Remember when marijuana was still illegal? We barely do. Westword's coverage of the Colorado cannabis scene has taken readers through the legislation that first made medical marijuana legal through the early days of unregulated chaos to full legalization and into 2015's quirky, but ever-maturing industry. Some older issues, like edibles packaging, remain hot topics while new ones, like arguments over social consumption, have sparked controversy and debate. And 2016 will likely open our eyes to more interesting topics when it comes to the advancing culture, science and politics of marijuana. But here are the top pot stories from 2015.
10. High Times Cannabis Cup: A Rookie's Experience, Winners and More
"The sight of police officers safely directing traffic in and out of an event designated for pot-smoking was a sweet piece of irony any cannabis lover would enjoy, and the diversity of the crowd highlighted the human connectivity cannabis creates. Of course, there was an abundance of dreadlocks, Grateful Dead T-shirts and baggy pants. But middle-aged men wearing college football gear, groups of affluent thirty-somethings and women old enough to be your grandma were puffing joints and laughing right beside them."
9. No More Easy Red Cards: Colorado's New MMJ Physician Guidelines in Place
“'As it is now, it’s mostly asking for decent record keeping, and [for] MMJ doctors to adhere to more conventional standards. It will require just a few tweaks to the way we do things,' says one medical marijuana physician. 'Hopefully, it will cut down on some of the nonsense – doctors giving out huge plant counts, giving cards to nineteen-year-olds with bullshit problems, etc. – and not become a heavy-handed, bureaucratic nightmare.'”
8. John Hickenlooper Wouldn't Reverse Amendment 64 Vote Today
Despite following the will of the people after Amendment 64 passed, Governor John Hickenlooper wasn't shy about his initial distaste for legal marijuana, saying, "federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or [Goldfish] too quickly," in 2014. Hickenlooper's tone has since changed: During a panel conversation at the 2015 Biennial of America, he said he has been impressed with the pot industry's responsibility and wouldn't reverse legalization.
7. Medical Pot for Patients on Probation was Controversial, But Now It's Law
"Afterward, Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML, urged Hickenlooper to affix his signature to it. In an e-mail to Westword, she wrote, 'This bill rights two wrongs — the wrong of denying a marijuana patient’s use of his or her doctor’s recommended treatment while on probation, and second, the wrong of wasting vital government resources by violating a person’s probation when a medical marijuana patient chooses to use that doctor-recommended treatment over (in many cases) more harmful prescription alternatives.'"
6. Colorado Hemp Honey is the Bee's Knees– And a Healthy CBD Option
"Nick French has a dozen beehives on seventy acres of a Colorado hemp farm. With these bees, he has harnessed the power of three super foods to create his Colorado Hemp Honey. Containing whole CBD hemp extract, as well as essential oils for flavoring and aromatherapy, the locally grown line of raw honeys packs a powerful healing punch. "
5. Brandon Coats MMJ Court Ruling: Business Group Cheers, NORML Boos
"The fallout from yesterday's Colorado Supreme Court ruling against paralyzed medical marijuana patient Brandon Coats, who'd challenged his firing by DISH after he failed a drug test (see our previous coverage below), was swift, passionate and divided. A major business community group cheered the decision, while marijuana advocacy organizations decried it. Representing the latter is an attorney who seems to have concluded that the Colorado court system will offer no protection to employees like Coats."
4. The Stoner Asks John Hickenlooper About Pot-Tax Holiday – And Cheetos
Our Stoner is usually the one dishing out information in his weekly "Ask a Stoner" column, but we thought it'd be fun to switch things up earlier this year by putting Governor John Hickenloper in the hot seat. In an interview with Hickenlooper and his director of marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman, the Stoner discussed Denver's unique tax break on marijuana products in September, the Governor's thoughts on eighteen months of legalized pot and his favorite late-night joke about Colorado.
3. Was Big Pharma Behind Colorado's Rejection of Medical Marijuana for PTSD?
After the director of the Colorado Health Department endorsed the addition of post traumatic stress disorder to the state's list of qualifying debilitating conditions for medical marijuana, many whom suffer from the condition hoped the Colorado Board of Health would finally allow them access to alternative treatment. The board rejected PTSD, however, citing a lack of clinical evidence and legitimate studies supporting the addition. Dr. Sue Sisley– an Arizona physician who studies the effects of marijuana on veterans suffering from PTSD – had a theory on why PTSD was rejected: "Several members who voted 'no' cited the fact that APA and other organized medicine groups oppose this initiative," she said. "I am concerned that these organized medicine groups are heavily influenced by big Pharma... Obviously, Pharma has a vested interest in suppressing these initiatives because they have the potential to harm their 'business model.'"
2. Denver Investigated 10 Pot Grows for Use of Banned Pesticides, Holds Plants
When we reported the names of ten commercial marijuana grows that were under investigation by the City of Denver for using banned and potentially harmful pesticides, nobody knew the size of the can of worms that had just opened. A developing problem in not only Colorado, but other legal states as well, the use of chemicals such as Avid, Mallet Eagle 20 and others has led to the quarantine of hundreds of thousands of plants on dozens of separate occasions since the first offenders were disciplined in March.
1. Number of Denver Trick-or-Treaters Dosed With Pot Edibles: Zero – Again
This story wasn't just our most-read marijuana story of the year, it was one of our most-read news stories overall. After fear-inducing campaigns from SMART Colorado and the Denver Police Department in 2014 and zero incidents of children accidentally eating pot-infused candy, both groups laid off the warnings in 2015. The results? Nothing different. There were no reports of Denver trick-or-treaters being given edibles on Halloween this year. Let's try to keep that number the same in 2016.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.