wrong. I am grateful to the jurors for seeing the truth and holding him accountable.”

The drug felony carries a mandatory prison term of 8-32 years in prison. Other counts have presumptive ranges but prison time is not mandatory and sentences are at the discretion of the judge, officials said in the release.

Pack’s sentencing is set for April 6 at 8:30 a.m.

Why marijuana sponsors the cleanup of more Colorado highway miles than any other industry

Cannabis companies are the leading sponsors of Colorado highways, accounting for cleanup on two-thirds of the roads maintained by Clean Colorado — a program the industry has leveraged as a loophole in the state’s strict limits on marijuana advertising.

Currently, 51 cannabis dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers and edible producers sponsor roadways throughout the state, according to data from the Adopt a Highway Maintenance Corporation.

Though they represent less than half of all organizations that participate in the Clean Colorado program, those cannabis firms’ reach spans about 198 miles, or 66% of the roads actively sponsored.

The business category with the next highest level of participation is general services — ad agencies, pest control, plumbing, real estate — which represents 13% of miles sponsored. Other sponsoring industries include retail (8%), restaurants (4%), and casinos and hotels (3%).

Drivers in the Denver area likely have noticed. Clean Colorado signs with the names and logos of local dispensaries and grows dot most major highways here, and often are strategically placed near exits where passersby can find the businesses. That’s no accident.

Read more via The Denver Post.

You’ll soon be able to earn a degree in cannabis from a Colorado university

Colorado State University-Pueblo received state approval Friday for the state’s first cannabis-related degree program, to be launched this fall.

The program — called “Cannabis, Biology and Chemistry” — will focus on the science necessary to work in the cannabis field, with coursework similar to double-majoring in biology and chemistry, said David Lehmpuhl,  dean of CSU-Pueblo’s College of Science and Mathematics.

“It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry,” Lehmpuhl said. “Hemp and marijuana has really come to the forefront in a lot of economic sectors in the country. We’re not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we’re about will be the science and training students to look at that science.”

The degree program has two areas of emphasis: natural products and analytical chemistry.

The natural products route is focused more on the biology side of things with students taking additional courses in neurobiology, biochemistry and genetics, and work in a lab setting to learn about the genetics of cannabis or other natural product plants.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Congress has stalled on marijuana banking, so Colorado is taking matters into its own hands

Colorado is taking action to try to give more legal marijuana businesses in the state access to banking as a Congressional effort to knock down the federal barriers has stalled

There are already a handful of banks in Colorado working with marijuana businesses, including Partner Colorado Credit Union in Arvada, where Gov. Jared Polis on Monday unveiled a roadmap to increase the number of financial institutions offering their services to the cannabis industry by 20% in the coming months.

But many more banks won’t work with cannabis businesses because of the potential regulatory and criminal consequences, since pot is still illegal under federal law. That has left many marijuana companies without access to everything from checking accounts to loans.

“We have an obligation to do what we can with the tools that we have while we work on this federal fix,” Polis said.

Polis is ordering his administration to identify opportunities for state legislative and regulatory clarity for state-chartered financial institutions, state-licensed money transmitters and state-regulated insurance companies. The idea is to create a path for more bank-cannabis businesses relationships by ensuring financial institutions know Colorado has their backs if they decide to take the risk.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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Colorado hopes to make cannabis industry more eco-friendly by recycling breweries’ carbon dioxide

In an effort to make Colorado’s cannabis industry more eco-friendly, the state’s health department and energy office launched two new pilot programs Wednesday focused on reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency at local cultivations.

Both programs support Gov. Jared Polis’ mission to cut greenhouse gasses 50% by 2030.

For the first program, the Carbon Dioxide Reuse Project, the Denver Beer Co. is partnering with the Clinic dispensary to recycle carbon emissions. Brewing a 120-barrel batch of beer produces enough carbon dioxide naturally through fermentation to fill a 500-pound vessel, said Charlie Berger, co-founder of Denver Beer Co.

Using a carbon-capturing machine developed by Austin-based Earthly Labs, the brewery plans to provide its CO2 to the Clinic, which will, in turn, use it to stimulate plant growth at its cultivation operations.

Carbon dioxide is administered in growing rooms to promote plant health and increase plant yield during cultivation, said Max Cohen, founder and CEO of the Clinic. Using recycled resources reduces the dispensary’s need to buy manufactured carbon dioxide, which is usually transported by truck to the facility.

Read more via The Denver Post.