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Medical marijuana patients in Colorado will have a new festival to attend this year as Colorado becomes the host of the World Cannabis Convention in May 2011. According to Kush Magazine editor, Michael Lerner, the World Cannabis Convention will be responsible for bringing millions of dollars of revenue to the state. Medical marijuana advocates from around the world are expected to attend the convention. Hundreds of booths will be set up and there is expected to be thousands of giveaways. Live concerts and a Hot Kush Girl contest will be hosted by ROOR. The resting lounge will include food, full bar and massage chairs. Guest speakers will include grow experts, industry leaders, advocates, attorneys and more. Organization leaders are expecting the World Cannabis Convention to experience a record turnout.
Boulder cannabis enthusiasts are enjoying stronger turnouts for the annual 4/20 rally. Last year, a crowd of around 10,000 people gathered together in what is referred to as the Norlin Quad near the University of Colorado campus. Approximately 20 to 25% of that number was estimated to be students of CU. Many cannabis users claim Boulder provides a more comfortable setting than Denver though spokespeople for CU tend to find the event annoying and not a very good representation of what the college is about. In the past, efforts have been made to deter the crowd of marijuana gatherers such as fertilizers on the lawn and turning on the sprinklers, but attempts have been unsuccessful. Police officials will be keeping an eye on the crowd but keeping a distance. However, any littering will be met with steep $1,000 fines.
Colorado medical marijuana patients are gearing up for what is known as International Cannabis Day on April 20th. The gathering, which begins at 4:20 pm, has become a Colorado tradition as people get together to celebrate their favorite plant. The rally is held at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver and for the first time in Colorado history, the City of Denver has granted a permit for cannabis re-legalization activists to officially hold their rally in the park. In previous years, the rallies have been relatively small, mostly due to the inability to obtain a permit. However, this year’s rally is expected to have a record turnout. Many dispensaries, including Colorado Medical Marijuana, are expected to attend the rally to show their support as well.
In a recent Denver police analysis completed late 2010 of the areas around marijuana dispensaries showed that the number of crimes in those neighborhoods dropped in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same time period in 2009. Similarly, a Denver Post analysis of crimes committed in the first 11 months of 2010 found that some Denver neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of dispensaries per capita saw bigger decreases in crime than areas with no dispensaries.
Even with this statistical data backing up claims that medical marijuana is not creating more crime, police are still not convinced. “Across the state, we’re seeing an increase in crime related to dispensaries,” says Ernie Martinez, a Denver police detective who is president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. Although the studies around medical marijuana dispensaries are not attempting to make claims that their presence is making neighborhoods safer, the decrease in crimes is difficult to attribute to any underlying factors.
In an attempt to rationalize with the police detective who may have access to more real life experiences than empirical data, there have been some documented crimes involving medical marijuana. Most notably, two robbers locked themselves in a dispensary while attempting to raid its contents. Other similar robberies have taken place across the state, as have beatings, shootings, and suspected murders. “[Marijuana dispensaries] are not taking away the underground empire of criminality,” Detective Martinez said of medical marijuana’s legitimization.
In another account solidifying the claim that there is not enough evidence to prove dispensaries can be associated with crime, a police representative explains the rational. Sgt. Steve Noblitt, a Colorado Springs police spokesman, said comparing pre- and post-dispensary crime is complicated. Given the youth most of the dispensaries are accustomed, it is difficult to compare previous crime rates to current in an effort to find some sort of accurate correlation. “We haven’t done an analysis because we don’t know what to compare it to.” This testimonial best sums up the claims on both sides of the argument that any suggestion as to whether or not these dispensaries are creating crime is evident. Therefore this evidence or lack thereof suggests that further studies must be conducted and these dispensaries are to continue to be legal parts of communities until proven to be crime contributors.
Now that restrictive Bills are in place, advocates for Colorado cannabis are staging for the next repercussive move. Marijuana advocates are expected to specifically push for statewide legalization of the production, sale, and possession of marijuana. Representatives of NORML expect to have a Bill ready for public vote in place for the 2012 election. As many have foreseen, the language of the Bill should be expected to mirror alcohol laws and restriction. Since Amendment 20 passed, the battle for legalization of marijuana in Colorado ensued. To be frank, medicinal marijuana was always intended to open the door for pure legalization; it is just coming to the precipice. One thing is certain: the battle over cannabis has just begun and the upcoming battle will be intriguing to say the least.
A poll released by Rasmussen Reports this week showed a 49% approval rate for the legalization of marijuana. This poll also showed a 39% disapproval rate with 13% undecided. Perhaps the public perception is not as sour as many media outlets suggest. Most interviewed participants who approve legalization believe it is a good source of revenue and could potentially create jobs and relieve some economic woes. Those opposed criticize the potential for higher crime rates and believe Amendment 20 was a lie. Although this poll showed potential for public support for cannabis legalization, 13% undecided could very well turn the tide towards prohibition. Cannabis in Colorado is proving to be one of the hottest and most controversial subjects in decades. Currently, there are no legalization bills in the works for Colorado, but this poll may give some momentum to legalization advocates.
House Bill 1284 has officially passed in the House and is now up for Senate approval. Basically, the Bill gives towns and cities the right to ban dispensaries and creates stronger background checks for dispensary owners. What is most disturbing is the level of white noise and propaganda being spewed from both sides. According to Colorado cannabis advocates, Bill 1284 is unconstitutional as it restricts Amendment 20, which was passed by voters. Opponents to medicinal marijuana in Colorado claim Amendment 20 was a lie and a farce and has been abused to the point where their children are exposed to a medicinal marijuana dispensary on every corner. Both views, of course, can be viewed as obtuse and reactionary. Objectively speaking, the industry boomed in a short amount of time; one should expect a defensive reaction from the public. Likewise, cannabis can have significant benefit beyond the medical trade; tax revenue alone could relieve significant budget strain for cities and the State. Unfortunately, both sides seem content with using propaganda and fear tactics to get their point across. In reality, it comes down to the potential for full blown legality; advocates want it, opponents fear it. Soon enough, initiatives and new amendments (such as initiative 47) will be presented to the voting public, thus ending the debate. This industry is legitimate; it should be allowed to thrive. Hopefully both sides will find common ground and the public will be allowed to make the choice, much like alcohol and tobacco.