Browsing: Legalize It

hemp.ben.droz.4Ben Droz

Congress made long-awaited history this week when it put language that would legalize industrial hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law.

Colorado, which has more acreage devoted to registered hemp farms than any other state under a pilot program, is better equipped for the predicted boom than most of the country. Appearing in a joint press conference on December 14 outside the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, several key members of the Colorado Legislature and the hemp industry shared their enthusiasm over new opportunities opened up by the Farm Bill.

norml-summer-camp-marijuana-flag-smores-collins-2018 (1)Jacqueline Collins

While immigration, health care and gun control continue to divide the country, at least one issue is starting to bring us together: legalizing cannabis.

After the November 6 election, Michigan will be joining Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont as the tenth state to legalize recreational cannabis, while Utah and Missouri each approved medical marijuana measures. And those weren’t the only victories for cannabis.

hemperorCourtesy of New Belgium Brewing

It took long enough, but the country is finally starting to come around to hemp. Kansas is just taking a little longer than the rest of us.

The non-psycoactive cannabis plant and the oils, fibers and cannabinoids derived from it have seen a huge boom in consumer interest over the past few years and grew 16 percent in sales from 2016 to 2017, according to a recent analysis from Hemp Industry Daily. Hemp has even become an ingredient in beer, with Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing Company (the fourth-largest craft brewery in the country) releasing a pale ale in March that is brewed with hemp seeds to extract cannabis-like flavor and aromas.

medical marijuanaScott Lentz

Four weeks from now, voters in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah will all be deciding measures that would lift legal restrictions on marijuana — but all in different ways. And Colorado, too, has another marijuana-related issue on the ballot.

A Michigan ballot proposal would set up a licensed retail system similar to Colorado’s, while North Dakota voters will decide whether to allow marijuana possession and distribution (but without a comprehensive business licensing system), as well as expunging certain marijuana-related crimes.

vaping weedJacqueline Collins

Denver may be a leader in regulating recreational cannabis sales, but it’s hard to say the same about recreational cannabis consumption. Despite allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in town for over a decade and retail pot shops for nearly five years, Denver’s attempts to address social pot use have fallen just a few degrees above flat.

To be fair to Denver, the rest of Colorado isn’t exactly diving in, either, and neither are most of the other states legalizing the plant. Denver was the country’s first city to approve a program for issuing consumption licenses to qualified businesses, and one pot lounge is up and running, with another approved business on the way — but the program has its limitations. Approved by voters in 2016, the social consumption initiative was tweaked during its lengthy implementation process, with disputed location qualifications and restricted revenue streams added, to the dismay of the initiative’s proponents.

Wanda JamesCourtesy of Wanda James

For legal cannabis to spread across the country, people need to speak up in more ways than with Facebook comments and on Gallup polls. Lucky for cannabis users, Wanda James can be loud enough for all of us. The pot entrepreneur and activist was the first black woman to open a dispensary in Colorado, and was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 Cannabis Business Awards for her role in the commercial rise of the plant.

But even with all her success in pushing cannabis forward, James still has an ax to grind with state regulators and corporate interests. She’s frequently at government hearings speaking up for consumers’ rights, social consumption and fair pot policy, and is a regular presence at public demonstrations criticizing law enforcement or elected officials for anti-cannabis actions. Westword recently caught up with James to see what she’s been up to.

patrice-3002Maria Levitov

Trail Blazers is a series of portraits by photographer Maria Levitov spotlighting cannabis consumers from all walks of life.

Like it or not, Denver is quickly becoming a city of transplants. Patrice Ingham wasn’t born very far away, originally hailing from Wyoming before eventually ending up in Denver — but she took pit stops in New York and Washington, D.C., along the way. Now the 27-year-old is switching careers as she finds her connection to the city, and she’s using cannabis to help the transition.

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