Think of the Colorado State Fair, and visions of endless funnel cake, mutton bustin', carnival rides, 70s rock bands playing past their prime, puke-smelling midway rides, horse shows and rodeos come to mind.
Starting this year, though, the Cannabis Patients Network would like to add something to that list: medical marijuana.
Last week, CPN was officially approved to have the state fair's first-ever medical-marijuana-related booth.
But the group won't be showing off monster buds or holding a best-joint-rolling contest. Instead, the booth will be about education, and with an estimated 500,000 visitors passing by over the length of the fair, the folks at CPN figure they'll have their work cut out for them.
"The real goal here is to normalize [medical cannabis] and make the stigma go away," says CPN director Regina Nelson. Currently, the organization is looking for patient volunteers to help man the booth and talk to fair-goers about their personal experience with medical marijuana. It might seem easy to find such people in a state with more than 100,000 MMJ patients, but Nelson says it's tough these days.
Since the passage of Amendment 64, she has seen people become more hesitant to talk about medical cannabis. "Here's what I find really interesting," she says. "We pull up in Nowheresville, Arkansas, and they have the neighbors lined up to talk to us. We come to Colorado, and [patients] are afraid to do interviews. Why? Because of all of the issues in the state going on around recreational. There's some validity to that from a patient perspective. They don't want people to look at them as recreational users."
However, Nelson adds, "we are finally seeing a split between recreational and medical, and I think that's really good."
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One thing CPN hopes to demonstrate at the fair is that medical cannabis is still a very valid treatment. Volunteers will be handing out information on cannabis and cancer, the different ways cannabis can be ingested, medical cannabis for minors, and the growing use of cannabis by veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The booth is also part of a membership drive for CPN's new Cannabis Patient Network Institute, which officially kicks off on August 8. The organization aims to focus more on patient-centered education and advocacy nationwide. By the fall, CPN would like to begin doing patient-narrative-based research, starting with a study of veterans and their medical cannabis usage -- whether state-legal or not.
The Colorado State Fair runs from August 23 to September 2 in Pueblo. For tickets and more information, visit coloradostatefair.com. To volunteer with CPN, contact Regina Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.