Our Ten Most Popular Marijuana Stories of 2019

Colorado's marijuana landscape continued growing in 2019.EXPAND
Colorado's marijuana landscape continued growing in 2019.
Jake Holschuh
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Our readers clicked on a wide range of marijuana topics in 2019, showing interest in information they could apply to their daily lives, such as a list of places to burn a joint outside their homes, as well as in speculative fun, like South Park's foray into the cannabis world. As we review 2019 and all of the skunky curveballs it threw at us, here are the ten most popular marijuana stories of the year on westword.com, according to our readers.

Fifteen Places Where You Can Consume Weed Legally in Denver (Not Including Your House)
This list was originally published in 2018 but has been updated several times. New places for social cannabis use come and go around Denver, with only a short list of businesses able to stay open. With a new state law now allowing social consumption business licenses, this list could get longer next year.

The Six Largest Dispensary Chains in Colorado
The placeholders on this list may have shifted places since the beginning of 2019, but the names remain the same — and of interest to both customers and industry players. You can expect the roster to change quite a bit in 2020, now that publicly traded companies are allowed to participate in Colorado's cannabis industry. In fact, two of the chains on this list (the Green Solution and Starbuds) have already agreed to sell nearly thirty stores between them to publicly held corporations.

In Random Mold Tests at 25 Denver Dispensaries, 80 Percent Fail
Dispensary recalls over mold and yeast concerns started happening in 2018 and only increased in 2019. Rumors of mold issues were even connected to supply shortages in Colorado's cannabis industry, and regulators took notice. Over the summer, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment announced that it would conduct random assessments of 25 dispensaries to get a better sense of potential contamination issues. That report is still months from being published, but Westword learned of the tests and analyzed 25 DDPHE dispensary inspection reports filed over a two-day span in September. Of the reports filed between September 9 and September 11, twenty listed at least one or more hold-and-quarantine order for cannabis flower, shake or pre-rolled joints, an 80 percent failure rate.

The failure rate highlights issues with Colorado's state testing requirements for mold and yeast, as well as a lack of education about how certain microbial organisms affect humans after being ignited and inhaled. As Colorado regulators and cannabis growers try to handle the spores, the recalls continue.

Suds ’n' Buds: Lagunitas Brings Hoppy Cannabis Drinks to Colorado
People in Colorado are interested in beer, weed and Lagunitas. Shocking.

Colorado's Marijuana Laws Are About to Change...Big Time
In 2019, Colorado saw its biggest year in marijuana policy reform since 2012, when voters legalized the plant recreationally. Emboldened by the election of cannabis-friendly governor Jared Polis, bills opening Colorado up to social pot use, commercial cannabis delivery, new medical marijuana conditions and much more passed through the state legislature this year, setting a high bar for the General Assembly in 2020.

This isn't the first time we've seen Tegridy Farms from South Park.
This isn't the first time we've seen Tegridy Farms from South Park.

Is South Park Joining the Marijuana Industry?
Sort of an article, sort of a wet dream. In July, we discovered that the South Park guys had started poking fun at the legal pot industry again, making shorts aimed at MedMen, a multi-state dispensary chain that had come under media fire for a number of reasons. But we also noticed something else: South Park's creators also made a website dedicated to the show's parody weed brand, Tegridy Farms, and registered several websites indicating more pot-centric weed branding by South Park in the future.

Nearly six months later, we haven't seen or heard any reports of South Park joining the legal cannabis industry, but it has made fun of it much more than anticipated during its latest season.

The ABCs of CBD in Colorado
If you thought 2018 was the year of CBD, then 2019 must've been really annoying. But if anything, the CBD-on-everything trend shows a public hunger for knowledge and information about cannibidiol, the non-intoxicating compound in marijuana and hemp that has shown promise in treating certain forms of pain, anxiety, inflammation and epilepsy. To help Coloradans and visitors to this state know more about CBD and Colorado's unique laws surrounding it, we wrote this guide to the laws surrounding CBD, the plants it comes from, where to find it and how to use it.

Largest Pot Bust in Colorado History Claims Over 80,000 Plants
Colorado law enforcement has announced plenty of black-market marijuana busts since the plant was legalized in 2012, but most of them have taken place in rural areas, largely in southern Colorado. But in May, the Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration and several Colorado district attorneys announced what was described as the largest collective marijuana bust in Colorado history, in which over 80,000 marijuana plants, 41 homes, 25 vehicles and more than $2.1 million were seized, largely in suburban communities in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

"To be clear, these grows are not ones that were otherwise legal under state law. These are pure black market," Jason Dunn, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, said in May. "We want people to know these grow operations are not occurring in abandoned houses or poorer parts of the metro area. These are happening in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, [where] many of us live and raise families."

Safety of Vaping Cannabis Oil Challenged as Hospital Cases Continue
This was our first article about the public health crisis surrounding THC oil vaping, before well over 2,000 recorded cases of pulmonary illnesses were reported and at least four dozen people died. Both marijuana and nicotine products have been linked to cases in Colorado and around the country. Although the vast majority of users who became sick from marijuana vaping products were using black-market cartridges with traces of harmful pesticides and additives, at least one death was reportedly connected to a legal product purchased from a dispensary in Oregon.

After this report and many others like it, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division banned any marijuana vaping products with vitamin E acetate — a chemical linked to vaping illness by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — along with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil), two other chemical vaping additives.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Weed Edibles
An old question with newer answers, thanks to the increasing prevalence of edible weed in our households. We spoke with a veterinarian to learn more about keeping edibles — which tend to be covered in chocolate, sugar and other sweet treats — out of a dog's reach, as well as what to do and who to call if a pet does eat an edible, and how to care for the animal once marijuana's effects kick in.

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