Pediatrician: I would rather my kids choose marijuana instead of alcohol

One of the most viral pieces of marijuana-rooted journalism on the Internet in the last week wasn’t written by a newspaper veteran or hot-shot blogger. The column, rather, was penned by a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, and it ran in The New York Times. In Aaron E. Carroll’s column “Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question,” the doctor-educator addresses a question he’s hearing more and more often lately: “Which would I rather my children use — alcohol or marijuana?”

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#Coleg Notebook: Maximum fight for minimum wage

Minimum wage comes to the Capitol  

Advocates for raising the minimum wage to at least $12.50 an hour rallied on the Capitol steps today in support of two bills facing an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Senate.

MinimumwagechartAccording to the above poll from Myers Research, two-thirds of voters support raising the minimum wage.

Not over a barrel yet 

Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, plans to take her advocacy for the rain-barrel bill to the Senate. The bill would allow Coloradans to collect run-off from roofs for gardens. Saine was one of the few members in her caucus to support the bill, which she says is just common sense.

“It’s true conservation because it helps everyone,” said Saine, pointing out that water collected in rain barrels and used to water plants eventually ends up exactly where it was headed in the first place – just a little bit later.

For whom the test standardizes

Ricardo Martinez, left, chating at minimum wage protest.

Ricardo Martinez, left, chatting at minimum wage protest.

Not everyone wants to see standardized tests slashed. Activists from Padres and Jovenes Unidos arrived in force at the Capitol today not just to support raising the minimum wage but to support evaluations to ensure a minimum standard of education.

“We want to make sure all kids get access to a great education. And by all, we mean all,” said Ricardo Martinez, a director at Unidos. “We don’t want to have kids of color and poor kids getting lost in the mix. For us, evaluations are a way to measure that opportunity gap.”

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Forbes just hired Julie Weed to cover pot. And yes, that’s her real last name

Forbes recently announced that contributor Julie Weed will cover the legal marijuana industry for the business magazine — “and yes, that’s my real last name,” Weed says in her bio.

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Mining History for Horror

While Colorado mourned the 2014 centennial of the Ludlow Massacre with earnest theatrical reenactments, filmmaker Kirk Loudon was busy cooking up his own morbid take on the event: Diggerz: Black Lung Rises.

The movie reinvents the Ludlow Massacre, the day the Colorado National Guard and the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company attacked more than a thousand striking miners and their families and killed 19.

The movie’s antagonist, Black Lung, is a wicked spirit, symbolizing 13 murdered miners. Every fifty years, he returns for vengeance and kills 13 townspeople.

Loudon, a third-time filmmaker, plans to shoot his upcoming gore-fest in Trinidad, Colorado, where he has owned a home for the past five years and has immersed himself in local lore.

“We’re going to rewrite a little bit of Ludlow history,” said Loudon.

Loudon’s last film, Dawn of the Crescent Moon, was a thriller that relied on suspense and mystery to scare the audience. This time, he wants to lure kids with a boatload of blood and guts.

Loudon is casting the film this weekend and plans to shoot over the next year.

For more: Ludlow: One hundred years of silence

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Denver seeks to stop 60 pot-growing collectives; plant count up for vote

Denver officials may shut down dozens of pot-growing collectives scattered across the city. Officials say they’re trying to shut down about 60 collective growing operations.

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Hick on Vaccines: Strong statement, still no real plan

DENVER — Governor John Hickenlooper has recently made a strong case for the need to raise Colorado’s bottom-of-the-barrel vaccination rates, but he has fallen short of outlining a specific plan to make it more difficult to obtain vaccination exemptions or to address widespread public skepticism toward the science of immunization and fears about its safety.

“Kids that can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” Hickenlooper told the Independent earlier this month. “There are these urban myths — and in many cases these are now suburban myths and rural myths — that somehow vaccinations increase the probability of autism or other unnamed maladies. But there is no science to support this. The science clearly states that having more and more people unvaccinated puts other children at risk.”

He echoed warnings public health experts have been sounding for years.

“One of the basic principles of community is that we look out for each other,” Hickenlooper said. “In places where we’re clearly not taking on an additional risk but providing greater safety to our neighbors, that’s generally how we should act.”

The point Hickenlooper and so many others have been trying to make is that immunization science is about protecting the health of the community and its weakest members — infants, seniors and immune-compromised people. Vaccinations work in concert to form a larger bulwark against stalking diseases. The point is to prevent fast-moving outbreaks.

‘Live and Let Live’

But Colorado is in many ways still a culturally libertarian “live and let live” state, and that is reflected in its loose rules around immunization. The Centennial State is among 20 that allow parents to cite any personal opposition to immunization in order to opt-out their children. Vaccination rates here for infants and preschoolers have ranked near the bottom nationally for years. In 2013, nearly 550 reported cases of vaccine-preventable illness among Colorado school children lead to hospitalization that cost $29.2 million, according to a report by Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition.

Colorado experienced a whooping cough outbreak beginning in 2012, where the number of reported cases hit epidemic levels two years running. Yet Colorado still has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation among kindergartners for measles, leading many to believe it’s just a matter of time before that highly contagious and dangerous disease enjoys a run in schools across the state.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

California, home to a popular “alternative medicine” movement that dates back decades, was home to a measles outbreak earlier this year. Facing high vaccine opt-out rates there, Gov. Jerry Brown is supporting lawmakers who are pushing to write new tougher vaccine exemption policies. Five members of the legislature there have said they planned to introduce legislation to abolish all religious and other personal-beliefs exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated before starting school, leaving only exemptions for medical reasons in place.

Such a move seems highly unlikely in Colorado. The legislature here has wrestled with the vaccine question for years to no effect, and this legislative session, the Republican majority in the Senate has voiced sympathy for the wing of the anti-vaccination movement that sees immunization requirements as the kind of state intrusion on personal decision making that it is better in the long run to resist.

Bring on the Quirky

Given the apparent gridlock on the issue, the thinking among state politics watchers has been that Hickenlooper will mount a public-interest education campaign, the kind he has been so good at undertaking in the past, where he makes himself the face of the message. As Mayor of Denver, he famously appeared in winningly oddball public service TV ads, including one that saw him parachute from an airplane, touting the benefits of a proposed unpopular tax increase. “Voting yes … will help lift us up,” he said as he floated away into the ether.

Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette doesn’t possess the same kind of oddball charisma and she’s not as well known as Hickenklooper, but she took it upon herself earlier this year to campaign for vaccinations. She taped a public service announcement in her offices and gave it to Colorado television and radio stations.

“She recorded [it] after the measles outbreaks became especially worrying,” said DeGette spokesman Matt Inzeo. “She is the top Democrat at the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which oversees public health, and, after bringing in several top Center for Disease Control and National Institute of Health officials, she thought it was worthwhile… We were grateful so many [broadcasters] have been willing to share it and get the word out.”

But in reply to several requests for comment on the vaccination issue, the governor and his staff — while always clear that the administration fully believed the state’s low vaccination rates were unacceptable — never hinted at plans for a larger advocacy campaign.

That seems out of character. Hickenlooper has shined as a leader when public health and safety in the state have been at risk. His calm and inclusive leadership during the historic floods of 2013 made national news. He was everywhere in the waterlogged regions and all over the media. He successfully tapped local and national officeholders to help green-light material and financial assistance and he encouraged politicians across the aisles to work together — and to be seen working together — to support constituents.

Reacting to floods and fires is the business of disaster relief. Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer, pediatrician Larry Wolk, said Colorado has to begin to work toward vaccine-related disaster prevention.

“We already have the evidence,” he said. “Cases of whooping cough are 200 percent higher here in Colorado due to our below-average immunization rates.”

Wolk would like to see the state tighten the rules around immunization exemptions, but he said the department of public health can’t do that alone. It would take legislation to make it happen.

And that’s where things get complicated.

Forced Group-Think

Even though there has been no bill introduced this session targeting vaccine opt-outs, passionate citizen testimony in favor of broad exemption policy has filled committee hearings on other measures, such as the “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” introduced by conservative Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. His bill aims to elevate parental-power in relation to the state in the public sphere.

Indeed, hours before Hickenlooper argued in favor of vaccination as a community value, Neville took aim at a bill that would have required naturopaths to notify patients or their parents about the Center for Disease Control’s recommended vaccinations.

“I want to make the point that, if we can do this as a body, what are we doing to dictate next that our doctors or naturopaths must do?”

Democrats and three swing-district Republicans killed the amendment. But the chamber’s Republican leaders all voted with Neville.

Even in the Democratic-controlled House, tightening vaccine exemptions is an uphill battle.

Freshman Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, has been poring over the Center for Disease Control report that puts Colorado last in the nation for early childhood vaccinations.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “If you put ten people in a room where someone with measles has been, nine of them will catch it.”

Lontine was chief of staff for physician-senator Irene Aguliar, D-Denver, two years ago when the state legislature started its most recent debate about immunization rates, and she watched with interest last year as the debate continued.

Last year’s vaccine bill, HB 14-1288, garnered headlines and fueled debate even though its proposed changes to existing law were fairly modest. The measure would have required parents seeking exemptions to provide a doctor’s note or take a 45 minute online course about the medical science of immunization. It also required schools to report student-vaccination rates. The bill would not have removed any existing exemptions.

The measure, co-sponsored by Aguilar and Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, was pilloried as government overreach, a form of enforced group-think and an assault on individual rights. It passed the House and was gutted in the Senate. The final law requires only that school vaccine rates be made available online.

Throwing up Hands and a Winking Opportunity

Lontine said that that history at the Capitol and the partisan edge that characterizes politics in the state more generally presses hard against launching any new efforts on the issue.

“I think people outside of this building want something to be done. But here, at the Capitol, it seems like that really loud vocal minority is the one that gets their way,” she said. “What would work is getting rid of the personal exemption, but that’s a huge battle — and actually getting rid of the religious exemption, too, but that would be an even bigger battle…

“I’m throwing up my hands here,” she said at last. “I really, literally, don’t know the answer.”

But Rep. Pabon isn’t ready to give up. He said he thought all the recent coverage in the state and national media has set opportunity winking on the horizon.

“There are more conversations happening,” he said.

 

Image of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper via Flickr.

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Wiretap: Gun-shop suicide watch; Cruz news; trains off track

Shop Watch

“In Colorado, about 420 people die by suicide each year using a gun,” writes Amy Hamilton, in The Daily Sentinel. Her story chronicles the efforts of The Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Network to educate gun shop owners about signs of suicidal behavior.

Field Research

Boulder-based researchers will conduct 15 flights over oil fields in the West to measure air quality. These scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are on the watch for levels of loose methane. Via the Daily Camera.

Coal Facts

A coal train jumped the tracks near Husdon, Colorado, on Sunday, spilling tons of coal from at least 27 cars, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. No injuries have been reported. This derailment is the latest in a spate of many. The number of rail cars carrying crude oil is way up, from 9,500 in 2008 to almost 500,000 in 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Rough Roads

Governor John Hickenlooper imported Shailen Bhatt, from Delaware, to head the Colorado Department of Transportation. Upon arrival, he started making wisecracks about the state’s tax-resistant politics, describing the planned opt-in toll lanes between Denver and Boulder as a “libertarian’s dream.” Via Monte Whaley of The Denver Post.

Bloated Budget

Years behind deadline, Department of Veterans Affairs officials are scrambling to explain the jaw-dropping $1.7 billion budget now tacked to the new Aurora hospital. They failed to listen to the contract; they failed to examine the plans; the plans weren’t complete, they said. Now, some in Washington are refusing to sign away more money to the department without a specific explanation of what went wrong, reports the Aurora Sentinel.

Head Start

Ted Cruz is going to announce today that he’s running for president in a speech at Liberty University, making him the first candidate to be officially in the race. And he just might have a better chance than you think. If you want a great look at Cruz, read this Erica Greider profile — The Man in the Arena – that ran last year in Texas Monthly.

Recorded Facts

Marco Rubio says Obama says nicer things about Iran than he does about Israel. Uh, let’s go to the tape. Via New York magazine.

False Fears

As Obamacare hits its 5-year anniversary — if you start counting from when Obama signed it into law — it turns out that most of the predictions were dead wrong. Via the National Journal.

Shooting Squad

A Southern California lawyer wants to put a “shoot the gays” initiative on the state ballot. The initiative — which would allow citizens to kill gays — obviously can’t go very far, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the attorney general may have no choice but to allow signatures to be collected.

Photograph courtesy of Kool Cats Photography

 

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#Coleg Notebook: Crowd investing; protecting the construction-defect industry

Coming to a Colorado biz near you: Crowd investing 

Back when marijuana was first becoming legal, the folks at the Securities and Exchange Commission noticed an innovative, albeit illegal, trend: would-be weed entrepreneurs were using Craigslist to find investors.

Currently, even if you have an idea for a legal business, securing investors is a long and costly task. You have to file with the federal SEC and at the state level and, even after you’ve spent thousands on lawyers, you’re only able to accept investments from folks with an annual income above $200,000 or $1 million in assets.

“Rich people can fund other rich people’s ideas, is basically where we are in 2015,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.

To Pabon’s mind, there’s all kinds of problems with this model — it exacerbates gentrification, makes it difficult for working- and lower-middle class people to build wealth, and it blows an opportunity for local businesses to become true community affairs.

So, following some loosening of federal investment policy in part motivated by Colorado’s own digital entrepreneurs, Pabon has introduced a bipartisan bill to legalize and facilitate “crowd investment” by Coloradans in Colorado-owned-and-operated businesses (sorry folks, weed is still out though — the business has to be legal at the federal level).

“Crowd funding completely turns investment on its head… It changes the dynamic of who can be an entrepreneur and who can’t,” said Pabon. “If someone has a mom-and-pop idea at their dining room table, or in their garage, or wherever, they can go to friends and neighbors on their own street and ask them to invest in this idea with them.”

Pabon’s “democratized capital” would be limited to $5,000 per investor for a total of no more than $1 million, and the Colorado Securities Commissioner would oversee the program — to protect investors from getting bilked.

HB 1246 has already passed the House. If all goes well under Majority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker,’s sponsorship in the Senate, Coloradans could be clicking around a legal, Craigslist-like, crowd investment site as early as this summer.

 

Construction defects debate draws heavies 

There were Mayors, in particular Denver’s Michael Hancock, at the Capitol Wednesday as the great construction defects debate rolled into the evening. The message? We’ve spent a lot of time and energy building mass transit and now nobody wants to build cheap condos near the stops, or anywhere else for that matter.

SB 177, which passed its first committee, would push homeowner complaints about shoddy construction to arbitration instead of to court. Advocates of the bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship, say this would make it less risky, and thus cheaper, for developers to build condos. Opponents say So don’t build shoddy condos!

“I think a vote for this bill is a vote for, based on the testimony we’ve heard, our chambers of commerce, our mayors and our building contractors,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver. “A vote against this bill is a vote for the homeowners whose largest investment of their life has been impacted by a construction defect.”

 

Daww, rain barrels

Why is the legalize rain barrels bill so cute? Is it the charming DIY-orientation — a science fair approach to water conservation? Is it the repeat references to watering flowers and heirloom tomatoes? Is it that finally, finally, finally there’s a bill on water policy just about everyone can understand? It is all these things. For more on the policy we direct you to water nerds: here and here.

 

DUIrony draws Twitter pile-on

The optics aren’t great. Max Potter likely wrote the speeches in which Gov. Hickenlooper has been making a strong case for a felony DUI bill. On Wednesday night Potter was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Hickenlooper spokesperson Kathy Green said Potter hadn’t been at work at the time. Potter apologized and said it was a serious lapse that he regretted. There was also trial-by-Twitter:

 

 

 

 


Image by Rocío Lara

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Hemp review: Miracle Oil’s hyperbole aside, it’s a winner for hands and nails

With an imperious name and bold claims about its effectiveness, Miracle Oil from Earthly Body holds court among hemp seed oil cosmetics.

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