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Boulder's the happiest city in the USA: How much does weed help?

Lists about cities! Here in Colorado, we love 'em! Because they're usually flattering -- like the ones that named Denver the 13th best place in the country for singles and in the top ten for raising children.

But these achievements are piddling in comparison to Boulder's finish in a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index -- as, essentially, the happiest community in America.

Which raises an important question, particularly for all those marijuana advocates out there: How much of a part did weed play in the ranking?

Well, here are the measures the Gallup-Healthways used to reach their conclusion:

Life Evaluation: Personal assessments of one's present life and life in five years, on a scale of 0 to 10.

Emotional Health: Measures a composite of respondents' daily experiences, including laughter, happiness, worry, anger and stress.

Work Environment: Measures job satisfaction, ability to use one's strengths at work, trust and openness in the workplace and whether one's supervisor treats him or her more like a boss or a partner.

Physical Health: Measures chronic diseases, sick days, physical pain, daily energy and other aspects of physical health.

Healthy Behaviors: Measures smoking, consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercise.

Basic Access: Measures basic needs optimal for a healthy life, such as access to food and medicine, having health insurance and feeling safe while walking at night.

Let's take these one at a time. Marijuana lovers praise their favorite sacrament for, among other things, the feelings of euphoria it creates, which could definitely boost the "Life Evaluation" and "Emotional Health" numbers; medical marijuana backers have documented its success at soothing pain, thereby helping the "Physical Health" figures; and the increasing number of dispensaries in the city seems to be addressed by the "Basic Access" category.

That leaves "Healthy Behaviors" as the only possible debit. After all, smoking is generally considered to be bad for you -- although doctors usually focus their ire on tobacco as opposed to other burnable organic products.

So don't worry, Boulder. Be happy.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts