Tag: Colorado

Colorado Marijuana Taxes Fund Sims-Style RPG Aimed at Substance Abuse

A Denver-based nonprofit that focuses on fighting substance abuse will be able to try a new approach to curbing drug addiction thanks to a sizable infusion of cash derived from the state’s cannabis tax revenue.

Peer Assistance, a company that has spent the last three decades helping people conduct difficult intervention-related conversations with their loved ones about drug use, will use a $200,000 contribution from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to fund a new project called “One Degree: Shift the Influence.”

One Degree is a web- or app-based simulation tool that replicates conversations about drug and alcohol abuse for friends and family members to practice and gain insight before intervening to help someone close to them.

The role-playing activity somewhat resembles the video game series, “The Sims,” where virtual characters can converse and interact with each other. One Degree features two different scenarios designed to help players better understand both sides of the situation. One scenario highlights “Donna,” a recently divorced woman who is relieving stress and grief by drinking alcohol excessively. The other roleplaying story features “Jordan,” whose partying is beginning to affect his work.

When a user plays One Degree, they assume the identity of Phil, who is either a cousin of Donna’s who is worried about her drinking or a concerned co-worker of Jordan’s. The problems faced by Donna and Jordan, as well as the dilemma Phil finds himself in, are meant to assist the player in preparing for a similar real-world dialogue.

onedegree-game

“We wanted to build a confidence about bringing up a topic that can be uncomfortable,” explained Peer Assistance training and consultation manager Carolyn Swenson to Westword. “It’s about helping people find out what can make a conversation like this successful or unsuccessful.”

Last year, Peer Assistance was also the beneficiary of Colorado legal cannabis revenue and invested in training for health industry workers around the state that would help them assess the best time to intervene and provide best practices for having those difficult discussions.

“There are a lot of experts on how that money has been allocated. [Our society] hasn’t focused much on prevention and early intervention, and that’s cost our country a lot of money when people start to develop serious problems later in life,” Swenson added. “We feel like a focus on prevention makes a lot of sense. When you bring these topics up with general health care, it de-stigmatizes the issue.”

While One Degree was designed with Coloradans in mind, anyone that has a smartphone or computer with an internet connection can give it a try.

 

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Sessions Informs Hickenlooper, We Have “Higher Priorities”

Despite having good news to report on the cannabis legalization front, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was visibly apprehensive when asked by Politico’s Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman to speak about his recent pow-wow with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After blazing through a myriad of timely topics, like the changing demographics of Colorado, cyber security, and Russia’s continued efforts to hack America’s political system, Anna Palmer asked Gov. Hickenlooper the question that was high on everybody’s list: “You’ve met with the Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who very clearly has a different position on pot and other drugs, what did you guys discuss?”

Authentic and plainspoken, Hickenlooper started by explaining to Palmer he wasn’t the only elected official in Colorado who opposed recreational legalization. “Well it’s not just me, almost every elected official I know opposed the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.”

Consumed by nervous ignorance in 2012, Hickenlooper explained how he and his fellow politicians feared that legalization would lead to a spike in consumption among Colorado’s youth. Colorado’s politicians were reportedly concerned that misfits and stoners with elevated THC metabolite levels would cause carnage on the highways and byways while toddlers got baked on mom and dad’s unguarded stash.

According to the Colorado Gov., “The things we were most worried about, and I said this to the Attorney General, were a spike in consumption. Especially a spike among teenagers.”

Fortunately for all, that didn’t happen.

After explaining the ramifications of today’s highly potent strains on developing brains – while omitting any alcohol-related data – Gov. Hickenlooper noted, “none” of those fears materialized.

No long-term increased use by Colorado’s teenagers, no blood on the highway in the Mile High City, and Colorado’s babies remained safe and sound.

Hickenlooper noted, “We had a little increase among teenagers the first year, since then, it’s come down. Overall consumption has gone up just a little bit. But it’s almost all been in just one demographic – senior citizens.”

willie nelson senior cannabis consumer

Pot and Senior Citizens: It’s a Natural Fit

While the governor’s noteworthy observation got a chuckle from the crowd, Hickenlooper explained that senior tokers have turned to marijuana because it provides “more effective pain relief than opioids.”

During his conversation with Hickenlooper, Sessions acknowledged the Department of Justice (DOJ) lacks the resources for a full-blown war on weed, and that the DOJ has “higher priorities.”

After telling Gov. Hickenlooper, “were not going to come in and shut everything down,” the Atty. Gen. then gave one ominous caveat. “If we have to make an example of some companies or some individuals, then that’s what we’ll do,” said Sessions according to Hickenlooper.

Jake Sherman then asked the $64 million question of the governor, “Based on the tax revenue, would you recommend other states do what you guys did in Colorado and legalize marijuana?” Quick to respond, Hickenlooper, who was originally opposed to legalization, didn’t think it was worth it, at least “not for the money.”

Hickenlooper said, “I told every other governor that, if I was in their place, I would wait a year or two – there’s no big rush.”

On a recent trip to speak before the California assembly, Hickenlooper offered Gov. Jerry Brown some sage advice that’s applicable to any state considering legalizing marijuana – establish your baseline data now.

Hickenlooper told Brown, “Make sure you’re measuring right now anytime you have a fatality on the highway and it looks like it’s human error, and that person died.  Make sure to take a blood test for marijuana, in addition to alcohol. It costs a little bit more money, but not much. Make sure you have as good a baseline as you can of how much damage is going on in the existing system before you go into a new system.”

Fun facts: In 2002, 351 drivers under the age of 65 died on Colorado’s highways. In 2016, four years after legalization, 219 drivers died in an automobile crash. Representing an 11% decrease in Colorado’s traffic fatalities, legalization has saved lives and generated revenue. Between 2014 – 2017, the state of Colorado has raised more than $141,064,563 via their 15% excise tax on recreational marijuana, $216,560,926 from their 10% special sales tax on adult use marijuana, and an additional $62,081,092 from a 2.9% sales tax on recreational cannabis.

 

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Colorado: The Scent of Weed is NOT Sufficient Reason for Vehicle Search

Kilo is the catchy name of Moffat County, Colorado’s now infamous drug-sniffing dog. Trained to sniff out cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and marijuana, Kilo can’t tell cops which drug he’s sniffed out.

Now, thanks to a job “well-done,” Kilo is staring an early retirement in the face — because of Kilo, the scent of legal weed in Colorado no longer warrants a car search.

A scapegoat for his fellow dog sniffers or a consequence of legalization, Kilo’s case and inability to enunciate just set a landmark precedent for drug searches in Colorado.

In February 2015, Kilo sniffed out contraband in Colorado resident Kevin McKnight’s truck. Kilo’s senses went off, he alerted police officer Bryan Gonzales of the contraband, and a search of the truck turned up a “pipe containing white residue from McKnight’s truck.”

The 48-year-old McKnight — pulled over after a “wrong-turn” coming from a suspected drug house — was then charged with “possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.” McKnight’s attorney motioned to suppress the search for lack of probable cause, but the initial judge decided the drug-sniffing evidence was permissible.

Last Thursday, the case came before the Colorado Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel, which decided that the search did in fact lack probable cause because “the dog could not tell officers what he was sniffing.”

The case’s presiding judge, Daniel Dailey, wrote that,

“Because Amendment 64 legalized possession for personal use of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older in Colorado, it is no longer accurate to say, at least as a matter of state law, that an alert by a dog which can detect marijuana — but not specific amounts — can reveal only the presence of ‘contraband.’”

Since Kilo couldn’t actually tell the cops which substance he was alerted to, the dog’s senses could’ve very well been alerted to legal cannabis and not methamphetamine. That possibility alone makes the car search illegal.

The court concluded that,

“A dog sniff could result in an alert with respect to something for which, under Colorado law, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. Because a dog sniff of a vehicle could infringe upon a legitimate expectation of privacy solely under state law, that dog sniff should now be considered a ‘search’ for purposes of (the amendment) where the occupants are 21 years or older.”

Judge Michael Berger wrote that Colorado’s legalization bill, Amendment 64, allows Coloradans “an enforceable expectation of privacy.” That privacy now prohibits drug dogs trained to sniff out weed turning the scent of contraband into permissible court evidence.

The solution to avoid this kind of mix up for Colorado could be a simple one: stop training dogs to sniff out weed in the first place. Both Oregon and Vermont have stopped training dogs to bark at cannabis for the exact same reason.

While varying from county to county, Denver still has four cannabis-sniffing dogs on its staff; those K-9s are employed to sniff out illegal grows in the city. After this recent hearing, however, perhaps these dogs, and all Colorado dogs like Kilo, have dissolved into obsolete antiques of cannabis legalization.

The entire court document on this case can be found here.

In 2015, a landmark Supreme Court ruling found that cops can’t legally wait for drug dogs at standard traffic stops.

Image courtesy of potdogsusa

 

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