The Green Rush Comes to Steamboat Springs
● By Dan Greeson
Pot, skunk, noog, hooch, kush – it’s all the same if you know the lingo; we’re talking about cannabis. Contrary to myth, the people of Steamboat Springs have not gone reefer mad and you won’t fnd locals walking the streets joint in hand. While not everyone is ready to embrace the legalization of marijuana, it is the fastest growing industry in the state of Colorado. Rules and regulations are evolving as quickly as recipes for edibles, keeping dispensary owners on their toes.
“We have a good relationship with the dispensaries. I think they do a goodjob of promoting safe usage,” says officer John McCartin of the Steamboat
Springs Police Department. Everyone is on a learning curve, from law enforcement and schools to the hospital.
“Most people know the limitations on when and where marijuana can be used. The majority of folks follow those,” says Officer McCartin. “We are here to be fair. Someone has to show signs of impairment before we make an arrest, then we’ll request a blood test,” says Officer McCartin. Police do have, and have had for years, specific tests for drug impairment. Delta 9 THC (the active ingredient in marijuana that causes impairment) has a legal limit of five nanograms, similar to the 0.08 blood alcohol level for a DUI. Driving while stoned affects depth perception, slows down reaction time, and interferes with a person’s ability to divide their attention, which the police say has led to an increase in the number of traffic collisions.
Although there have been no reported cases of dispensaries selling to under-21s, there are weekly accounts of high school students bringing vapor pens and edibles to school. “It’s naive to think we don’t have alcohol or drugs in school,” says Dennis Hensen, campus supervisor at Steamboat Springs High School. Out of 740 kids in the school, there are a small percentage of known regular drug users. “We have ongoing education programs about substance abuse, working with law enforcement and other resources to promote making healthy life choices,” Dennis says.
“Since legalization, the perceived risk of using cannabis is less; they see adults using it and they think it’s OK,” says Adrienne Hearne, former director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition. The brain does not fully mature until age 25 and drugs like marijuana affect the hippocampus, which controls emotions and memory. Marijuana is often deemed a gateway drug, a fact that has come under scrutiny in recent studies. A common thread links long-term marijuana use to those predisposed with addiction and metal health issues. “It is easy to overlook mental health issues or substance abuse in a community that on the outside seems thriving and well-supporting,” says Adrienne. Cannabis is legal, but there is a responsibility to keep it away from youth and pets, to whom it can be extremely harmful.
There has been a definite increase in reported marijuana usage at Yampa Valley Medical Center. “We have seen adverse effects from marijuana use, primarily from an overdose of THC. This has happened with intentional marijuana use and accidental ingestion, including pediatric cases. To a child, these products look alarmingly similar to candy,” says Dr. Laura Sehnert, interim chief medical officer and emergency physician at YVMC. Potency has been a factor with users inadvertently taking too much or not accounting for their pre-existing medical conditions or the potential reaction with their usual medicines.
Colorado is at the forefront of a momentous movement in the nation. Whether we choose to embrace it or fight it, we have a responsibility to make our opinion an educated one.