The paranoid stoner who seems overly concerned that the government is keeping tabs on his or her movements and behavior is a classic marijuana-user stereotype. But when government organizations like the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment discuss pilot population health surveillance programs that are currently in operation, it's not hard to see why pot-smokers might be a little paranoid -- perhaps justifiably.
In an all-day meeting on Thursday, August 14 -- which was not considered an "open" meeting, so members of the media and marijuana activists were not invited, although Westword was able to attend electronically after we referenced open-meeting rules -- Tista Ghosh and Mike Van Dyke of CDPHE and Jill Bonczynski of Tri-County Health Department discussed various surveillance initiatives, including one pilot surveillance program that would track marijuana use among pregnant women.
According to Ghosh, certain hospitals approached CDPHE with concerns about increases in marijuana use among pregnant women. It is not clear whether the reported increase of marijuana use among pregnant women is the result of increased honesty from patients who are reporting on their substance use, or whether the bump reflects a true increase in marijuana use.
This particular pilot surveillance project involves asking standard questions about prenatal care in specific hospitals (the names of participating hospitals were not disclosed), and matching the responses to the questions with the state birth defects registry to determine what effects marijuana use has on birth defects.
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Another pilot surveillance program is taking place at a hospital in a resort town and is examining ski and snowboard injuries connected with marijuana use.
And WIC is also conducting a pilot surveillance study regarding marijuana use that began on August 4: Pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women who use WIC services are asked to fill out a survey that asks about illegal drug use. According to Boncynzski, WIC can't survey every woman due to consent laws; participants must be eighteen or older and able to take and read the survey on their own. "We are presenting it as an anonymous survey," she explained. The two WIC locations currently participating in the surveillance pilot are the Arapahoe County WIC clinic at 15559 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora and the Elbert County WIC clinic in Elizabeth.
Other topics of interest at the meeting included infused product safety guidelines, the safety of CDPHE investigators as they monitor the industry (the "lingering odor that accompanies investigators after their visits" was mentioned as a potential public-relations issue, and it was disclosed that Febreze is a possible solution to this particular problem), educating the public about edible consumption, and whether the state should consider banning concentrates that use potentially dangerous extraction techniques. Have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.