Update: Rocky Mountain High and the Serious Side of Colorado Medical Marijuana

Update: New ScienceBlogs colleague, Sharon Astyk at Casaubon's Book, brought my attention to the fact that this local southern Colorado story has been picked up by CNN.

Although I originally wrote this post rather tongue-in-cheek, some scientific evidence has accumulated for the benefits of cannabis in neuropathic pain, cancer pain and nausea, as well as muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis. For what appears to be a subset of individuals, marijuana is superior to prescription drugs in terms of efficacy and side effect profile. Equivocal results with a standardized cannabis extract oromucosal spray product have just been reported in this review.

In 2000, Coloradans voted to approve Amendment 20 to the state constitution which permits dispensaries to provide marijuana to up to 200 approved patients. This cap has since been lifted, leading to a sharp increase in medical marijuana use in the state.

Patients enroll with the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (four-page PDF description here, forms here). As of 31 August 2009, the state reported that 14,377 patients hold registry cards; consistent with the known clinical efficacy of marijuana, the most commonly approved use is for muscle spasms, representing 29% of approved users.

As one might suspect, marijuana dispensaries of various sorts have sprouted up all across the state. With regulation developing slowly, some resemble glorified head shops while other are sterile clinical offices. As a result, Westword, the local independent weekly, has enlisted two dispensary reviewers who are each state-certified medical marijuana patients. Westword's Joel Warner wrote in greater detail back in February about the literal Wild West of Colorado's medical marijuana industry.

An even more unclear area is who is actually authorized to grow cannabis to wholesale to dispensaries. Currently, one applies to be a "care-giver" but one is only a care-giver if a registered patient lists one as such - an odd chicken-or-the-egg arrangement. In late October, the state ruled that care-givers/growers must do more than provide cannabis; they must also provide supportive medical or social services. A hearing had been scheduled for this Wednesday, 16 December, to repeal this supportive care stipulation but the CDPHE has now indicated the hearing is postponed.

So, the state of medical marijuana in Colorado is very much in a state of flux.

Well, actually the high plains, not quite the mountains.

Mt Maestas 06.26.02.jpg

I've recently spoken quite fondly about how special this part of southern Colorado is to me.

"This is me and my mom's little marijuana farm," Jason said, motioning to a small group of structures and vehicles.

The second of their two greenhouses sits next to a small motor-home where Diane oversees the operation.

"I sold my salon and moved down to the country," Diane said.

The pair now grows their crops in La Veta, Colorado southwest of Walsenburg, nearly 200 miles from where Diane used to own a successful Aveda Salon . . .

. . . She went on to say the grow operation is an adventure she never thought she'd take after years of catching Jason with pot and throwing it away.

Her son now claims he grosses $5,000 a day as a certified medicine provider, paying city and state taxes since day one.

Not to be too critical, but the article is poorly written with a typo and one case where two lines say virtually the same thing.

Perhaps the writer (who is not named) was sampling a bit of the goods.

Looks like I've found a good retirement business for Rancho Pharmboy, our bit of meadow not far from the Irwin's farm.

Maybe a little father-daughter thing to bond with the PharmKid down the road.

Source: Mother and Son Growing Medical Marijuana in Southern Colorado - KKTV


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The fiber makes rope and nice clothing. I had a hemp shirt that was marvelously soft and comfortable in humid conditions but also very hard wearing. Had because a girlfriend decided she liked it more than I did. Easy come, easy go. The seeds can be used for cooking oil and will run a diesel with a little processing. what isn't usable for fiber, food, fuel or pharmacology can go for fodder. Very laid back goats. Rancho Pharmboy could be largely self-sufficient.

It is still possible to get hemp clothing. I even found hemp knitting yarn at a neighborhood yarn shop.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Dec 2009 #permalink

Actually the plants grown for medicinal purposes would have little in common with the plants used for hemp production or seed cultivation. The grand irony of this is that the price of high grade 'medical' marijuana is so high that it dissuades anybody form growing marijuana for any other purpose, such as hemp production or seed cultivation (another factor are laws that limit crop size). The government logic looks something like this: 'marajuana is such a dangerous drug that I'll only let you grow the really good stuff that gets you incredibly baked.'

Brian - One of the reasons I combined the various varieties of hemp: industrial fiber, fine fiber, oil, and medicinal, is that there is some overlap between varieties, and because US law does not often differentiate.

As far as the law is usually applied growing 100 pounds of industrial fiber hemp, suitable mainly for rope and pretty much useless as a psychoactive, will get you as many years in jail as growing 100 pounds of buds powerful enough to keep a small city legless for a month.

If your facing two-to-ten in jail either way it makes sense to make it worth your time. Of course the research and development is going to follow the money. Average potency of street marijuana is way up over the last thirty years and growers have shifted increasingly to fast growing highly specialized hybrids and growing them inside.

I agree it is a poorly written and pretty silly article. What interests me about it is the evolving market and its agricultural implications - hemp (and pot) are actually pretty good rotational crops for a large chunk of the US, and if we could grow hemp to replace some cotton, would make a dent in pesticide use.

One of my readers commented that growing pot could be a gateway drug...to growing food ;-).