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Updated state regulations on marijuana impact Eagle

EAGLE — The state legislature has written a new definition of “public and open consumption of marijuana” that has changed marijuana regulations in Eagle.

Because Eagle is a statutory town — under the authority of the state government, at least until April when Eagle voters will decide whether they want out from under the state’s thumb to become home rule — the town’s marijuana regulations must reflect the state’s.

According to the new definition of the law, you can use marijuana in your home — even if the public can see you.

Under Senate Bill 224, “open” means the public can see you doing it. That’s fine under the state law.

“Publicly” means the public has unrestricted access in places such as streets, transportation facilities, parks, playgrounds, common areas and other facilities. Imbibing marijuana in those places is still against the law.

“For example, smoking marijuana in front of a store would be considered both open and public and the person could be charged with public consumption. However, a person who is smoking in his own enclosed backyard, even if the public is able to see him smoking from the street, would not be considered public consumption because the public does not have access to the smoker’s backyard,” Eagle’s new regulations say.

Colorado lawmakers want to stop employers from firing people for using weed in their personal time

Two Colorado lawmakers want to pass a law to protect workers who use marijuana when they’re off the clock.

House Rep. Jevon Melton, D-Aurora, has introduced a bill to prevent businesses from firing employees for partaking in legal activities on their own time — even if the activities are only legal under state and not federal law. To pass, though, the bill will likely require some compromise to address expected objections from the business community.

Melton says the measure would correct an oversight in Colorado law.

“It was just a glaring gap that we have here in the statute, especially when we’re supposed to regulate marijuana like we are with alcohol,” Melton said. “If someone’s able to drink while they’re at home and on their free time, as long as they’re not coming into work intoxicated, then they’re not penalized with their employment.”

In the Colorado Supreme Court case Coats v. Dish Network, employee Brandon Coats appealed a lower court decision that sided with Dish Network in Coats’ firing after he failed a random drug test in 2010. Coats used medical marijuana to control seizures while he was away from work.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Vail Valley trial for murder suspect Leigha Ackerson postponed again

EAGLE — An accused murderer’s trial was postponed until May so attorneys can argue whether a jury will see DNA evidence, how much, and what that might mean.

Leigha Ackerson’s defense attorneys, Amber St. Clair and Jennifer Melton, asked to postpone the Jan. 6 trial so their expert has sufficient time to analyze DNA evidence.

Ackerson is charged with murder in the death of Catherine Kelley in Kelley’s Pilgrim Downs home near Edwards.

Ackerson is charged with first-degree murder. She is accused of helping her husband, Jacob White, who pleaded guilty to breaking into Catherine Kelley’s Pilgrim Downs home before robbing and murdering Kelley.

Ackerson has pleaded not guilty to eight felonies, including first-degree murder. If she’s convicted, she will go to prison for life.

An all-day hearing about DNA evidence began Friday morning but did not finish. District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman scheduled the remainder of the hearing for March 6.

Ackerson’s three-week trial was postponed once already and was supposed to begin in January. It’s now scheduled to begin May 12.

DNA evidence reliable or not?

During Friday’s hearing, St. Clair asserted that DNA analysis is not as reliable as people might believe. In fact, the analysis is flawed, she said.

St. Clair said the notion of DNA information being absolute is called,  “The Prosecutors’ Fallacy.”

In questioning DNA expert Dr. John Buckleton, Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum argued that across the country, DNA evidence is widely accepted, especially when juries view it with other evidence.

It’s a mathematic equation, and the math indicates that DNA evidence is reliable and that “fact finders” should consider it in combination with other evidence, Buckleton said.

Ackerson a victim of abuse?

St. Clair and Melton say their client has suffered a lifetime of domestic abuse and that Ackerson may have been under duress and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when Kelley was killed.

Melton and St. Clair said Ackerson was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household and was home-schooled. That created a sense of isolation in the young woman.

When she married White, the abuse continued, St. Clair said.

“She essentially went from one abusive relationship to another,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair and Melton asserted that Ackerson was a domestic violence victim. She became a battered spouse after she married White and the abuse escalated.

Ackerson’s mental condition led to her compliance in entering Kelley’s home, and to “be susceptible to him,” St. Clair said.

White pleaded guilty

White admitted that he helped kill Kelley in her Pilgrim Downs home. He will spend 68 years in prison, although Kelley’s family argued passionately that it’s not enough and that White deserves a life sentence.

White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary, telling Judge Dunkelman and Kelley’s family members that he “hates” what he did and that he had been ingesting cannabis. He was sentenced to 68 years in prison. Because he’s guilty of crimes of violence, he must serve at least 75 percent of his sentence. That means he will not be eligible for parole for 51 years.

In 2020, Coloradans will have more options for consuming marijuana in public

Starting on Jan. 1, House Bill 1230 will allow two entirely new types of businesses in Colorado: tasting rooms that can sell cannabis flower and cannabis products, and “marijuana hospitality establishments,” which can’t sell cannabis on-site but allow full use of the plant (including on tour buses).

Officials in Denver and other cities have not yet declared overarching stances on the issue, but the laws are likely to encourage a new green rush — once businesses meet certain standards.

The flipside of allowing anyone to apply for a license is that the state has granted ample discretion to individual municipalities, allowing them to decide where and how these new businesses operate, if at all. Application fees range from $1,000 for a hospitality business to $5,000 for a retail hospitality and sales operation. Once granted, operators are barred from holding a liquor license for the same business.

“We have a rich history of home rule in Colorado, and this legislation is no different,” said Shannon Gray, spokeswoman for Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. “It’s up to local jurisdictions to decide if they want this within their borders.”

The new rules, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in May, include House Bill 1234, which allows for commercial home delivery of cannabis. But the biggest deal is undoubtedly the consumption rules. Ever since Amendment 64 legalized statewide retail sales, growth and possession of pot in 2014, residents and especially tourists have been forced to find creative ways to consume their weed in the absence of any legal, public option.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Working in Colorado’s marijuana industry could prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen. A new bill in Washington could change that.

Earlier this year, Denver resident Oswaldo Barrientos was barred from becoming a U.S. citizen because of his work in Colorado’s legal cannabis industry, despite a perfectly clean record.

But a bi-partisan bill introduced in Washington this week could make it possible for those like Barrientos to clear that final hurdle.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, joined forces with an unlikely partner in Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, to introduce legislation that would remove participation in the legal cannabis industry from the list of activities that automatically bar naturalization. It comes months after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock pressed the Trump administration to rethink its citizenship policies, which issued guidance in April that anyone working in the marijuana industry — even in states where it is legal — could be barred from becoming a citizen because they “lacked good moral character.”

Immigration attorneys said the proposed bill, while not perfect, could potentially impact hundreds of Coloradans, and thousands of others across the country working in the budding world of marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level.

Read more via The Denver Post

Holiday trees that you can smoke: Deals at local pot shops

For a full list of local marijuana shops, visit www.everythingvailvalley.com.

Animation by Casey Russell

Roots RX

With locations in EagleVail and Edwards, Roots RX is offering 50% off Burst pods and cartridges and 20% off Ascend cartridges. During the month of December, the shops are also offering Ripple edibles for buy two, get one for $1 as well as a happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. with $10 Nfuzed gummies. For more information, call 970-399-9333 (EagleVail) or 970-446-6570 (Edwards).

Sweet Leaf Pioneer

Located in Eagle, Sweet Leaf Pioneer is offering 20% off all concentrates on Saturday and 20% off select items through the holidays. For more information, call 970-328-9060.

Rocky Road

This holiday season, Rocky Road in EagleVail is offering 12 days of Christmas weed specials, deals on clothing, hats, glass and more. The shop will hold a different sale every Friday as well. For more information, call 970-688-5633.

High Country Healing

Located in EagleVail, High Country Healing is offering buy one, get one for $1 on Friday for chocolate edibles. On Sunday, the shop is offering buy one, get one half off on Incredibles edibles. Tuesday, buy a cartridge and get a free battery. There are also everyday edible and flower specials throughout the holidays. For more information, call 970-470-4794.

Colorado justices approve medical marijuana during probation

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled people may use medical marijuana while serving probation.

KMGH-TV reports the state’s highest court issued the ruling Monday.

The justices approved an exception for prosecutors to show evidence that using the drug would run counter to achieving the probation goals in individual cases.

Records say the case stemmed from a lower court decision to prevent a woman who pleaded guilty to DUI from using medical marijuana during her 12 months of unsupervised probation.

The woman held a valid medical marijuana card.

A county court blocked her use because a medical professional did not testify about her need for it.

The Supreme Court ruling says the language of the medical marijuana statute creates a presumption the drug can be used while on probation.

Co-founder of Steamboat pot shop promoted to COO of international cannabis company

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The co-founder of Steamboat Springs’ first marijuana dispensary has been appointed second in command of one of the world’s largest cannabis companies.

Kevin Fisher, previous owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies on the west side of Steamboat, now serves as the chief operating officer for Parallel, a global company with headquarters in Georgia. His goal as COO is to expand markets across the world and develop new ways for customers to consume marijuana.  

Fisher and his business partner, RMR co-owner Ryan Fisher, announced their decision in July to sell their shares of the dispensary to the owners of Green Cross Colorado LLC, which operates eight dispensaries around the state under the chain name, Tumbleweed. Kevin Fisher said they expect to close on the deal in the next week or two. 

Fisher left RMR to serve as the executive director of Parallel, which changed its name from Surterra Wellness in October. His promotion to COO comes as the company looks to grow its footprint and customer base.

Parallel currently operates in four states, including Massachusetts, Nevada, Florida and Texas. The company also has international operations in Hungary and Colombia. Fisher said Parallel is in the process of trying to expand business in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where medical marijuana is legal but not recreational marijuana. 

Across the country, Fisher said people are warming up to the use of marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. He argues the substance is less harmful than, say, pharmaceutical drugs or alcohol. 

“There is a certain proportion of the population who seek an escape from the human condition,” he said. “We believe cannabinoids are the safest way to get that escape.”

Growth has not come without setbacks. A recent mysterious lung illness, which has been attributed to nicotine and marijuana vaping devices, has killed at least 40 people across the country and sickened thousands more.  

Marijuana vape sales tanked nationwide amid the scare, with some states reporting as much as a 60% drop in sales. Massachusetts, one of Parallel’s domestic markets, announced a four-month ban on product sales in September. 

Fisher said his company, which offers a broad range of marijuana products, has not been hit as hard by the drop in vape sales, which account for about 20% of Parallel’s business. He stood by the safety of his company’s vape devices, arguing well-made vapes in the legal market are not the problem. 

Federal officials have come to similar conclusions.

On Nov. 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report linking vaping illnesses to vitamin E acetate. According to the CDC, this is a sticky, honey-like substance added to some illicit vaping cartridges to dilute the marijuana oil and increase profits. Most of the people who have fallen sick obtained vapes illicitly from friends or on the street, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement urging people to stop using vaping products until more research is done.

According to Fisher, Parallel’s vaping cartridges abide by strict regulations and use only a marijuana distillate, which he said makes it “the same thing as smoking regular cannabis.”

Looking to the future, Fisher aims to bring innovations to the way people consume cannabis products. He has been researching ways to speed up the effects of certain edibles, which can sometimes take hours to take full effect. That makes it hard for people to get the dose they want and sometimes, can cause consumers to over-indulge.

One product line of beverages infused with THC, the cannabinoid that gets people high, is designed to take effect in as little as 10 minutes, according to Fisher.

Amid these changes, Fisher expressed gratitude to the Steamboat community for the support he received as a budding cannabis businessman. 

“It was a very high-risk environment back then,” he said. 

Though most of his work happens outside Colorado, Fisher still calls Steamboat home. 

Asked about potential moving plans, he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Colorado pot grower loses 20K plants due to early snow

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado marijuana grower has lost about 20,000 plants worth millions of dollars because of an early winter storm and says the impact is expected affect the state’s legal pot supply.

The Marijuana Business Daily reported Wednesday that Pueblo-based Los Sueños Farms lost the plants because of subfreezing temperatures and several inches of snow earlier this month.

Company employees say retailers and processors could face higher wholesale cannabis prices.

But extractors are expected to benefit by gaining access to additional plant material to manufacture goods such as infused marijuana products, edibles and concentrates.

Employees say they tried to salvage the marijuana by covering the plants with blankets and using hot water to keep their roots warm.

Los Sueños owns dozens of acres that it uses for outdoor production.

Colorado marijuana cultivator issues statewide recall over high mold and yeast levels

A Denver-based marijuana cultivator is voluntarily recalling retail marijuana products because of elevated yeast and mold counts.

Bonsai Cultivation, licensed under the LLC Redwood Investment Partners, is making the recall after a Denver Department of Public Health & Environment investigation of dried marijuana samples, including flower, shake, trim and pre-rolls, found potentially unsafe levels of yeast and mold, according to a DDPHE news release.

All retail marijuana plant material or retail marijuana products bearing the OPC barcode 403R-00228 — sold widely throughout Colorado — are subject to recall, the release said.

Eleven manufacturing facilities, three cultivation facilities and 144 retail stores throughout Colorado received plant material subject to recall prior to Thursday, according to health officials.

Consumers or businesses who have recalled products should dispose of them or return products to where they were purchased.

Three Vail-area dispensaries were listed in the recall: RockyRoad Vail, High Country Healing and Tumbleweed in Edwards. See the full list from The Denver Post.

This article was updated with information from Vail Daily staff.