High in The Rockies, Marijuana’s a Point of Pride
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High in The Rockies, Marijuana’s a Point of Pride
Posted by CN Staff on November 07, 2010 at 17:28:36 PT
By Kirk Johnson
Source: New York Times
Nederland, Colo. -- Millions of Americans expressed their feelings about marijuana last week. In Colorado, 24 communities voted to ban or restrict shops selling legal medical marijuana. In California, voters wrestled with the question of legalization for recreational use — with issues of health, crime and taxes all coming into play — then voted no. But here in Nederland, it was just another beautiful day high in the mountains.Marijuana has been mainstream in this outpost of the counterculture, 8,000 feet in the Rockies and an hour northwest of Denver, since the days of Bob Marley’s cigar-size “spliffs” and the jokes of Cheech and Chong.
And to judge by the numbers, things have not changed all that much.An explosion of medical marijuana sales over the last year in Colorado as well as the District of Columbia and the 13 other states where medical use is allowed has certainly brought a new element into the mix. Dispensaries like Grateful Meds, one of seven medical marijuana providers in Nederland, population 1,400, now have legal compliance lawyers on retainer and sales tax receipts in the cash drawer.But marijuana is still marijuana, and Nederland’s perch overlooking what John Denver immortalized as “the Colorado Rocky Mountain high” has not budged.State records show that by some coincidence, the concentration of medical marijuana patients and dispensaries selling medicinal cannabis is higher here in Colorado’s old hippie heartland than in any other corner of the state.In Gilpin County, for example, which begins at Nederland’s doorstep, almost one in 20 residents qualify for cannabis treatment — the highest level in Colorado and more than three times the statewide average. State law, passed by voter referendum in 2000, allows marijuana treatment for a list of maladies, from cancer to chronic pain, if a doctor verifies the need.And doctors have obliged. The sick-enough-for-marijuana pattern extends in a broad band from Nederland west through an archipelago of communities that were equally tinctured by tie-dye a generation ago and are now cornerstones of the state’s resort and tourism industry.Summit and Pitkin Counties, home to ski towns like Breckenridge, Keystone and Aspen, pride themselves on a healthy outdoor youth culture, but they also have a disproportionate amount of debilitating pain diagnosed in men in their 20s, state records show.“Who would think there would be such severe pain among young men in Colorado?” said Ron Hyman, the state registrar of vital statistics and director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s medical marijuana program.Nederland residents like Hal Mobley, 56, who was on his way to get a haircut on a recent morning, asked pretty much the same thing. Marijuana is part of the life here, he said — no more available, no less, and no different in its use, he thinks, than it has been for decades.“It’s for pain?” he said, squinting into the bright sun.Well, it is also good medicine for the Nederland town budget. Tax revenues are way up, in ways that would make many a more buttoned-down town treasurer envious — partly from more tourists spending money in the restaurants and shops, but even more so from marijuana sales.In June alone, while many communities around the nation were still sputtering through economic doldrums, sales taxes collected in Nederland came in a robust 54 percent above those of June 2009. Without the tax collected on marijuana, the increase would have been 22 percent.“It’s been here, probably in an illegal capacity, for a long time, but now there’s an opportunity for industry,” said Nederland’s mayor, Sumaya Abu-Haidar. “There’s an opportunity for free enterprise, an opportunity for people to make a living in a way that wasn’t available before.”Philip Dyer, 45, a local musician, put it another way. The government, he said, “has finally gotten smart enough to regulate it and get their piece.”Supporters of medical marijuana say the pattern — medical use most predominant in places of historically high recreational use — is simply a reflection of better knowledge about the drug and its properties. People in communities where marijuana has been accepted, they say, know more about its medical benefits than those in other parts of the state where medical marijuana patients are rare.Still, residents here say that despite a kind of marijuana status quo on paper, things are changing.A demographic shift in recent years, with more families, professionals, tech workers and telecommuters moving here, has created tensions, town officials say, over questions of growth, development, tourism — and marijuana, with many of the newcomers less enthusiastic than the old guard about Nederland’s ganja-tinged reputation.Earlier this year, Nederland became the third community in Colorado to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. But the vote, mostly symbolic because recreational use is still illegal under state and federal law, deeply divided the community. Legalization passed, but by only 41 of the 477 votes cast. A proposal to hold a cannabis festival in town hit a bigger wall of opposition and was voted down.“When people think of Nederland as this stoner town, if you will, that is not accurate,” Mayor Abu-Haidar said.But the town still has a reputation for having good marijuana, a point of pride that the legal compliance lawyer for Grateful Meds, Susan Eisman, was happy to talk about during a tour of the shop. Whereas many dispensaries have perhaps five strains of marijuana to choose from, Grateful Meds has 30, and serves about 300 patients.“We have patients coming from all over Colorado,” Ms. Eisman said. “And a lot of it is the quality and quantity and the selection and the reputation.“A patient just the other day came all the way from Longmont, an hour away, because he liked a particular strain and he can’t get it anywhere else.”A version of this article appeared in print on November 8, 2010, on page A11 of the National edition.Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Kirk JohnsonPublished: November 8, 2010Copyright: 2010 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by The GCW on November 08, 2010 at 19:54:22 PT
Thanks for sharing that story. Your perspective is valuable.
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Comment #5 posted by museman on November 08, 2010 at 09:18:57 PT
young men and pain
We do not live in Colorado, but I gave two sons who have medical needs that cannabis addresses;One is a 27 year old, and the other is 24. The eldest of the two began to have seizures about 5 years ago, and the worst thing we ever did was take him to a doctor to get help. Epilepsy is a dis-ease that the 'doctors' know little to nothing about, and some even admit it.They have this "One drug fit's 'em all" idea, at least when it comes to epilepsy, and many epileptics have suffered more for their ignorance, than benefited. And because of the commercialized atmosphere in current medical community, real health care is reserved for the rich.My other son broke his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder in a snowboarding accident also about 5 years ago. After barely recovering, he injured it on a job, and since then has been in constant pain, and can't do a lot of the 'jobs' traditionally available to young men.Both of them have been at the mercy of medical services that service only the pharma's and the glorified drug dealers know as 'doctors.'In the case of the epileptic, I called the ambulance when he had his first Grand Mal seizure in my arms. -I freaked! But then, because of an earlier seizure when he was driving (none of us knew the extent of the problem, including him, until this accident happened.) where he ran into a tree, because he was driving without a license. He was honest with the doctors at the emergency room, and they reported him which led to him getting his right to a license suspended AND he lost his medical insurance. Because of that -he couldn't work at regular jobs because he might have a seizure at any moment, so he didn't have the money to pay for the drugs they were giving him. Those drugs kind of act like a dam that suppresses the seizures, but doesn't make them go away. A long time user of those drugs has to keep taking more and more to keep the 'dam' from bursting. Well, he started cutting back on his meds because he couldn't afford them (and his pride kept him from asking us for help) so the dam burst and he got much much worse.And because the ambulance was called (by me) he has been harassed by collection agencies, he can't get medical coverage unless he buys it, and since he can't work, well the catch 22 is pretty damn obvious in his case.We have since totally discarded the medical communities quack, witchdoctor offerings of pharmaceutical hocus pocus and got down to herbal and dietary research which led, of course to cannabis.He just recently got his card, and since he has been able to use cannabis as his main med, the seizures have been lessening, and he is getting a better idea of 'early warning' signs so ge can better prepare for when it does happen. If we had to depend on the doctors to help him, and he didn't have cannabis as an alternative, I might have already lost my son, and the world would have lost a very talented individual.For these two sons of mine, the establishment has failed miserably. Trying to get help out of this greedy money oriented system is like asking a coven a vampires for a blood transfusion. They suck you dry while pretending to help.Cannabis works better than any drug these selfish, greedy legal drug dealers can come up with. In fact all natural substances from which 'synthesized' "medicine" come from are inherently more effective, and less harmful than the 'patented' poisons they sell to us.These two sons represent 50% of my male offspring. Statistically, that is a rather high percentage. Why would I not believe that a large number of young men have similar issues?Only if I was a SQAK which I haven't been since as a youth I was fooled by nice words about stuff I did believe in to be 'Republican Youth' and I actually helped Nixon get elected!
Next step was the military, and after that this system of corruption and destruction, got a lifetime enemy, and though I may have to love, and forgive the fools, I don't have to agree or go along with their stupidity.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on November 08, 2010 at 05:28:56 PT
I had a friend who was a chairlift operator at a big resort. After a few months of "bumping" chairs every day he'd developed a constant pain in his right shoulder that lasted well after the ski season ended.The day they had to load a bunch of chairs onto the lift he had massive back pain & almost had to quit.And of course this American job came with no health care benefits. Often you'd see fliers on door to the pub from young men literally begging for money to have surgery on various broken body parts.Marijuana policy is driven by classism like most everything else here. The mainstream media has to keep up the relentless propaganda to keep the lower classes from realizing it's a big scam on them by the rich elite. Cannabis has been used for thousands of year by the working man to simply get by, to make pain go away for cheap, to continue at hard labor jobs, to mask the daily discomforts and miseries of their work.Something you wouldn't think about from your 2 million dollar condo in NYC where the NY Times editors are.
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Comment #3 posted by dankhank on November 08, 2010 at 00:38:20 PT
young and in pain
Every time I hear of a critic whining about the young I will invite them to go to their nearest Military Hosp.The 'Young' men and women work and play hard. I've seen MANY in the hosp at Fort Sill.Too bad they have no access to a medicine that might work.Trying to diagnose from half a continent away, can they be any stupider ...?
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Comment #2 posted by DrDunkleosteus on November 07, 2010 at 22:36:40 PT:
Sam Adams
I agree. Also, did they ever stop to think that maybe those young men moved to that area in order to be close their medicine? Young men have an easier time up and moving than say, a family of 4 or an elderly person with a long-standing job...Like they said, one man drove an hour to get his prescription. How many people want to do that? If I lived in Colorado, I'd want to be as close to my medicine as I could.Clearly, they are just trying to imply that young men are usually/normally healthy and those in Nederlands are just pothead kids taking advantage of the system.This is journalsim? Foul, NYT.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on November 07, 2010 at 22:13:55 PT
pain medicine
this is a perfect example of why The New York Times and others have no business in your medicine cabinet: they have no idea what they're talking about.Why would young men in ski country have severe pain? I can think of many possible reasons. Most of them have difficult outdoor jobs e.g. lift operator or snowmaking. Most of them do risky sports. These things cause frequent and sometimes permanent injuries.Here's a better question: what would a meddling newspaper in NY city know about young men's medical needs 1800 miles away?
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