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Coronado forum probes MMJ, youth pot-smoking ties; 19 dispensaries now on Westside

During an informational forum on marijuana issues Feb. 4 at Coronado High School, a panel of invited speakers took questions. From left are Dr. Darvi Rahaman, Dr. Kenneth Finn, Kaleb Taylor, Lisa Taylor, Cathy Plush and Adam Romine. The two-hour session was held in the Coronado auditorium and attended by about 75 people.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Five years after City Council settled on final zoning laws for medical marijuana (MMJ) dispensaries, an equilibrium seems to have been found in the number of shops.
       A recent Westside Pioneer check of MMJ stores city-wide showed only slightly fewer (from 93 to 89) since a similar check in July 2012. This was also true on the Westside, which has dropped from 22 to 19 in that time. Under state law, customers can only be those who have convinced doctors to give them a “red card” for their health; a card-holder can buy up to two ounces at a time in MMJ stores.
       Initially legalized in Colorado by a statewide vote in 2000, MMJ is returning to the spotlight, as medical analysts are becoming increasingly worried about the proliferation of red cards in recent years - along with growing numbers of kids
A view toward the south side of West Fillmore Street's 900 block shows the Today's Health Care medical marijuana dispensary at the corner, next door to the Pikes Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Westside Pioneer photo
using the drug. This was touched on at an information session, attended by about 75 people at Coronado High School Feb. 4, which revealed the statistic that since 2009 (when the Obama administration announced it would no longer prosecute dispensary-related marijuana use, even though it's still illegal at the federal level), the number of red-card holders has jumped from 4,800 in Colorado to 115,000.
      Another statistic: 80 percent of those red-card holders are represented by just 25 doctors. “It's easy to get a red card,” said Dr. Kenneth Finn, a pain management specialist and Manitou High parent, one of two local physicians to speak at the Coronado event.
       State law also allows recreational pot (based on Amendment 64, passed by voters in 2012), but it's unclear how much impact it's had locally. Stores are disallowed by all governments in the Pikes Peak region except Manitou; and (with the state's 25 percent tax), the stuff costs more than at MMJ stores, Finn said.
       But overall, legalization seems to be contributing to a permissive trend among Colorado's youth. “We're seeing an increase in kids using marijuana,” said Finn, based on his research and experience as a doctor.
       When a member of the audience suggested it might be no different from alcohol, he replied, “I completely disagree.” One stat he provided was that statewide the number of young people ages 12 to 17 being medically treated for alcohol last year was up 4 percent, but the number for marijuana was up 22 percent. Adding to the problem, according to Finn and the other physician at the session - Dr. Darvi Rahaman, a pediatrician and Coronado parent - are the growing potency of the drug, an apparent effort to market it to the young (for example, there's a type of pot candy that looks like gummi bears) and the potential for permanent brain damage.
       Coronado Principal Darin Smith and Student Resource Officer Adam Romine of the City Police Department described a new school enforcement problem - the result of E-cigarette technology combining with marijuana in “vapor pens,” which look like regular pens, so it's hard to detect when students are smoking them.
       One of the speakers at the Coronado event was 18-year-old Kaleb Taylor, a former District 49 high-schooler who had to go into rehab last fall from a
In the foreground left (without a sign) is the Mountain Med Club, a medical marijuana business. In the background right (in back of the parking lot) is the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the regional planning agency, which begs the wisecrack, in case of a questionable planning decision: "What were they smoking?" Note: Both times the Pioneer went by this location, the nearest government-lot parking space was being used by a visitor to the dispensary.
Westside Pioneer photo
marijuana addiction. He said he first smoked pot through a friend who'd gotten it from his parents. Kaleb and his mother Lisa talked frankly about the “spiral” he fell into, in which he was lying to his family and having to use larger and larger quantities to get sufficiently stoned. Towards the end, he'd worked his way up from regular “weed” to hash oils, which have THC concentrations so high that “you don't feel like you're smoking something of the earth anymore,” he said.
       Kaleb also told how he was able to obtain a red card himself, after he turned 18. He invented a story for a doctor that he had pain from blowing out his knee in football, “and I'd never even played a down.”
       What turned him around? Someone from the audience asked him that question. "I knew I was meant for a better purpose," Kaleb responded. "And I didn't want to lose my family." It also helped that his parents were tough with him, even kicking him out of the house when he turned 18, yet also there to help him bring his life back together. What do kids need to know not to wind up like he did? "They need to realize what the consequences will be," he said.
       The history of MMJ dispensaries in Colorado Springs started in 2010. A total of 172 preapplications from prospective MMJ shop owners came to the City Clerk's Office before that July, 39 of them on the Westside. (Starting in July, a state- established application moratorium took effect, lasting till 2012.) By December 2010, when council voted to allow dispensaries in certain commercial zones (including the C- 5 on West Colorado Avenue), the Westside already had 29 shops operating under temporary city licenses.
       That number dropped to 22 in July 2012, the next time the Pioneer took a “snapshot” of the Westside dispensary situation. (Side note: Not all of these were licensed by the city and/or state at that time. Some were allowed to keep operating temporarily because of how long the government regulatory process was taking. In February 2015, all the city's shops are fully licensed, according to the City Clerk's Office.)
       Here is information about dispensary changes on the Westside since 2012:
       - Moved here - The 64 Store, formerly called Crossroads and located off East Fillmore Street, is now at 502 W. Colorado Ave. Coincidentally, that makes it the second Westside MMJ shop on the site of a former liquor store.
       - Moved away - The American Wellness Center, which relocated downtown from 3632 W Colorado Ave.
       - Relocations within the Westside - High Country Healing 4, formerly at 757 W. Garden of the Gods Rd. (under the name of Enlightened Care), now at 1330 W. Garden of the Gods Rd.; Green & Healthy Wellness Center, 212 S. 21st St., formerly at 2018 Sheldon Ave.; the Green House, 410 S. Eighth St. #B, formerly at 1024 W. Colorado Ave.; and Todays Health Care, 975 W. Fillmore St., formerly at 1635 W. Uintah St. #E.
       - No longer operating - Natural Advantage, 925 W. Cucharras St.; Nature's Way, 3445 W. Colorado Ave.; and Total Health Concepts, 23 McKinley Place.
       - Name changes - Other than High Country Healing 4 (identified above
If you like smoking, either the first or second floor of 2606 W. Colorado Ave. (each a separate business) may be the place for you. Note: The green cross, which is intended to represent healing, has become the universal logo for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Westside Pioneer photo
under the Relocations heading), those with new names are Emerald City Wellness, 2606 W. Colorado Ave. #200, (formerly Alternative Medicine Co Springs); and Herban Farmer, 2755 Ore Mill Rd. #13, (formerly Advance Cure for Vera Bestura).
       The attrition over the years has also led to fewer dispensaries located close to residences. The latest tally shows six with 200 feet or less on the Westside, according to Pioneer estimates. The Pioneer had identified 18 like that in 2010 and 11 in 2012).
       Any current proximity issues are identified in the full list of dispensaries at the bottom of this story.
       Nearness to homes was an issue raised by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) in the months preceding the December 2010 council decision.
       The concept of a 200-foot standoff distance between dispensaries and neighborhoods was approved by more than 80 percent of the respondents to an OWN survey in the fall of 2010. And this was in the same Westside Neighborhood Strategy Area where residents had voted overwhelmingly that November not to ban dispensaries (while countywide the measure barely passed.)
       At the December 2010 council meeting, its members ignored the OWN survey, although a few spoke generally about not wanting to be over-regulatory. Their vote did establish three standoffs - 400 feet from public schools and from centers that rehabilitate youths or adult drug/alcohol abusers.
       By contrast, as recently as a year ago the state of Illinois was requiring 2,500-foot standoffs between MMJ dispensaries and homes - which had the side effect of preventing any such shops from being established, according to an Illinois Herald web article.

       Here is a list of the 19 current MMJ dispensaries on the Westside (with any residential-proximity issues noted in parentheses).
       · The 64 Store, 502 W. Colorado Ave.
       · Emerald City Wellness, 2606 W. Colorado Ave. #200.
       · Crosspoint Medical Center, 3132 W. Colorado Ave. (Residential proximity: It's next to a house.)
       · Green Earth Wellness Center, 519 N. 30th St. (Residential proximity : A house is across the street; also, a church is behind it.)
       · Green & Healthy Wellness Center, 212 S. 21st St.
       · The Green House, 410 S. Eighth St. #B.
       · The Healthy Connections, 1602 W. Colorado Ave. (Residential proximity: It's next to a house. Note: This is the other MMJ shop that occupies a former liquor store.)
       · The Hemp Center, 2501 W. Colorado Ave. #6.
       · The Herb Shoppe, 3020 W. Colorado Ave. #D. (Residential proximity : The location is in a commercial center, probably more than 200 feet from the nearest homes. However, according to previous Westside Pioneer interviews, the pot smell has been known to drift into the parking lot, into other businesses and even across the rear alley, where people live.)
       · Herban Farmer, 2755 Ore Mill Rd. #13.
       · High Country Healing 4, 1330 W. Garden of the Gods Rd.
       · Indispensary, 3044 W. Colorado Ave.
       · Mountain Med Club, 22 S. Chestnut St. (Residential proximity: Houses are on the other side of the street and the Springs Inn is just to the south. Side note: The facility with the parking lot to the north is the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the regional planning agency. Both times the Pioneer drove by Mountain Med, visitors to the dispensary had vehicles parked in the government lot.)
       · Secret Stash, 2845 Ore Mill Rd. #6.
       · Strawberry Fields Alternative Health and Wellness, 3404 W. Colorado Ave. (Residential proximity: It's next to a house.)
       · Todays Health Care, 225 S. 8th St.
       · Todays Health Care, 975 W. Fillmore St. (Residential proximity : It appears to be more than 200 feet from the apartments to the south, but it is next door to the Pikes Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America.)
       · Tree of Wellness, 1000 W. Fillmore St #105.
       · Trichome Health Consultants, 2117 W. Colorado Ave. (Residential proximity: It's next to a house.)

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 2/6/15, updated 2/7/15; Community: Ongoing Issues)

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