Pharmacy robberies on the rise

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette C. Springs police are again dealing with a rash of pharmacy robberies. The latest occurred Sunday morning  around 10 a.m. when an armed man demanded prescription painkillers from a clerk at a Walgreens pharmacy located on the 1900 block of South Chelton Road.  The robbery was the third such since February 11th.

It was just last December that CSPD arrested a man they believe robbed seven area pharmacies at gun point.   According to a Denver Post article dated the ninth of December, the 22 year old suspect allegedly demanded hydromorphone tablets by name at gun point.

This from an article posted on MSN last June,
“A wave of pharmacy robberies is sweeping the United States as desperate addicts and ruthless dealers turn to violence to feed the nation’s growing hunger for narcotic painkillers. “
The DEA is quoted as saying armed robbery at pharmacies rose 81 percent in the last five years, with thieves taking an estimated 1.3 million pills last year.   Opioid pain relievers like oxycodone, OxyContin, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco seem to be the primary targets.

The rise in prescription painkiller abuse has also made many doctors gun shy when it comes to prescribing pain medication.  According to two studies reported in 2010 in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy and The Rx Consultant, up to 50 percent of chronic  pain patients do not receive adequate relief because doctors are afraid to prescribe narcotic pain medication.  According  to the Center for Disease Control they have good reason for their reluctance.  This from CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden,
“Opioid pain killers are now linked to more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. “

Do no harm?

Prescription drug abuse is reaching epidemic proportions here in the United States.  The simple fact that painkillers end more lives than cocaine and heroin together boggles the mind.  It also appears that addicts and dealers have few qualms about using violence to feed their need.  Unfortunately the consequences of this epidemic are showing up in our workplaces, schools, hospitals and morgues.  Put these facts in your back pocket to use the next time some well intentioned soul is trying to forge a link between storefront MMJ dispensaries and crime/drug abuse.  Medical Marijuana is very effective in helping patients manage moderate to severe chronic pain.  MMJ kills the pain not the patient.


Fort Collins dispensaries close for good?

The ironic headline in the CSU student news paper read, “Pot dispensary ban goes into effect as shops close for good.”   Tuesday February 14th, 2012 saw the end of all legal storefront Medical Marijuana dispensaries and MMJ production in the town of Fort Collins Colorado.  Question 300 which was passed last November by fifty three percent of voters in the Fort, required all dispensaries and commercial production facilities to cease operations by 7:00 pm Tuesday night.  According to Fort Collins police the ban went into effect without incident.  Most of the city’s 23 dispensaries had sold off their inventory prior to the Tuesday deadline.  With a county wide moratorium on new dispensary licenses currently in effect for Larimer County, it is unclear where any of the affected businesses will be able to reopen.  Regardless of how misinformed I feel the voters were, the citizens of Fort Collins have spoken and they have chosen not to allow medical marijuana businesses within their city limits.

I think the underlying  issue here  is safe access verses wide scale commercialization. The voters of Colorado wisely chose to give sick people access to cannabis, provided a medical doctor believed that its use could help improve the patient’s condition.  What the voters didn’t see coming was the burgeoning marijuana industry.  Ten years after amendment 20 the state has close to 700 storefront dispensaries. The backlash from a generation that cut its teeth on “just say no” and “this is your brain on drugs” is unfortunate and very predictable.  The current industry has provided patients with better strains of cannabis, safer delivery methods, and I believe a better quality of life.  Growers and dispensary owners put their livelihood and freedom on the line to grant patients safe access to cannabis products. They deserve our support and our patronage.  It is noteworthy that the closing of the 23 dispensaries passed without incident.  In my opinion this highlights the integrity of the people involved in the medical marijuana industry.  This is a demonstration of the staunch commitment to direct democracy that granted Coloradans the freedom to use medical cannabis  in the first place.

The fact that question 300 was approved by the voters of Fort Collins last November demonstrates that there is still a lot of work to be done on the medical marijuana front  in Colorado.   The people of Colorado have enjoyed legal access to marijuana for ten years now and I have not seen any creditable data suggesting that this has had anything but a positive effect on our state.  On the other hand, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over forty people die every day from overdoses of narcotic pain killers.  How many people could be saved if medical marijuana was widely accepted as an alternative to opiate pain medication?   Ultimately the issue is one of choice.   So long as they don’t hurt others, free people should be able to choose what they put in their bodies and their minds.

You don’t have to be critically ill to enjoy the benefits of medical marijuana. Cannabis is a safe and effective alternative to many pharmaceutical drugs. This is the message we need to get out to the general public.  It is safe and it works.



Link to article on CDC report

Employment rights for patients

Many Colorado medical marijuana patients face zero tolerance drug policies at work even though their use of medical marijuana has been recommended by licensed physician. To make matters worse if the patient is fired for failing a drug test they may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Ten years after voters granted access to medical marijuana to the citizens of Colorado, the prevailing perception of amendment 20 is that the voters were duped. The company I work for actually added language to our employee handbook that specifically reserves the right to fire an employee for using marijuana regardless of the worker’s status as a medical marijuana patient under Colorado law. The problem here is one of perception. Unfortunately many people are misinformed as to the benefits and the consequences of cannabis use. While a majority of Americans admit to having tried marijuana, their experience is limited to smoking it for fun. Years of prohibition and misinformation have led many to believe if you are not critically ill, and you are using marijuana, then you must be some sort of drug addicted buffoon. If marijuana use puts you at risk for losing your job, then it’s only further proof that you are firmly in the grasp all that is evil and unholy.

The basis for denying the unemployment claims of medical marijuana patients is rooted in the assumption that the patient is under the influence while at work. Not surprisingly the state has time and time again sided with employers when it is found that an employee is high while on the clock. This is considered negligence, and rightfully so. Currently a failed drug test is considered proof positive that an employee has been using drugs while on the job. Unfortunately urine tests are only an indicator of marijuana use in the past thirty to one hundred days, hardly sufficient proof that a subject was under the influence while at work. Blood tests are a better indicator of recent use but are expensive and not infallible. If you really want to find out who is high at work, fire up the cartoon network set out a plate of cookies and see who you catch. Seriously though, couldn’t we use reaction testing, a test similar to a roadside sobriety test? Is it too much to ask that an element of probable cause be interjected here? Is simply failing a drug test independent of any other circumstances a good enough reason to deny an employee their rightful compensation?

Colorado is an employment at-will state. This basically means either side of the agreement can terminate employment at any time regardless of cause, provided there are no other expressed contractual obligations. The caveat: if the employer terminates the relationship for anything less than gross negligence, the employee is entitled to unemployment compensation from the state. Denying medical marijuana patients unemployment benefits is yet another example of the prohibition mentality concerning marijuana. In this day and age any proof of cannabis use, regardless of how tenuous or unreliable is considered proof of malfeasance. This consideration holds up, even if the use is recommended by a medical professional to treat a chronic ailment. It is commonly assumed that a majority of the 120 plus thousand patients on the Colorado registry are only using a medical excuse to gain access to marijuana for recreational purposes.

It is high time we confronted the Colorado legislature with the facts concerning medicinal cannabis use. As patients we should demand fair treatment under the law. Ask your local representatives what their position on medical marijuana is. Become an advocate. Help educate the public. Amendment 20 was not simply meant to be a loophole in the law providing affirmative defense, and untold tax revenue. Amendment 20 gives people safe access to effective natural medicine. That should be the right not the privilege of a free people.

Peace -d


Colorado dispensaries told to back off

The U.S, Attorneys office kicked off the New Year by targeting a portion of the booming medical marijuana business here in Colorado. The   dispensaries and their landlords were given notice last Thursday that they had 45 days to close up shop or face civil and criminal penalties.  The twenty three dispensaries  are located 1000 feet or closer to public schools subjecting them to double penalties and heavy mandatory sentencing under federal laws.

The twentieth amendment to the Colorado constitution officially titled  Medical use of marijuana 2000 was dubbed the limited medical marijuana amendment by U.S. Attorney  John Walsh in a quote released by Reuters Thursday.

“When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools,” Walsh said.

What Walsh neglected to mention was that all 23 of the dispensaries are grandfathered into the 2010 state revamp of the  laws governing  storefront medical cannabis, and are currently operating legally under both city and state ordinances.  In 2010 the voters of Colorado were given the opportunity to decide for themselves weather or not to allow these businesses and  their sales tax revenue in their neighborhoods.  Also absent in any of the press covering the story are statistics showing negative community impact  due to such establishments.

The “crack-down” seems to be the latest in a largely unorganized move by the feds to curtail the growing demand for medicinal cannabis in these United States.  Walsh cited a memo from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole that instructs individual federal prosecutors  to “exercise their discretion to handle marijuana trafficking matters.”

So basically keep the fight going, but  don’t link the top of the federal food chain to denying compassionate care to sick people in an election year?  How much longer are the supposedly free people of this nation going to allow their government to wage war on the citizenry because of a weed?



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Colorado asks DEA to reclassify Mary Jane

December 22, Colorado became the third state with a medical-marijuana program to officially petition the DEA to reclassify cannabis as a schedule 2 drug.  The letter penned by Revenue Director Barbara Brohl was mandated by a 2010 law that set strict controls on Colorado medical-marijuana businesses.   The law which was signed by then Governor Bill Ritter required the Colorado Department of Revenue to petition the DEA for reclassification in recognition of “the potential medicinal value of medical marijuana.”

Reclassification would make cannabis a schedule 2 drug.  This would be a nation wide move, allowing doctors to prescribe, and pharmacies to dispense the evil weed.  Officially Mary Jane would be lumped in with all the other pharma-nightmares that according to the government are subject to abuse but have some medicinal value.

Personally I would love to live in a country that allowed  its citizens  access to treatments proven to be beneficial to their particular conditions.   I am however hesitant to rejoice over the government including a harmless herb, one with over five thousand years of medicinal history to a list of dangerously addictive and psychologically damaging substances.  I will ask a few of my NORML buddies to give me a hand on this.