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Marijuana

I am the atypical weed user. I’m over 50, retired, in pain and I partake.

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Editor’s note: This is a first is a series by Lisa Wheeler who will look at what has generally been the silent group of cannabis consumers in Southern Colorado.

The walls in the waiting room are plain white—the first thing I notice when I walk into the clinic. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Yes, I was. I was envisioning black-light posters, and patchouli incense sticks, and a doctor who could have been David Wooderson with a medical degree (or maybe I’m thinking of a recent Matthew McConaughey dream?). My being here is very surreal. The room is not packed with the barely legal tourists, but instead filled with an over-50 crowd, along with their caregivers, friends, or family members. Walkers, crutches, and oxygen tanks take up space in the waiting area, as I inch my way over to the receptionist to hand over all of my paperwork, and new Colorado driver’s license. How did I end up in a doctor’s office, applying for my medical marijuana card?

It was the pain.

It all started about five years previous, I was living in Austin, TX, and I had what seemed like usual aging aches and pains for a 50-year old. I kept active by running half marathons, albeit slowly. By luck of the draw, I won a place in the New York City Marathon, which meant training in what would become the hottest year on record for the state. During the course of preparation, my aging aches became worse, and started to spread – my back pain was unbearable, which seemed to radiate to my knees, then my face, neck and shoulders. The muscle spasms were keeping me up at night. I chalked it all up to just being nervous about the big race, or my body rebelling against the punishing training in 100-degree heat, but after I crossed the Manhattan finish line, the pain didn’t go away. I went to the doctor.

“You need physical therapy,” my doctor said. “I’m also going to give you some painkillers to get you through the day.” In and out with prescriptions in hand, that was it. But it wasn’t. After months of cat and camel, clam, and pelvis rotating poses, the pain continued—the physical therapy only made it worse, and the now three-times-daily hydrocodone was affecting life at home and work.

I quickly learned that “You might” and “Let’s run some tests” were code phrases for we have no idea what’s wrong. I was a regular so much at the hospital’s imaging center that I joked that they should name the wing after me. The thickness of my doctor’s chart was bordering on War and Peace. It stopped being funny.

Spine x-rays and MRIs showed arthritis, disc bulge, herniation, spurring, and stenosis. More MRIs revealed a torn meniscus and arthritis in my knee. An ultrasound determined my muscle spasms were proctalgia fugax and pelvic floor dysfunction. The face pain was due to trigeminal neuralgia, and the overall body pain was diagnosed as fibromyalgia. My insurance denied surgery, but approved more physical therapy. My doctor gave me more pain pills.

My medicine cabinet became a pharmacy. Hydrocodone or Oxycontin for the pain, Cyclobenzaprine for the muscle spasms, Savella for the fibromyalgia, Gabapentin for the neuralgia, and Trazodone for sleep. When I wasn’t suffering from intense headaches from one pill, I was down for the count from another. The anxiety was unbearable. My doctor then suggested I go to a therapist to help me mentally cope with my physical issues. I was a mess.

I had been reading about alternative medicines for pain and muscle spasms, and my husband, who has virgin lungs and could pass any DEA test, suggested I try cannabis. Getting high in Texas was dicey. Call it paranoia or the anxiety of losing my government job, but I thought it was safer to fill my body with legal, FDA-approved prescriptions than take a chance with a friend’s easily accessible homegrown. Besides, my history with marijuana was a sitcom script.

The first time I smoked weed was in 1980. A family member lit up a glass pipe in my mother’s Pueblo backyard, and handed it to me. I coughed until I puked. A few months later I found myself on a date with a guy who filled me up with his hash brownies, and took me out to a cliff in Manitou to show me where he said Satanists hold their rituals (I doubted the two campers I saw below were practicing anything other than cooking hamburgers, but it made for a memorable evening). Flash-forward a couple of years later, when I attempted to smoke from a bong for the first time – and being very grateful that there was no YouTube in 1982 to record my instructor telling me to get the best hit I had to wrap my entire mouth around the mouthpiece. Considering cannabis as something that could help with my myriad of physical ailments wasn’t even on my radar.

Then one day I received the official notification – I was eligible to retire from my Texas state government gig. My husband soon found a job in Colorado. I was finally coming home.

The four months we were apart, setting up a home in Colorado and selling the house in Austin, had me racking up frequent flyer miles, and essentially being a lab rat when I visited. The goal was simple, or so I thought: I didn’t want to get stoned. I wanted relief. After my first ever trip to a dispensary, and a lengthy Q&A with the very patient budtender, I tried the strain he recommended. For the first time in years I slept for eight hours straight that night, and my back and neck pain had subsided.

I woke up and cried.

Due to my not-quite-resident status, I took advantage of the tourist dispensaries while in town. It was trial and error, and I quickly discovered what worked and what didn’t. By the time I had moved up in October I was off most of my pills, and I was sleeping. The pain was now manageable. It was apparent that there was nothing recreational about what I was doing and why.

“Lisa?”

The clinic’s office receptionist tells me the doctor will see me now. Armed with my Tolstoy-sized medical records, I shake hands with someone who could easily pass for my late grandfather, who I called Papa. A tall, athletic-looking man, dressed in running shoes, jeans and a casual shirt. His appearance puts me at instant ease. He grabs my charts and pours through the heap of recent and past test results, scans…and drugs.

“Were they trying to kill you?”

The question startled me, as I was anticipating the “You might” or the “Let’s run some tests” I was so used to in Texas. Doctor Papa admitted to being appalled by my current treatment, or lack thereof, and was shocked by the number of “legal” drugs I was being prescribed. He intently listens to my story, takes notes, then proceeds to spend over 30 minutes explaining what medical cannabis can and can’t do for me, what I should take, how much, when, and what I should expect, as well as other pain management options to consider. The visit was not the revolving door, hand over your papers to the doctor and they will sign, appointment I was led to believe happens at these clinics. I walk out of the room, with my signed temporary documents feeling educated, and more importantly, validated as a medical marijuana patient.

I walk past the plain white waiting room walls and smile. It’s a clean slate.

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3 Comments
  • Jay Daily

    Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your incredible story. So many people to help… #legalize #cannabis #weed #marijuana #citizenjay #dialogue #community #momentum #Justice! #CONORML #KeepOnTokin’! #TokeRadio #TheTokeOnLine #WCEG

  • Bryan D.

    good articles, thanks! most don’t really think about how hard it is to live in mid to late life with serious medical issues. the last year of my little sister’s life was made ‘better’ still horrible but better due to mmj. for us that is ALL that mattered.

    now my elderly mother who is in such severe pain due to scoliosis (as bad as it can be) she’s 76 and never used anything, avoiding even prescribed meds. finally based on our family’s experience, was able convinced her to try and the look on her face was priceless. to see someone you love suffering and then not within a minute or two? i don’t honestly know who was more relieved her or myself.

    fyi as for the story in regards to living facilities for older folks and mmj, my sister was 50 and she was cared for by the kind folks at hospice. we could in her home do what we felt was best no issues. her final week was spent in the hospital virtually comatose on pain meds. at that point it didn’t matter if she could’ve used mmj in the hospital or not.

    i never knew growing up. i always believed the stories, stigma, stereotypes and i was wrong on all counts. i only wish i didn’t have to lose my little sister to learn that lesson.

  • 78’s

    You must be reading my mail

Marijuana

In the cup of a revolution: The birth of CBD Coffee Shops

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Founding a company can be a daunting task for anyone. Starting from scratch isn’t easy, but it helps a ton if what you’re doing is important to you. David Dzurik is lucky in that way, as he found a passion that can drive him for the rest of his life. Originally inspired by beating cancer and using cannabis to help do so, Dzurik has created an extremely original brand in Deez CBD Coffee. The company combines high-quality coffee ingredients with 50% water-soluble CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that has shown tremendous promise in the healing of many ailments.

David Dzurik

As of now, you can purchase Deez CBD coffee on multiple online outlets including cbdwarewhouse.com – as well as other retail stores all over the nation.

Dzurik originally started the company using a medicated CBD tea archetype, however realizing the coffee market had so much potential, quickly jumped into production about a year ago. Within the year, the community has been very receptive of the products quality and has given a ton of praise. In a great business move, Deez Coffee partnered with the two-time award winning CBD chemists at Sacred Body CBD, giving him a constant supply of high-quality CBD.

While the movement of the company is already transitioning fast, there’s another aspect that Dzurik is even more excited to see. Deez Coffee is the inspiration for the first ever CBD infused coffee shop, which is already planning on opening in New York and quickly making its waves to the Colorado market. An idea that has already taken off in places like New Zealand and Australia.

While the company is already growing well and seems to be on the right track, Dzurik doesn’t want to stop there. He has plans for bringing back Deez Tea at some point and is very interested in expanding his product line even further.  While the healing effects of non-psychoactive CBD will always be the focus for Dzurik, he also recognizes the huge potential market for recreational THC products as well. While there’s not a legal way to regulate THC products yet, Dzurik doesn’t count out the idea for future ventures.

Working with Deez CBD Coffee over the past year, Dzurik has seen an outpouring of community support and praise. Some social cannabis clubs have been quick to carry Deez products and have even gone on to throw co-sponsored charity events in support of veterans.

Working to help the people who need help and can benefit from CBD Coffee is one of Dzurik’s biggest passions and he isn’t in the industry for the money. Being a cancer survivor himself, it’s no wonder why he believes so strongly in the powerful benefits of CBD and cannabis.

Dzurik is on the forefront of what seems to be a revolution that is slowly making its way to Colorado. The idea of CBD coffee shops hasn’t been touched in the Colorado market yet, and Deez Tea is looking to help break in on the ground floor. With a ton of passion for helping people and an high-quality product, it makes sense people are connecting with Dzurik’s mission.

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Colorado

Sal Pace: He led on cannabis, now he’s leaving office

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Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace isn’t running for re-election. That leaves a huge question mark over the next name that will lead Pueblo County on a number of issues, but particularly the marijuana issue.

Pace has been at the front of the conversation of what a legal marijuana market should look like, how it should operate and how it can be better in Pueblo and across the state.

The former State House minority leader and current county commissioner has had his name tied to the subject of marijuana since the beginning — he was elected to the legislature in 2008 and appointed to county commissioner in 2013. In 2016, Pace held tight to his support of the marijuana industry, opting to celebrate the downfall of potential industry-killer Props. 200 and 300 in Pueblo instead of watching results roll in with fellow Democrats.

The death of Pace’s father last year and the sudden death of his sister has caused the lawmaker to take a hard look at his life, notably the time spent — and not spent — with his family. He wants more of it, and so that involves less lawmaking.

“Sadly for me, it took losing my own father and sister to fully comprehend the importance of being present for my kids and wife,” Pace wrote in an editorial announcing his decision to not seek re-election. “I know that no lost experience can ever be replaced.”

In a sit-down interview with PULP, Pace talks the politics and policy of the industry and where local leaders should pay close attention to as more states legalize.

So, you’re not running for reelection. Was that a tough decision?

Nope. I think it’s important to reevaluate your values. It’s a constant struggle determining perception versus being here in the now. Ego is really based on past experiences and future expectations.

You’ve been seen as a leader for the marijuana industry in Pueblo. Do you think that will be your legacy?

That’ll be for the political pundits to decide.

How did this become your issue, anyway?

Because too many politicians are cowards. It’s a no-brainer. Especially when you look at the overwhelming support from the public. I don’t think it’s very risky at all. I feel very confident that 20 years now from now people will laugh that there was ever marijuana prohibition.

Do you think taking on marijuana policy like you did was a good political move?

I don’t know if it served me well politically. I’ve enjoyed being on the front-end of policy debates. I enjoy the opportunity to shape policy. If the goal is to be popular and reelected easily, which is the normal definition in modern-day politics, then no, this hasn’t been good for politics.

The emails and scowls and the threats I get daily response from prohibitionists? No. Other issues didn’t bring out the visceral response from the public.

It’s no secret that there has been a vocal group against the industry in Pueblo — they still say pot has made Pueblo worse off. Is there something the pro-marijuana camp can learn from them?

I’m probably talking to regulators and policy makers in other states 2-3 times per week. And I’ve met with dozens of states and regulators and legislators from several different countries. I tell people to not expect the opposition to disappear because there’s overwhelming support. Frankly, had I known (the opposition) wouldn’t respect the will of the voters, there were policies I would have done differently to alleviate some of their responses.

I think we’ll have some form of national legalization and decriminalization in the next three years. And I don’t know how the local prohibitionists will react, but it will take a lot of the wind out of their sails.

The marijuana scholarships got a lot of attention — even nation wide — do you think they’ll have a lasting effect on Pueblo’s economy?

There are people that weren’t going to go to college or were going to go somewhere else. There were kids that were going to take a year off, but didn’t so they could qualify for the scholarship program. I think it’s a bit of a chicken and egg argument, but I don’t think anything can go wrong with a more educated populace.

Do you have advice for other Pueblo leaders on how to navigate the future of legalized cannabis?

I think, considering the vocal minority still exists, the city did the right thing on a limited number of store fronts. I think it’s important to look at the tax rate. That doesn’t play a big role on the retail side, but as we want to keep the thousands of jobs in cultivation and manufacturing, it’s important we don’t tax them out of existence.

I’m probably going to propose tapping the excise tax. I think there are two areas where policy makers should keep a keen eye on. One is continuing to foster cultivation — that’s where we have a distinct advantage. In the county, I think that means working with some of the largest dispensary chains in the state.

We can create another couple of thousands jobs by doing that.

In the city, they should really take a look at their 8 percent excise tax. They might not realize it, but they’re driving away a lot of business.

The other piece that’s really important is cannabis research at CSU-Pueblo. When you’re generating intellectual property or new ways of production — that wealth from IP will be worth more than just cultivating or dispensing.

Do you think this Institute of Cannabis Research will put CSU-Pueblo on the map?

Oh, absolutely, if they embrace it. They’ll have to deal with the same political issues that I did.

What’s your vision for Pueblo and marijuana in 10 years?

I think the big variable is whether there will be shipment of cannabis across state lines in 10 years. And you know, I’m really nervous about the overproduction of wholesale cannabis. Obviously Pueblo has played a role in that. We could see point of sales decrease in Colorado.

I’m really concerned about people surviving and the commoditization of product. It’s a lot more affordable to buy it wholesale than grow it in Denver. In 10 years from now, I think we’ll have legal shipment across state lines. It will allow Pueblo to be a cultivation hub for the nation.

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Colorado

Smell of marijuana no longer enough cause to search a vehicle in Colorado

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DENVER — Drug-sniffing police dogs in Colorado may need new training if they can detect marijuana, after a ruling last week by the Colorado Court of Appeals that sets a new precedent for drug cases.

A three-judge panel agreed that if a drug-sniffing dog is trained to alert officers to marijuana and other drugs, cops need more cause to search a vehicle without permission.

The decision came out of a 2015 case in Moffat County, where a drug-sniffing dog named Kilo alerted officers to the presence of an illegal drug in a truck driven by Craig resident Kevin McKnight, The (Grand Junction) Sentinel reported.

But because Kilo could not tell officers whether he smelled pot or other drugs, the search was illegal, judges wrote. The dog was trained to identify to detect cocaine, heroin, Esctasy, methamphetamine and marijuana. Marijuana possession by adults over 21 is legal in Colorado.

“A dog sniff could result in an alert with respect to something for which, under Colorado law, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy,” judges wrote in the ruling.

“Because a dog sniff of a vehicle could infringe upon a legitimate expectation of privacy solely under state law, that dog sniff should now be considered a ‘search’ … where the occupants are 21 years or older.”

Courts in other states with legal marijuana for medical or recreational purposes have said that a pot smell alone is insufficient for a warrantless search. Those states include Arizona and California.
The smell of marijuana in a Colorado search is still sufficient if there are other factors that raise an officer’s suspicion.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that a drug dog’s smell test can “contribute” to a probable cause determination if the suspects are doing something else to raise suspicion.

“The odor of marijuana is still suggestive of criminal activity,” the Supreme Court wrote in that decision.

But in the Moffat County case, judges concluded that the dog’s alert did more than “contribute” to a decision to search the car because the man gave no indication he was impaired or doing anything illegal.

“The police lacked the requisite reasonable suspicion to subject McKnight’s truck to a dog sniff,” judge wrote.

The resulting search turned up a glass pipe commonly used to smoke meth, and McKnight was later convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.

The decision reverses McKnight’s conviction.

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