All posts tagged: Colorado

Holy smoke! The church of cannabis

As congregations dwindle, a new religion is lighting up Denver, Colorado. Aaron Millar joins the elevationists of the International Church of Cannabis who worship the weed

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorados lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church? So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 4/20, as its known in the United States, the unofficial potheads holiday (because its 4.20pm somewhere, right?) the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.

From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But its indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

That mural would probably buy you next doors house, Lee says, letting me in. But they got it for the price of an air ticket for Scharf, a few days skiing and the loan of a jacket. People love fantastical ideas.

Perfect
Perfect peace: guests of the church relaxing in the hangout room. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

The original plan was to open it to the general public, but because Colorados current pot law only allows smoking in private clubs, it is, for now at least, a members-only affair. To date they have more than 1,400 on their list. They open the doors from Thursday to Sunday for smoke-free public viewing, with private cannabis services held on Friday nights. It seems to be growing.

Thats not surprising. Medical marijuana was legalised in Colorado in 2000 the first state to write it into its constitution. By 2009 dispensaries began popping up around the state and legalisation of recreational use soon followed in 2012. It has, for the most part, been wholeheartedly embraced. In 2016 Colorado sold more than a $1bn of weed, created thousands of new jobs and collected almost $200m in additional tax revenue. A church dedicated to cannabis may seem strange to us, but in Colorado it might just be the next logical step.

But there have been detractors. Currently, three of the founding members, including Lee, are under citation for two charges dating back to their opening 4/20 event: the first for breaking the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, and the second for breaking a state law that forbids marijuana consumption outside private homes and clubs. They refute the claims, and officials admit that they appear to have been adhering to the law since then, but a court date is pending.

Dan Pabon, from the states House of Representatives, goes further: in a recent interview with the New York Times he said that the new church offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters intent on allowing legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. He introduced an amendment that would ban pot use in churches, but to date it has failed to gather support. Overall, though, official opposition seems to be dwindling. Daniel Rowland, spokesman for the Denver city office, says: As long as they operate within the law and dont offend their neighbours, theyre free to do what they want.

Lighting
Lighting up: Lee Molloy, co-founding member, smokes a joint on the main stage. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

But what of those neighbours? Peter G Chronis, writing in local paper the Denver Post, said he felt blindsided angry that the project was done in secret and that the neighbourhood didnt have a chance to voice concerns prior to its completion. Parking and noise, rather than the consumption of marijuana inside, still seem to be the major worries, as well as the possibility that attendees will drive home stoned. But Lee is hoping to turn them round: arranging volunteer days through their church, to help make a positive impact in the community. Last Saturday they were out collecting rubbish from local streets. For now, at least, there seems to be a tentative truce.

But putting all beliefs and disputes aside, what everyone can surely agree is that they have transformed a near-derelict building into a staggering work of art. Every single surface has been painted in vibrant patterns of red, blue and green, geometric prisms with mythological creatures, stars and eyes hidden within. At the back wall, two dream-like Dali-esque giants sit cross-legged as if lost in meditation. It feels like a hallucination, someone says beside me, eyes careening upwards. Its like being swallowed by a Pink Floyd album cover. Perhaps most impressive of all is that it was created spontaneously without a sketch or a plan. This was another freebie: they flew Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel over and bought him a bunch of paints, then he started work in one corner and painted whatever he dreamed up until he finished. It took him just six days he rested on the seventh.

As the service begins we are encouraged to get to know each other: people spark up joints and pass them around. Long wisps of smoke float to the ceiling and cover the congregation in a flowery shroud; splutterings of coughs and giggles, the sharp intake of breath on all sides. There are about 30 of us in all, a mixed bag of misfits ranging from a self-proclaimed pothead granny, whose eyes appear to move independently of each other, to a couple of Harold & Kumar wannabies taking selfies at the altar. And then theres Lee: a former Bible quiz champion, raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, he has the credentials of a preacher if not the look: bushy hipster beard and long messy hair, dark bags under his eyes and the whiff of old smoke on his shirt. It feels more like the start of an AA meeting than a spiritual encounter. But then he starts to speak.

Time
Time out: arcade games in the downstairs lounge, where members can also play ping pong. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

Being an elevationist [the term theyve coined for the theology of the new church] means being an explorer, Lee begins. Our spiritual journey is one of self-discovery, not one of dogma. We believe there is no one-path solution to lifes big questions. This is simply a supportive place for each one of us to find a pathway to our own spirituality, whatever that may be. Think of it like the pick n mix of belief. There is no doctrine, no creed, no scripture or book. Simply choose bits of whatever world religions work for you, or make something up yourself, mix it all together, and see if it tastes good. There are as many pathways to being an elevationist as there are elevationists, Lee says. Spirituality shouldnt be a prescription; it should be an adventure. Its about seeking, not being told what to find.

Its an idea that will strike a chord with many people. Church attendance in the UK is on the decline. Last year only 1.4% of the population attended Sunday Anglican services the lowest level ever recorded. There is a significant demographic of people who simply cant relate to organised religion or outright oppose it on principle. Being able to explore your own path, within a supportive space, could help fill that widening spiritual deficit.

But heres where they may lose you. That journey of self-discovery, says Lee, is enhanced by ritual cannabis use. We have been programmed to behave and think in certain ways, he says. Cannabis helps elevationists tear down those false realities.

Its easy to baulk. Does watching Star Trek and eating peanut M&Ms count as a spiritual path? But, in fact, cannabis use has long been part of religion, from ancient Chinese shamans to modern-day Rastafarians: inducing altered states of consciousness has been a cornerstone of belief since time immemorial. And even without drugs, whether its spinning Sufi dancers or drumming voodoo priests, or even just simple prayer or meditation, taking the mind to a higher plane has always been a road to the divine, whatever you may conceive that to be.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHoly smoke! The church of cannabis
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Holy smoke! The church of cannabis

As congregations dwindle, a new religion is lighting up Denver, Colorado. Aaron Millar joins the elevationists of the International Church of Cannabis who worship the weed

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorados lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church? So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 4/20, as its known in the United States, the unofficial potheads holiday (because its 4.20pm somewhere, right?) the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.

From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But its indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

That mural would probably buy you next doors house, Lee says, letting me in. But they got it for the price of an air ticket for Scharf, a few days skiing and the loan of a jacket. People love fantastical ideas.

Perfect
Perfect peace: guests of the church relaxing in the hangout room. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

The original plan was to open it to the general public, but because Colorados current pot law only allows smoking in private clubs, it is, for now at least, a members-only affair. To date they have more than 1,400 on their list. They open the doors from Thursday to Sunday for smoke-free public viewing, with private cannabis services held on Friday nights. It seems to be growing.

Thats not surprising. Medical marijuana was legalised in Colorado in 2000 the first state to write it into its constitution. By 2009 dispensaries began popping up around the state and legalisation of recreational use soon followed in 2012. It has, for the most part, been wholeheartedly embraced. In 2016 Colorado sold more than a $1bn of weed, created thousands of new jobs and collected almost $200m in additional tax revenue. A church dedicated to cannabis may seem strange to us, but in Colorado it might just be the next logical step.

But there have been detractors. Currently, three of the founding members, including Lee, are under citation for two charges dating back to their opening 4/20 event: the first for breaking the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, and the second for breaking a state law that forbids marijuana consumption outside private homes and clubs. They refute the claims, and officials admit that they appear to have been adhering to the law since then, but a court date is pending.

Dan Pabon, from the states House of Representatives, goes further: in a recent interview with the New York Times he said that the new church offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters intent on allowing legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. He introduced an amendment that would ban pot use in churches, but to date it has failed to gather support. Overall, though, official opposition seems to be dwindling. Daniel Rowland, spokesman for the Denver city office, says: As long as they operate within the law and dont offend their neighbours, theyre free to do what they want.

Lighting
Lighting up: Lee Molloy, co-founding member, smokes a joint on the main stage. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

But what of those neighbours? Peter G Chronis, writing in local paper the Denver Post, said he felt blindsided angry that the project was done in secret and that the neighbourhood didnt have a chance to voice concerns prior to its completion. Parking and noise, rather than the consumption of marijuana inside, still seem to be the major worries, as well as the possibility that attendees will drive home stoned. But Lee is hoping to turn them round: arranging volunteer days through their church, to help make a positive impact in the community. Last Saturday they were out collecting rubbish from local streets. For now, at least, there seems to be a tentative truce.

But putting all beliefs and disputes aside, what everyone can surely agree is that they have transformed a near-derelict building into a staggering work of art. Every single surface has been painted in vibrant patterns of red, blue and green, geometric prisms with mythological creatures, stars and eyes hidden within. At the back wall, two dream-like Dali-esque giants sit cross-legged as if lost in meditation. It feels like a hallucination, someone says beside me, eyes careening upwards. Its like being swallowed by a Pink Floyd album cover. Perhaps most impressive of all is that it was created spontaneously without a sketch or a plan. This was another freebie: they flew Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel over and bought him a bunch of paints, then he started work in one corner and painted whatever he dreamed up until he finished. It took him just six days he rested on the seventh.

As the service begins we are encouraged to get to know each other: people spark up joints and pass them around. Long wisps of smoke float to the ceiling and cover the congregation in a flowery shroud; splutterings of coughs and giggles, the sharp intake of breath on all sides. There are about 30 of us in all, a mixed bag of misfits ranging from a self-proclaimed pothead granny, whose eyes appear to move independently of each other, to a couple of Harold & Kumar wannabies taking selfies at the altar. And then theres Lee: a former Bible quiz champion, raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, he has the credentials of a preacher if not the look: bushy hipster beard and long messy hair, dark bags under his eyes and the whiff of old smoke on his shirt. It feels more like the start of an AA meeting than a spiritual encounter. But then he starts to speak.

Time
Time out: arcade games in the downstairs lounge, where members can also play ping pong. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

Being an elevationist [the term theyve coined for the theology of the new church] means being an explorer, Lee begins. Our spiritual journey is one of self-discovery, not one of dogma. We believe there is no one-path solution to lifes big questions. This is simply a supportive place for each one of us to find a pathway to our own spirituality, whatever that may be. Think of it like the pick n mix of belief. There is no doctrine, no creed, no scripture or book. Simply choose bits of whatever world religions work for you, or make something up yourself, mix it all together, and see if it tastes good. There are as many pathways to being an elevationist as there are elevationists, Lee says. Spirituality shouldnt be a prescription; it should be an adventure. Its about seeking, not being told what to find.

Its an idea that will strike a chord with many people. Church attendance in the UK is on the decline. Last year only 1.4% of the population attended Sunday Anglican services the lowest level ever recorded. There is a significant demographic of people who simply cant relate to organised religion or outright oppose it on principle. Being able to explore your own path, within a supportive space, could help fill that widening spiritual deficit.

But heres where they may lose you. That journey of self-discovery, says Lee, is enhanced by ritual cannabis use. We have been programmed to behave and think in certain ways, he says. Cannabis helps elevationists tear down those false realities.

Its easy to baulk. Does watching Star Trek and eating peanut M&Ms count as a spiritual path? But, in fact, cannabis use has long been part of religion, from ancient Chinese shamans to modern-day Rastafarians: inducing altered states of consciousness has been a cornerstone of belief since time immemorial. And even without drugs, whether its spinning Sufi dancers or drumming voodoo priests, or even just simple prayer or meditation, taking the mind to a higher plane has always been a road to the divine, whatever you may conceive that to be.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/aug/13/church-of-cannabis-denver-colorado

Marissa SafontHoly smoke! The church of cannabis
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Colorado Marijuana Sales Expected To Break Records

Following the November elections, eight states currently offer legal adult use of marijuana. But regardless of the growing competition, Colorado, which have the greatest number of marijuana sales this past year, will probably still bag higher marijuana sales compared to the other states in 2017.

Only four months into the year, the Centennial State is already on course to possess its highest grossing year yet in marijuana sales. During January and February, Colorado racked up $235 million in overall marijuana sales, a 30% spike when compared with the state’s recreational and medical marijuana sales during the same time in 2016, based on a report by Cannabis Benchmarks, a company that monitors marijuana sales and prices.

With Colorado’s city streets filled with marijuana stores selling medical and recreational marijuana goods and its booming cannabis tourism, marijuana sales across the state kicked off 2017 at full throttle. In January of this year, $109 million worth of marijuana was sold in Colorado in medical and recreational markets, a more than 38% increase from what the state had in January 2016, when marijuana consumers bought $88.5 million in cannabis products. Sales in February were even more remarkable, with the state generating $126 million in marijuana purchases compared to February 2016’s $92.7 million.

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Marijuana Blogger from Colorado “The Stoner Mom”

Kathryn VanEaton is a stay-at-home mother of two kids, and also a step-mom to two more.

She picks up her children from school every single day, each night she makes dinner after which her family sits down at the table to enjoy eating together.

Kathryn VanEaton is also a user of cannabis, who has gone by “Stoner Mom,” since she started a blog of the exact same name.

“When mommy blogging became big, this was like what, early 2000s? It was amazing because moms could be like, ‘Oh, I’m a mom and I do this.’ Or, ‘Oh, I’m a mom and I do that}.’ There’s all these different niches that they could get into in the context of being a true mother,” VanEaton says.

VanEaton had been blogging for 12 years before the onset of Stoner Mom in 2014. She was a photographer that time, who had gotten bored with that routine. At that stage, she thought, she was in a distinctive position to blog not only about her life being a mom, but as well as to blog about being a legal user of marijuana.

“I would get high with my girlfriend on girls’ night in, and we’d just talk about how amusing it was that we were smoking marijuana in secret. We’re the same moms – we’re home, we’re picking up our children from school, and sleeping with our kids, or not getting any sleep,” she says. “People didn’t actually know that the mom at the supermarket with the enormous grocery bill is also a pothead.”

 

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How Colorado Intends Protect Marijuana Industry from a Possible Federal Crackdown

Colorado is contemplating an uncommon strategy to safeguard its nascent marijuana industry from a possible federal crackdown even at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections.

A bill pending in the Legislature would enable marijuana growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational marijuana as medical marijuana if a change in federal law or enforcement happens.

It’s the boldest effort yet by a U.S. marijuana state to prevent federal intervention in its weed market.

The bill would enable Colorado’s 500 or so licensed recreational marijuana growers to immediately reclassify their weed. A change would cost the state more than $100 million a year because Colorado taxes medical marijuana far more lightly than recreational marijuana — 2.9 percent versus 17.9 percent.

The measure says licensed growers could instantly become medical licensees based on a business need as a result of change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy. The change wouldn’t take recreational marijuana off the books, but nevertheless, it wouldn’t completely safeguard it either. What it could do is help growers protect their inventory in case federal authorities begin confiscating recreational marijuana.

The provision is receiving plenty of attention in the marijuana industry following recent opinions from members of President Donald Trump’s administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said there’s a “big difference” between recreational and medical marijuana.

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A Huge Week for Recreational Marijuana

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It has been a huge week for recreational marijuana in the U.S.A. Three things have happened.:

1) The US Justice Department reported that it had informed Indian Country Tribes that they “may propose” to have marijuana legalized on their reservations. So far no tribe has made any such request and if they did the federal government would have the final say on yes or no. However, this announcement opens the door for the possibility that recreational marijuana could be possessed and consumed on tribal lands. Even when tribal lands reside within the borders of a state in which recreational marijuana is illegal.
2) The US Congress ended its federal ban on medical marijuana. This sends a strong message to states that have not yet legalized marijuana and makes the concept even more palatable to voters. It will surely influence politicians to be more liberal in their thinking about legalized marijuana, whether medical or recreational. Furthermore,  it shows the federal government is obviously moving, albeit slowly, in the direction of national recognition of the trend to end marijuana prohibition.
3) Just today (December 19, 2014)  it was announced that the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the US Supreme Court to reverse Colorado’s marijuana laws. We will wait to hear what the legal pundits say but in my opinion this is not going to fly. In my opinion it is a thinly veiled attempt to apply pressure and convince Colorado to give their neighboring states a portion of their recreational marijuana tax revenues. According to Nebraska officials they have had an increase in their law enforcement costs at places along the Colorado border and are being asked to bear an increased expense with no increased revenues.

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Does Recreational Marijuana Consumption Affect Driving?

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Research on the effects of marijuana vs. alcohol while driving are inconclusive. Law enforcement has one view, psychologists have another. What we do know is that recreational marijuana creates chemical changes in the brain and these changes may significantly affect ability to safely drive a car:

* According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC in the body can severely affect the ability to shift our focus. This means reaction to changes in traffic or road conditions is slower and this can be dangerous.

* Recreational marijuana consumption affects a person’s judgement and other cognitive functions. In the case of heavy users, this impairment may last up to 24 hours after their last consumption of marijuana.

* Marijuana relaxes people and most have difficulty concentrating on a single activity and are prone to dreamlike states of awareness according to studies.

* Consumption of recreational marijuana can weaken short-term memory and change perception. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse the THC in marijuana gets processed in the hippocampus part of the brain which is responsible for the brain’s functional memory.

A Washington state traffic safety commission announced that police in Grandview, Moxee, Selah, Sunnyside, Union Gap and Yakima (plus the Yakima and Klickitat county sheriff’s offices) and the Washington State Patrol have stepped-up their driving while impaired enforcement operations through January 1st 2015.

Be careful and be safe. Stay within the law and do NOT operate a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of marijuana or alcohol!

 

 

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Colorado: Major price reductions expected in 2015

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October 30, 2014 – Despite legalization the black market for marijuana still exists in Colorado. According to websites like Price Of Weed, black market marijuana can be obtained (illegally) for about 30% less than in recreational marijuana stores in Colorado. This is because marijuana stores have the added burden of a rent, employees, taxes, licensing and regulations, packaging etc. Visitors coming to Colorado from other states seem eager to pay the premium prices being charged at marijuana shops anyway but locals who may have contacts within the black market from before cannabis was legalized are complaining. For this reason, at least one recreational marijuana store in Denver (3D Cannabis Center) has begun offering lower prices to local residents versus higher prices for out of state visitors.

This is one solution, but those in the retail marijuana business see a change on the horizon. As the processes for the legalized sale of pot become more fully developed over time, they say, prices will go down. Supply is the main consideration when it comes to pricing and initially recreational marijuana stores were selling cannabis that had been grown for medical marijuana stores. So there were more recreational marijuana stores than before but the supply levels remained the same. This created shortages and sky high pricing for consumers.

However, since then additional harvests have eased the shortage, some retailers predict that prices will be radically lower in 2015 as growers (old and new) catch up with the increased demand from recreational marijuana stores. Another factor that should lower pricing is:  starting October 1st dispensaries are no longer required to grow 70 percent of their inventory.  This means companies solely dedicated to cultivation and growing are now being licensed and developed. One Denver retailer is predicting, that by early 2015, prices for eighths will be as low as $10 to $15 and ounces as will sell as low as $50.

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