Outspokenly cannabis-friendly U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder County has officially thrown his hat into the crowded race to replace Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who is facing his term limit. Because of the state’s strict limits on fundraising, Polis, the internet-entrepreneur turned politician with an estimated worth of $140 million to $468 million, may already have a top spot.
Polis’ top campaign promises include powering Colorado with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, providing parents with access to free preschool and kindergarten, and pushing companies to provide employees with stock options.
As for cannabis, Polis says he doesn’t want to move cautiously, but instead make sure regulations work for businesses and consumers, and he wants to keep Colorado competitive as other states look to legalize it.
He took time out of his busy congressional voting schedule and running for governor to speak with THC.
THC: Last we spoke you had recently formed the Cannabis Caucus to educate your colleagues and introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. How have those been received?
Jared Polis: I think we are gaining support every day for marijuana reform in Congress. I think we have support today if we could get an amendment to the floor that would prevent the Department of Justice from [prosecuting] marijuana related offenses where it’s legal under state law. But the challenge is getting it to the floor. . . I think we need to get to a federal framework that’s consistent with how we look at alcohol and tobacco and address legitimate concerns around safety and smuggling, but create a framework that allows for states to fully implement legalized marijuana and their own regulatory systems.
THC: And what about the Cannabis Caucus?
JP: We had a great [Marijuana Thinkers Talk and Expo on the Hill] and we featured a number of folks who are [from] across the country. It’s great to have that bipartisan imprint of Democrats and Republicans as we seek to educate my colleagues about cannabis reform.
THC: How long have you been thinking about running for governor and what made you decide to go for it?
JP: I am honored to serve at any level just as I really enjoyed starting businesses and creating hundreds of jobs. I enjoyed starting a school for new immigrants and homeless youth. I’m really excited to give back, and I think [there are] a lot of opportunities to give back, whether it’s moving towards a renewable energy economy, establishing universal preschool and kindergarten or just making sure our economic success works for everybody, not just a few—the action will be at the state level.
THC: What’s that transition from representative to gubernatorial candidate going to look like for you?
JP: I have executive experience in the business sector. I also have executive experience at the state level having chaired the State Board of Education. And frankly, I welcome the opportunity and the responsibility of that kind of position. I think that for us to move forward as a state we’re going to need strong leadership and bold leadership at the state level and that’s one of the reasons I decided to run.
THC: How will your pro-cannabis stance translate to a governorship?
JP: I don’t think we need to be cautious about it. We need to make cannabis regulations work for our state, for businesses, for consumers and I’m excited to tackle that. I think Colorado’s leadership role in the cannabis industry will be challenged by states like California and Washington, and we need to make sure that we keep a lot of those good jobs right here in Colorado.
THC: Voters in Denver recently passed a social consumption pilot program. Many people in the industry think its limited scope will knock us down on the competitive totem pole. Do you have any plans for how you will help keep Colorado competitive in that way?
JP: A lot of those decisions should be made at the local level, and they are made at the local level. Different communities decide whether they want to have dispensaries, how many they have, how they want to regulate social consumption . . . these are all dealt with locally and they’re very important issues as people select their mayors and city council candidates.
THC: What’s your strategy look like headed into such a crowd governor’s race and how do you feel about your place in the arena?
JP: I’m working hard to earn every vote and taking no votes for granted. So I think it’s a wide open field to continue the legacy of Governor Hickenlooper of growing our economy and creating jobs. And I’m excited to offer a vision for an economy that works for everybody, and creating tens of thousands of green jobs that can’t be outsourced, and improving our schools to make sure we have a first-class education system in place for next generation Coloradans.
THC: How did energy, free access to preschool and kindergarten, and employee stock options become your focus?
JP: There’s a lot more, obviously, than that, but I think the fundamental question that we need to answer as Americans and Coloradans is how can economic growth work for everybody not just investors and executives. And I think a big part of the answer is encouraging employee ownership in all of its forms and that means stock options. It means formalized profit sharing. It means ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans). It means co-ops. All the different forms that it can take, we want to make sure that those who work hard every day to create the value have their incentives aligned with the investors and management and also to see their share of the profits from the sale or from profitabilities.
THC: What about renewable energy and free access to preschool and kindergarten?
JP: There’s so many reasons to move to 100 percent renewable energy. I have a plan at polisforcolorado.com to do it by 2040. It’s for clean air. It’s to do our part on climate. It creates green jobs that can’t be outsourced and it creates an economy that’s energy independent and gives us an advantage over other states and countries that will rely on the price variability of fossil fuels that are subject to global markets and global forces that they don’t control.
Education is where I’ve done much of my professional work. I served six years on the state board of education. I’ve started two schools; I’ve served as superintendent of one. And I’ve served on the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington. The most important and impactful thing we can do to improve opportunity for success is have universal preschool and kindergarten in our state. So we’re going to build a coalition with Republicans and Democrats and the business community to get it done.
THC: What else tops your list?
JP: I would say another challenge facing the state is transportation and infrastructure. We’ve had a lot of growth. We have a lot of traffic. We need smart planning, transit-oriented communities that are bus and rail systems in our metro area. We need to get ahead of the curve with regard to traffic and growth rather than always playing catch-up.
THC: How do you plan on bringing Colorado Democrats and Republicans together?
JP: I have a proven record of doing that work in my experience. I’m a member of the “no labels group” where we bring Democrats and Republicans together around solving problems. I think the challenges that Colorado faces are not partisan challenges. Republicans and Democrats want quality preschool and kindergarten for their kids. Republicans and Democrats want clean air. Republicans and Democrats want to make sure that the economy works for everybody. So we should focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us.
THC: What sort of relationship do you envision having with the Trump Administration?
JP: As a governor you have to work with whatever administration is in charge. But certainly we worry about their actions with regard to the legal cannabis industry. It’s too early to say, but we’re scared of some of the rhetoric from both the attorney general and others. As the governor, I would continue my efforts to push back against any and all federal efforts that interfere with our state laws.
THC: You’ve been back and forth with the oil and gas industry, what’s that relationship going to be like and how would you work with it?
JP: Well, look, with my plan for 100 percent renewable energy the goal is 2040, so that means that the grid will continue. That’s talking about the retirement of the last coal plant, the last natural gas burning facility and certainly I’ve been active in empowering communities to be able to successfully integrate — to have a planning process around integrating oil and gas extraction in their communities.
Among the other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are former State Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Intertech Plastics founder Noel Ginsburg, and businessman Erik Underwood.
On the Republican side, seven candidates have declared they’re running for governor including prosecuting attorney of the Aurora Theater shooting, George Brauchler; Mitt Romney’s nephew, Doug Robinson; the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s election campaign in Denver, Steve Barlock; and former State Rep. Victor Mitchell. ♦
14 women-owned businesses are bringing recognition to the dispensaries, the brands and the services that are creating an industry
(Denver, CO) – 14 women-owned cannabis companies have come together to showcase the power of female entrepreneurship in the cannabis space. The 13 business owners are proclaiming August 2017 as #BossWomen Month!
“The owners of the cannabis businesses are promoting not just their businesses, but the tremendous amount of revenue, jobs, and taxes their stores, products, and services provide to the state of Colorado,” states Wanda James, owner and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and the first black woman licensed in American to own a dispensary, an edible company, and grow facility.
A snapshot of the revenue power of the 13 Boss Women entrepreneurs shows not just the value of women led businesses in the cannabis space. It also shows that women promote women, proving the importance of women in CEO and manger positions.
The Boss Women businesses cover a wide range of cannabis products and services, infused teas, topicals, edibles and concentrates to business consulting to jewelry to greeting cards, the creativity and business acumen in this group is outstanding. Boss Women are not waiting for the world to change, they have made the decision to take action and be the change in the world, as women often do.
During the month of August, these products and services should be at the top of your shopping list. Together, the Boss Women will advertise numerous publications bringing attention to our August #BossWomen Month. The ladies have created a webpage that lists all the places these products and services are available. You can visit www.420BossWomen.com to find all the promotions, events, and discounts that will be offered during the month.
All golf tournament proceeds will benefit Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international grassroots organization dedicated to ending the war on drugs.
DENVER, Colo., (July 23, 2017)— High Rollers dispensary in partnership with The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine will host its 3rd annual Cannabis Charity Open, from 1 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 27, at the Park Hill Golf Club, 4141 E. 35th Avenue in Denver.
All proceeds from the golf tournament benefits Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international network of students dedicated to ending the war on drugs.
Individual registration starts at $150 and $500 for a foursome team. To participate, or for more information, visit CannabisCharityOpen.com.
A much anticipated event, participants will receive free tournament golf balls, tees, and other apparel, as well as player gift bags with cannabis accessories.
“As part of an industry born by the will of the voters, we feel it is important to give back to our community. By being a part of the charitable golf tournament in Denver, we hope to help the communities neighborhoods we serve and make a positive impact on the residents who live in them,” said Luke Ramirez of High Rollers Dispensary.
Highlights include a post-event buffet and free drinks throughout the tournament. A raffle and awards ceremony will conclude the day, with prizes for top teams and individual achievements. Additional donation opportunities will be available during the event.
The Cannabis Charity Open is considered a major fundraiser for SSDP. Founded in 1998, the nonprofit organization brings young people together and creates safe spaces for students of all backgrounds to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy. This year’s title sponsor is incredibles, recognized as the number one infused edible company in Colorado.
“We look forward to the opportunity to give back and celebrate cannabis at the THC Golf Tournament. Both incredibles and Students For a Sensible Drug Policyhelp to educate the public about cannabis while spreading facts about cannabis legislation across the country. The THC Golf tournament helps to bring together all sectors of the industry to support grass-roots cannabis advocacy,” said Bob Eschino, Founder and President of incredibles.
About High Rollers Dispensary:
High Rollers Dispensary is focuses on quality cannabis products and compassionate customer service. Based in Colorado, High Rollers is one of the top dispensaries in Denver for high-grade medical marijuana. Located between Florida and Arkansas Avenues on historic South Pearl Street, High Rollers Dispensary provides a boutique consumer experience. Set amidst locally-owned shops, quaint eateries and personal wellness facilities, High Rollers connects the community with the healing powers of cannabis-based therapy. High Rollers combines sophistication with modern-day technology to bring its clients high-quality cannabis flower, pure cannabis concentrates and delectable marijuana edibles. For more information visit HighRollers420.com.
About The Hemp Connoisseur:
The Hemp Connoisseur (THC) Magazine is a national print outlet dedicated to delivering innovative and comprehensive news content to cannabis industry professionals, patients, and consumers. The magazine is a two-time winner of “Best Cannabis Publication” by the Cannabis Business Awards, educating audiences on the many benefits and uses of both marijuana and commercial hemp. It strives to elevate the image of the cannabis industry and consumer alike by providing mature, in-depth journalism with a foundation of editorial integrity. For more information visit THCMag.com.
Cranfords cannabis cigarettes bring prerolls to a whole new level. Cranfords were the first company in America to produce a machine-rolled, filtered cannabis cigarette back on 4/20 in 2014. The Cranfords cannabis cigarettes come in a pleasing tin of ten cannabis cigarettes. It’s a total of seven grams of high-THC blend flower in each tin. If you are a dirty tobacco smoker like me, you will really enjoy these. I’ve been working on quitting and while smoking the Cranfords I’ve noticed less of an urge to light up a filthy lung rocket throughout the day. They have the same look and feel as a normal cigarette, making them very discrete. The filters add a great smoking experience with a smooth and tasty drag every time. I don’t usually buy prerolls but these will be a part of my regular purchases moving forward. Spending my summer nights on the back porch with a tin of Cranfords and a cold drink enjoying life. You can currently find Cranfords at all Sweet Leaf recreational locations with more coming soon. Check out their website for more information about where you can purchase them. www.cranfordscigarettes.com
I’ve used a lot of vape pens in my day, and this is definitely one of the better ones. While the Zeus Thunder 2 may not be the flashiest vape out there, it’s a competent pen that works reliably, and what more could you really want from a vape? It’s nice to see the trend of companies moving away from exposed coils, and the ceramic heating element of the Thunder makes for smooth, flavorful hits. Loading the pen is slightly more complicated than some pens, requiring a small cap to be unscrewed from the vaporization chamber. This can lead to some issues, since you definitely don’t want to lose the cap in a crowded concert, but helps to keep the runny hash goop from overflowing and gunking up the vape. Pre-loading the pen makes it great for on-the-go usage, like hiking, biking, or any other activity requiring motion at which you’ll want to tote a toke. The vaporization chamber sits inside a glass housing, allowing you to see the hit as you take it, which is a nice feature lacking in some comparable models. If you are looking for an inconspicuous reliable vape, Zeus Thunder gets the job done. torontovaporizer.ca
With his long blond hair flowing over his shoulders, Chris Jetter doesn’t look like he belongs at a meeting in a government building. He looks like the guy you would have bought weed from in high school, a guy who’s proud of his sick van (he is, and it is a sick van) or the dude who would randomly pass you a joint at a Metallica concert even though you’ve never met him before. It’s early March, and Jetter is the last person to arrive at the first meeting of the advisory committee convened to help shape the social cannabis use regulations approved by voters in Denver. Sitting at a configuration of tables is a quorum of business owners, activist, neighborhood representatives and city officials called together to discuss what this groundbreaking program will look like. It’s standing room only by the time Jetter arrives, with a crowd of concerned citizens filling every seat in the meeting room, eager to give comments on the program. At glance, one thing is apparent, even in this room packed with those eager to consume cannabis in public, Jetter smokes more weed than any of them.
“Legalization is a complete fucking joke.”
But while some of these folks are nervous to give testimony at what is perhaps their first time stepping into the public arena to support sensible cannabis policies, for Jetter this is tritely familiar. He’s carrying a bundle of dog-eared papers containing copies of current adult-use cannabis regulations, medical cannabis regulations, current regulations surrounding the sale of alcohol for comparison against the two, a copy of Colorado’s constitutional Amendment 64 subsection 3, copies of the charging documents from the last time he tried to establish a cannabis club in Denver almost two years prior, and various other documents that he will eagerly spread in front of any bewildered law maker that hasn’t given the same amount of attention to the issue that he has.
When he speaks, he does so with an energetic twinge of scattered neurosis, like someone who’s seen the inside of some vast conspiracy and wants desperately for others to believe him. It’s a flood of information that pours out, veering between a lawyerly assessment of the state constitution and an accusatory diatribe about the will of the voters. His impassioned speech rambles on until the meetings organizers are forced to remind him of his time limit.
This isn’t Jetter’s first appearance at an event like this. In fact, you can frequently find him at policy hearings, both state and local, that concern cannabis use or cultivation. It’s part of his long-standing commitment to the plant he loves, and the liberties that he’s been denied because of his affections for it.
“I’m not an activist and I’m not a lawyer,” says Jetter, speaking later at his grow op in Aurora. “I play ‘em on Facebook and in real life because [the government is] all up in my space.”
Blue Mountains Van (“sick van” mentioned above)
Sitting alone in his facility, Jetter’s old-school aesthetic is on full display as he diligently trims buds for extraction, pushing waste through a hole cut in the middle of the table. The only noticeable differentiation between this process and that of an underground grow are the RFID tags he attaches to each bag of trimmed cannabis. His brand, Blue Mountains, produces only four strains — Sour Diesel, Flo, Durban Poison and Bruce Banner — all of which he has been growing more than 17 years; well before he ever made his first foray into the legal market. In the grow, classical music plays for the plants.
The company currently operates as a licensed adult-use wholesale provider, but it started life as a non-profit co-op in the decidedly unregulated space of the reimbursement model. In those days, one could find the Blue Mountains bus cruising around to various cannabis-related events in Colorado, offering dabs to anyone with proof of age. The collective sprang up in early 2013, shortly after the passage of Amendment 64, quickly drawing the attention of the public. In May of that year, Blue Mountains was featured in an exposé published by The Denver Post titled “Colorado Pot Collectives Test Limits of Amendment 64,” which was accompanied by an image of Jetter hitting a dab. The article also featured comments from Tom Gorman, the director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a multi-state law enforcement organization operating under federal jurisdiction, who questioned the validity and motivation of co-ops like Jetter’s. “Why would you do that if it’s not for money?” Gorman questioned in the Post’s article. “Are they so thrilled with marijuana and think it’s such a great thing that it’s their responsibility to offer it as cheap as possible? Why would you go through all the trouble for no profit at all?”
For Jetter, the answer to this question is rooted in a passion for cannabis that stretches back decades. Growing up in Colorado, he was sent to military school after getting caught smoking weed, where he would again run into trouble for cannabis use.
Thus began Jetter’s struggle: to use cannabis as though it were legal. It’s a struggle that has continued to define his life, even in the current era; an era in which, as he bluntly puts it, “Legalization is a complete fucking joke.”
In 1992, recently out of high school, Jetter began making bongs, a trade that would lead him to the underground cannabis celebration held in the hills of Colorado known as Bong-a-thon. In 1999, Jetter Glass provided the trophies for the competitive smoke-out that gives the event its name. After the party was raided by the Larimer County Sherriff’s office, a lengthy investigation led them to Jetter’s home studio, where a team of heavily armed SWAT officers would smash down the door and destroy all the glass they found inside. Jetter claims the police evidence log listed only $13,000 of the $15,000 in cash the police took from his home that day, as well as two fewer ounces of marijuana than what he claims was taken.
By the mid oughts, the Bush administration’s crackdown on paraphernalia sellers in the form of Operation Pipe Dreams brought the online glass directory he had been managing to a screeching halt, but Jetter continued to blow glass under the guise of custom gearshift knobs. He’s not shy of acknowledging hat even after his run in with the law he continued to ply the craft of growing cannabis.
In 2009, after Obama took office and Attorney General Eric Holder made his intentions known not to pursue state-legal cannabis activity, Jetter was among the first to open as dispensary in Colorado. He reflects fondly on those days, when home growers could drop off their own product to be sold, before the tight regulations that mark the modern industry. This time period wasn’t without it’s own hazards though, and in 2010 an errant burglar alarm brought the Adams County police to his grow, which, despite providing officers at the scene with all the relevant paper work, would lead to a felony drug charge.
Thus, Jetter found himself once again thrown into the criminal justice system, and although the charges would eventually be dropped, the experience left a sour taste in his mouth. Around this time, unbeknownst to Jetter, his mother and business partner had negotiated the sale of the dispensary to one of the larger chains that was moving to consolidate the burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Not long after the sale of the majority interest, Jetter was handed a pink slip, his time in the medical marijuana business brought to an unpleasant end. In the more than five years since, he hasn’t spoken to his mother; something he says he never would have expected when he entered the industry.
When Amendment 64 was introduced in 2012, Jetter’s love of cannabis goaded him forward once more. The promise of the government finally treating cannabis like alcohol spurred Jetter into the public arena, where he helped to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
When the measure passed, he quickly moved to set up Blue Mountains, and by August of 2013, the co-op was up and running, delivering cannabis to members and providing free dabs at events. The battle seemed to have been won, but for Jetter, the war was still being fought.
“When we passed Amendment 64, a lot of the people and even myself, thought that the drug war was over, victory was at hand and we could go out and party,” he says.
Instead, what followed was a disheartening slog through regulation guided by people that didn’t necessarily have the best intentions of cannabis consumers at heart as Jetter saw it. While the intention of the amendment was to treat cannabis like alcohol, regulations around the plant quickly began to more closely resemble those of medical marijuana, and Jetter was baffled when the liquor board wasn’t consulted at all.
Once again, Jetter found himself as the outsider, testing the limits of the law and the tolerances of those tasked with enforcing it. As the rules began taking shape, there seemed to be little room for people like him, who just wanted to treat cannabis as if it weren’t a dangerous substance in need of the highest levels of control.
Bruce Banner Live Resin
It wasn’t long before the glaring issue of public consumption reared its head. Voters had chosen to enact cannabis legalization, but local governments in Denver and the surrounding area were choosing to interpret the section of Amendment 64 stating explicitly that the measure had not legalized “open and public” consumption as explicitly forbidding it. Cannabis clubs that popped up around the city following legalization were quickly raided and closed, and once again Jetter was reminded that his desire to not be treated like a criminal for consuming a plant would remain unfulfilled.
With the battle lines drawn by the city, Jetter once again stepped up to prod at the unjust enforcement with a cannabis club of his own. Called POTUS, an acronym for People of the United States, the smoking lounge opened in a former swingers’ club in southwest Denver in February of 2015. To be sure that there would be no surprises, Jetter’s partner sent certified letters to several city officials announcing their plan to open a cannabis club that would provide cannabis to members for reimbursement. In order to gain entry, one would simply have to sign up for membership. Blue Mountain would provide cannabis, but patrons were welcome to bring their own as well.
At the same time that he was pushing the legal envelope with POTUS, Jetter had been tapped to head the legal grow in Aurora that he now occupies.
With hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment on the line — including the $400,000 of liquid assets that the city of Aurora requires before considering an application — for most this would have been an inopportune time to tempt fate with a smoking lounge, but for Jetter this wasn’t the case.
Sure enough, in early March police made their move. Undercover officers infiltrated the club after signing on as members and recorded a reimbursement. The sting ended with a misdemeanor distribution charge for Jetter and his partner charged with operating an unlicensed marijuana business.
For some, this would be a clear defeat, an indication that this pipe dream of social cannabis consumption would remain out of reach — Jetter had POTUS reopened by the next day.
The club operated without incident until the weekend of 4/20, when city officials made their intentions known by raiding the two most prominent smoking lounges operating in Denver, one of them being POTUS. The raid played out much as it had the first time, with undercover officers infiltrating the packed club for a reimbursement and police moving in for the bust less than an hour before 4:20. This time, the results were more final. Jetter and his partner faced the same round of charges as before, but the city issued a cease and desist order.
After a protracted legal battle, Jetter ended up taking a bargain that saw him plead guilty to a public consumption offense. This wasn’t, he says, because he didn’t want to keep fighting, but because of the potential harm that the fight would cause to his grow application in Aurora, where the incident was being discussed as possible indication of a lack of moral character.
These days Jetter operates entirely in the white, but it’s not hard to see the rabble-rouser that hides just under the surface. He may have settled down some out of sheer necessity, but the old Jeter, the one not afraid to face arrest for what he thinks is right, is always waiting for the right time to make himself known. His opinions haven’t softened after all these years and all the arrests that have punctuated them, and he stills sees a fight yet to be won in the world of cannabis.
“When it was illegal, before 2009 when I opened a dispensary, I made a shitload of money. I had absolutely no responsibilities and I really enjoyed my life,” he opines. “Since legalization has happened and I’ve tried to be completely compliant in all facets, my income has dropped by over 80 percent, my responsibilities have increased by 50 fold, and I’m not having fun anymore. This isn’t the light, regulated like alcohol industry I was promised.”
For the past decade, he’s taken up the mantle of hosting Bong-a-thon, but it wasn’t until last year that the party finally found a home sanctioned by local authorities. Those who attend the annual smoke-out will likely find Jetter making the rounds, orchestrating the goings on while using the platform to encourage attendees to get involved and vote.
He’s got no shortage of opinions about the direction the cannabis industry is headed and it’s not hard to coax them out. As he sees it, what Colorado has settled on isn’t legalization, rather another form of prohibition, just with legalized sales.
“If it was legalized, there’d be no criminal cases because it would be legal. But it’s not legalized; it’s taxed and regulated…”
“If it was legalized, there’d be no criminal cases because it would be legal. But it’s not legalized; it’s taxed and regulated, and it’s slanted in the favor of people that have, well let’s just say, assets totaling over $400,000 liquid,” says Jetter. As for consumer rights, in his assessment, there’s not really much advocacy aimed at the cause. “I think most people think that the industry groups are looking to support consumers’ rights and patients’ rights, and in my opinion the opposite is in fact the case,” he says.
Blue Mountains Full Melt Hash
While some have moved into the industry simply for the chance to make money in a developing market, that’s not an accusation that can be leveled at Jetter. It’s a cause that he’s fought for, and taken losses for. His involvement in cannabis was most recently used against him in a custody battle for his six-year-old daughter. As he sits, alone in his grow facility diligently moving his scissors, sermonizing on the points of personal liberty with regard to cannabis, he remarks that this is the first time in the past six years that he hasn’t had a court date awaiting him. Some activists may have adopted a more straight-laced approach to cannabis reform, but for Jetter, the need to stir the pot hasn’t passed. While other cannabis advocates have moved toward suits and ties, Jetter is still firmly in the scary stoner camp, and if the people making the laws are made uncomfortable by it, that’s just fine with him.
“I hope they’re uncomfortable. I hope they’re really goddamn uncomfortable,” says Jetter. “I was really fucking uncomfortable when those bastards kicked in my door in 1999; I wasn’t very comfortable standing there while they looked like the ISIS militants with their hoods on tearing the curtains off my house so everybody can stare in, that wasn’t very comfortable; it wasn’t comfortable having an AK47 stuck in my face that day; it wasn’t comfortable being charged for an illegal grow in 2010 that I had all my paperwork for, that none of the detectives wanted to review, that wasn’t very comfortable; I wasn’t comfortable getting my mouth swabbed, my picture taken and going to court for five trial dates only to be told that I was right, my paperwork was in order; I wasn’t comfortable in 2015 when they dragged me out on the street in front of POTUS and put me in handcuffs for ‘questioning;’ I wasn’t comfortable when they handed me the two distribution tickets I got in 2015. None of that shit makes me comfortable, so if they’re a little uncomfortable, I’m sorry, but fuck it.”
“I was invited to this little hash party. And so we were smoking some really good hash. We were smoking some King Hasan out of Morocco and…just some amazing old school hash; slab hash. And I kept seeing this guy walk around and he had this big-ass bong in his hand…and I kept hearing him say ‘Bong-a-Thon, Bong-a-Thon.’ So, finally, I stopped him, and I said, ‘What the hell is Bong-a-Thon?’ ‘Oh man, the deal is it’s this party that started in 1974 and it’s a big smoke-off and everyone parties…[but] we don’t throw it anymore.’ I said, ‘I’ve got a 160-acre ranch in Fairplay, it’s up at 10,000 feet.’’” And so begins one of many colorful and unique stories from the man behind Yeti Farms, Mr. Shawn Honaker.
To some, Honaker is the man who hosted the clandestine smoking competition known as Bong-a-Thon on his Park County ranch for five years, setting the record for fastest quarter smoked in an incredible six minutes and 23 seconds. To others, he’s the man that turned Siloam Road in Pueblo County into the bustling recreational cannabis farming community that it is today. And yet, the imagery often associated with a Yeti, the mysterious mountain-dwelling creature that finds pleasure in the back-country, is aptly the most accurate depiction of Honaker and his passions: keep it simple and take it back into nature.
Honaker grew up in the rural Midwest in the ‘90s, where his stepfather was a police officer for more than 20 years. Needless to say, cannabis wasn’t a prominent part of life. Having filed his first tax return at the age of 11, and every year since, hard work has always been very important to him. When it came time to go to college, he paid his way, coming out without any debt to pay off. But he never actually received his degree, dropping out just six months before graduation. “In my head I made a very simple financial decision and that was [that] I don’t need a damn degree to get a job.” At the time, a good friend of Honaker’s who had graduated with the same degree was making less in a year than it would cost Honaker to finish his degree.
Fast forward a few months and Honaker had moved on to a job at Bank One in Denver as a corporate financial planner while doing outside sales for a few other companies. Having done well in this role, he was able to buy his first home in the city at the age of 22. He quickly realized that city life was not for him, and sought out solace in the mountains doing a variety of jobs; car sales, granite and tile work, even laying a Japanese soak tub in Phil Collins’ house. By 26, he’d ended up working the oil fields in western Colorado.
After a few years working the fields, Honaker started his own oil field service company that operated 24/7, 365 and was responsible for 29 oilrigs with more than 70 employees and over 100 subcontractors. This was early 2008, and the prognosis for the economy was slowly turning. Sensing a change in direction, and having the opportunity for a buyout, Honaker took the chance that April and sold all of his holdings in the oil field industry in western Colorado. Not six months later, the economy was in disarray.
Growing up in the Midwest, alcohol was prevalent in Honaker’s household while cannabis was demonized. This ever-present aspect of alcohol came to an abrupt halt after Honaker realized that every oil deal was signed at a bar or strip club, and that he was slowly slipping toward alcoholism with each deal. After leaving the bar one night, Honaker swore he’d never touch the substance again. At the time, he was dating a “hippie chick” from southern Alabama who insisted he try cannabis. He’d only tried it once or twice in high school and again in college, but after that sampling, it took him about a month to smoke his first eighth. He hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since.
“Cannabis made everything easier; I found cannabis to be nuclear powered rocket ship to galaxies I didn’t even know existed on this earth. And it just started to open up a lot of doors for me. Business became easier. Meeting with people became more fluid. And I kept doing more and more of it.”
Not long after, Honaker’s good friend, a Vietnam veteran, posed the question, “How come when I smoke marijuana, sometimes I wake up and sometimes I sleep?” When Honaker didn’t have an answer, his friend responded, “Then fucking find out.” So, Honaker booked a ticket to Amsterdam for the High Times Cannabis Cup, telling his work he was going home for Thanksgiving, and telling his family he was working through the holiday. In Amsterdam he met Milo of Big Buddha Seeds and Arian of Greenhouse, along with many others who helped explain the difference between sativa and indica, and he immediately began poring through the books he’d purchased on his travels.
Upon his return, Honaker started cultivating; driving up to British Columbia to buy a BC Northern Lights BloomBox and meet with the team that made the apparatus. He also became one of the first people in the state of Colorado to own a professional trimmer. He managed his business during the day while growing at night to de-stress, which afforded him the ability to smoke more than he would if he were buying it at the going rate of the time of $400 per ounce.
Yeti Farms Concentrates
Eventually, Honaker’s smoking outpaced his modest hobby grow, and he needed a way to expand capacity. He buried a shipping container and began growing in this much larger space. Faced with excess product, he’d offer his extra medicine to dispensaries if they had the demand. This led to recognition of, and a demand for, his growing techniques that eventually grew into partial ownership of a dispensary in western Colorado. For two years Honaker partnered with a small shop owned by a husband and wife, focusing solely on indoor grows. But his passion was elsewhere.
At this point, Honaker had begun to grow outdoors, developing a proprietary blend of soil by comparing and mixing all of the soils available on the market. After his second year of cultivation, he’d found a winning mixture that allowed a single plant of Girl Scout Cookies to produce just over 8.76 pounds of dry material. At the time, that was a $24,000 plant that cost just under $300 to grow. He realized he was onto something, but his partners were focused on building out a new indoor grow in a brand new warehouse. So he took a buyout, and began to throw everything he had into greenhouse and his outdoor grow techniques.
Right around this time, 2009-2010, Honaker was introduced to BHO, or butane hash oil. Having hosted Bong-a-thon, participated in and won multiple competitions, and generally being known as a heavy smoker, he instantly fell in love with the potency and clarity of the high that BHO produced. Immediately after trying it, he was shown how to make extracts using 100-gallon cylinders and n-butane in a professional setting. “I’ve never used a tube, I’ve never used a can; I’ve never purchased a can…I’ve never been to Multi Line and bought a case of butane.” He started with the best of the best, and that’s where his technique began to evolve; driven by a desire for increased purity and techniques that cooked out any residual solvents. Back in the day, there weren’t sesh’s and cups every night, Honaker explains. There were high-end, secret events that you had to be invited to, and he’d go and get everyone “super duper high.”
“I don’t dress up for people, I don’t change who I am for anybody. I don’t give a shit who you are. I wear boots, jeans and a t-shirt every day of my life, that’s just how I live my life…so I’m a noticeable guy [especially in a room of] tuxes and ballroom gowns.” He’d lay out two “flats” of hash (about two pounds of BHO, all different flavors) in ball jars, dab out a whole party of 300 people, and then drive four hours back to his residence in the mountains. That’s where the idea of the Yeti really began to take shape.
Life of a yeti: he doesn’t come to town; he stays in the mountains.
Many of the popular products only recently finding their way to the market are things that Honaker was pushing out of his small extraction setup years ago, people just hadn’t figured out why his extracts looked the way they did and had the effect that they did. “People would say, ‘Dude I just don’t understand why I’m so high. I don’t get it.” Now, we know a bit more about this technology and why these extracts produce much more intense effects.
Having left his dispensary partnership and fresh into an early retirement, thanks to the sizeable buyout of his oil field company, Honaker set his sights on Pueblo County. He bought the property that Yeti Farms stands on today on Siloam Road, a 55-acre plot with a 35-acre tract next door. He runs a tight ship; no nutrients, herbicides or pesticides are allowed anywhere on his farm. “We do everything organically. If the grasshoppers come…if they eat ‘em, they eat ‘em. I grew up in the Midwest in Indiana, and that’s all part of the gig. If bugs eat them, they eat them. That’s part of being a farmer. I’m willing to roll the dice as a cannabis farmer.”
In this same tradition of farming, Honaker has an innate belief in the value of outdoor cultivation and believes that there is no value in separating the parts of the natural plant. “I didn’t believe in the future of indoor cultivation; [it’s] not sustainable for me…I’ve never had sweet corn from a warehouse that tasted good.” As the first hydrocarbon extraction company in Pueblo and one of the first large-scale outdoor cannabis farms, Yeti has continued this dedication to keeping it simple. They use the entire plant; fan leaves, sugar leaves, and buds, are all put into a bag together to purge for two weeks and then cure for upwards of two months. After that, the material is ground and extracted into budder, shatter, and a variety of other forms of concentrate. In addition to offering processing services for other brands and growers, Yeti Farms’ Blonde Sugar is their premium line of in-house, organically grown and extracted concentrates. “The Best Damn Dab in the West” is a full plant extract available at a variety of dispensaries throughout the state such as PotCo, Standing Akimbo and Three Rivers Organics in Pueblo.
The in-house standards that Yeti Farms uses for their products are very strict, 50 times stricter than the state’s standards, to be exact, says Honaker. No product leaves the facility if it tests over 100 parts per million for residual solvents (the state’s threshold is 5000 p.p.m.). If any sample tests above this, it is reprocessed and retested at Yeti Farms’ expense. This dedication to quality is why Honaker is in no rush to jump onto the latest trends. “We’re trying to find out what is the cool hype that will go away, and what is the thing that will stay the distance…Seems to me, when all the cool kids line up to do something, and it is the new hype, you either want to wait, or not do it… This is a long race; it’s a damn marathon. Let’s take our time.”
“We don’t get involved in the local politics around us”
Honaker is cautious to differentiate between his economic and political outlooks on the industry. While he believes he is very fortunate to be in a position to provide guidance to various agricultural groups in local, state, and national organizations, he is very clear about one thing: what he is doing is illegal on the federal level, and has been for the whole time he’s been doing it. So, he isn’t worried about how the administration change will affect his business. “If they’re going to close me down, I’m going to have to do something else anyways…Right now, I am operating illegally under federal law. These things honestly don’t ruffle my feathers and I highly suggest to the rest of the industry that it not ruffle yours.”
Locally, Honaker tries to stay out of politics, but there have been some issues that have caught his attention. In particular, a recent ballot initiative that sought to ban recreational cannabis cultivation in Pueblo County, which would have had dire consequences for Yeti Farms and other businesses in the area. To an extent, Honaker understands why people point to him as an example of the cannabis takeover of the area. When he moved into his farm, there were maybe twenty or so growers in the area, now there are licenses pending for upwards of 200. And this has him discussing the economics of oversupply with his fellow residents and business owners. “There’s a local outdoor farm selling pounds for $560 … If they’re doing that right now, this year… I’m really worried about where the future of this industry is going to go for all these growers that don’t have a license to get rid of any single thing but trim or flower. That’s all they can do. They don’t have resource to get rid of it [in any other form].”
Yeti Farms Blonde Sugar
To address this problem, Honaker is working on a few projects that would allow these businesses to contract out their material and split profits with processors. He’s constantly on the lookout for ways to help everyone in the industry stay afloat.
The authenticity of Honaker’s passion for quality drives home the underlying motif that a product speaks for itself. Yeti Farms barely advertises, and relies heavily on the reception and recommendations of its products by budtenders at its retailers. Honaker says that he’s the guy that comes in, has a great conversation with the team, and before they even know it, lunch is on its way to the dispensary. “I’m not doing it to kiss your ass. I’m doing it because you’re good people and you work very hard for me and you don’t get a paycheck from me. So let me buy you lunch or let me buy you ice cream.”
“I got to meet thousands of people that were all like-minded.”
Having hosted Bong-a-Thon on his property for five years prior to Park County officials shutting him down, Honaker is a self-proclaimed “old guy” at cannabis events, but enjoys the company and conversations of the many people he continues to meet throughout the industry.
So where does the Yeti go, and what does he do to escape the day-to-day? Honaker’s sanity finds reprieve beyond bongs and bud, to the adrenaline-inducing activities that some never engage in. When he’s not on the farm, you can find him entrenched in some combination of his current passions: cannabis, back-country snowmobiling, and free-dive spear fishing.
“When you’re under the water, and you’re holding your breath in an element where the fish now have the advantage. They’re in their element and you are not necessarily supposed to be there, that adds a new level of adrenaline. There’s obviously sharks, barracudas, stingrays; a lot of things that can make your life go bad pretty quickly. As my mind races through everything that I’m trying to achieve [I] try to find that one fish or that one lobster. It won’t allow me to think of anything else. So that’s where I really draw my happy place from is when I can’t think about anything but what I’m doing at that exact moment.”
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a serious, chronic medical issue. It occurs when your blood pumps through your veins with too much power. People with hypertension are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases and premature death. Blood pressure is measured in two parts: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure, the top number in blood pressure readouts, expresses how much pressure your blood applies to your artery walls when your heart beats. Since your heart is pumping, the blood pressure is higher and that is the reason the systolic is the top number. The diastolic pressure expresses how much pressure your blood applies to your artery walls between heartbeats. When your heart is not pumping, the pressure is lower and that is why the diastolic pressure is the bottom number. If your systolic pressure is higher than 140 mmHg or your diastolic pressure is over 90 mmHg, then you have hypertension.1 There are many ways to treat high blood pressure, including diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and studies now show that use of medical marijuana could be a viable treatment for this condition as well.
How Can Cannabis Help with Lowering Blood Pressure?
Cannabis as Dietary Supplement
A study on hypertensive rats, conducted by researchers at the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Canada, presents interesting results on the effects of the hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) on systolic blood pressure.2 In a two-month feeding experiment with spontaneous hypertensive rats, the normal systolic pressure was controlled or even decreased when they were fed with hemp seed protein (HPI) or protein hydrolysate (HMH) compared to a casein-only diet. After the third week of the experiment, the rats that had hemp seed protein hydrolysate added to their diet had statistically significant reduction of their systolic pressure compared to the other groups. In the second experiment with adult rats with established hypertension, the diets containing hemp seed peptides or proteins also had an antihypertensive effect compared to the other diet groups. Based on the findings of this research, hemp seed could potentially be used as a nutritional additive for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.
In an early placebo-controlled study amongst patients with glaucoma, marijuana smoking resulted not only in reduced intraocular pressure but also in decreased blood pressure.3 It has also been shown that five to ten minutes after marijuana consumption, subjects can experience tachycardia (a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate) and decreased blood pressure.4 A more recent study comprising US adults found that the marijuana smokers had 69 percent probability of not suffering from hypertension compared to non-smokers.5 Nonetheless, the same study demonstrated that the number of years of marijuana use is an important factor and that in the long-term, marijuana smoking can have negative effects on metabolic health. Indeed, research has shown that the sudden discontinuance of cannabis use in heavy users could increase blood pressure.6 Furthermore, the diastolic pressure of the study participants escalated from a mean (SEM) of 74.8 (0.7) mmHg while smoking marijuana to a mean of 81.8 (0.6) mmHg following cessation. Similarly, the mean systolic pressure raised from 129.6 (0.9) mmHg to 139.8 (0.8) mmHg and the mean arterial pressure was also increased.6
Cannabinoids in Vivo
The application of cannabis extracts in vivo has also demonstrated positive effects on blood pressure. Rimonabant, a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, could potentially lower blood pressure, especially in males. In a study where obese or overweight patients were given 20mg rimonabant as a means of controlling their weight, both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased.7 This reduction was even more evident in patients with pre-existing hypertension. Other cannabinoid extracts, such as the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and anandamide, caused low blood pressure in unconscious spontaneous hypertensive rats, and the effects of amandine were still evident even when the rats were conscious.
Mechanism of Cannabinoids and their Effects
Sándor Bátkai, PhD, and colleagues explored the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and the cardiovascular system, concluding that “endocannabinoids tonically suppress cardiac contractility in hypertension” and that “enhancing the CB1-mediated cardio depressor and vasodilator effects of endogenous anandamide by blocking its hydrolysis can normalize blood pressure.”8 They also argued that focusing on the endocannabinoid system could potentially lead to novel treatments for hypertension. Furthermore, follow-up research found that, “Functional CB1 receptors are present in vascular tissue as well as the myocardium,” and therefore “cannabinoid agonists and endocannabinoids exert major hypotensive and cardio depressor effects in vivo through the stimulation of CB1 receptors.”9 The authors maintain that pharmaceutical research on the endocannabinoid system could prove beneficial for treating high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease.
Indirect Ways of Cannabis Effects to Hypertension
Hypertension has many underlying causes, including smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, a diet high in salt, excessive consumption of alcohol, stress, sleep apnea, genetics, adrenal and thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, genetics, and older age.10 Cannabis could be used to treat some of these conditions and, thus, indirectly treat hypertension.
Obesity: In a study of 4,657 US adult males and females, it was demonstrated that current marijuana use resulted in lower levels of fasting insulin and smaller waist circumference.11 Based on a study investigating marijuana use and metabolic syndrome among adults in the U.S., current cannabis users were 45 percent less likely to present with metabolic syndrome compared to those who had never used cannabis. For the middle-aged participants, the findings were more interesting, as both current and past users had lower probabilities of developing metabolic syndrome as opposed to those who had never used marijuana.12
Stress: In a review study, in which the author examined the effects of medicinal marijuana and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it was concluded that marijuana use is associated with lower levels of PTSD.13 Neurobiological studies performed on animals and humans confirm these findings, but more research is needed.
What does the Future Hold?
Despite the numerous studies examining the effect of cannabis on blood pressure, there are no cannabinoid-based medicines produced which target hypertension. Even though the use of cannabis has been proven highly beneficial with reducing intraocular pressure and marijuana is legally prescribed to patients with glaucoma, there is still room for improvement to prove its benefits for lowering blood pressure. As there is not yet any study that focuses on the effects of marijuana and its extracts on hypertensive patients, the antihypertensive potential of cannabis is left largely unexplored. Ideally, more studies with hypertensive patients should be considered to provide reliable data which physicians can use to prescribe cannabis-based treatment for this condition.
Girgih, A. T., Alashi, A., He, R., Malomo, S., & Aluko, R. E. (2014). Preventive and treatment effects of a hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) meal protein hydrolysate against high blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats.European journal of nutrition, 53(5), 1237-1246.
Merritt, J. C., Crawford, W. J., Alexander, P. C., Anduze, A. L., & Gelbart, S. S. (1980). Effect of marijuana on intraocular and blood pressure in glaucoma.Ophthalmology, 87(3), 222-228.
Merritt, J. C. (1982). Glaucoma, hypertension, and marijuana.Journal of the National Medical Association, 74(8), 715.
Yankey, B. N., Strasser, S., & Okosun, I. S. (2016). A cross-sectional analysis of the association between marijuana and cigarette smoking with metabolic syndrome among adults in the United States.Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 10(2), S89-S95.
Vandrey, R., Umbricht, A., & Strain, E. C. (2011). Increased blood pressure following abrupt cessation of daily cannabis use.Journal of addiction medicine, 5(1), 16.
Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2006). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy.Pharmacological reviews, 58(3), 389-462.
Bátkai, S., Pacher, P., Osei-Hyiaman, D., Radaeva, S., Liu, J., Harvey-White, J., … & Kunos, G. (2004). Endocannabinoids acting at cannabinoid-1 receptors regulate cardiovascular function in hypertension.Circulation, 110(14), 1996-2002.
Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2005). Blood pressure regulation by endocannabinoids and their receptors.Neuropharmacology, 48(8), 1130-1138.
Penner, E. A., Buettner, H., & Mittleman, M. A. (2013). The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults.The American journal of medicine, 126(7), 583-589.
Vidot, D. C., Prado, G., Hlaing, W. M., Florez, H. J., Arheart, K. L., & Messiah, S. E. (2016). Metabolic Syndrome among marijuana users in the United States: an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.The American journal of medicine, 129(2), 173-179.
Yarnell, S. (2014). The Use of Medicinal Marijuana for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of the Current Literature.The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 17(3).
It’s hard to scare Alexis Bortell. She’s faced a terrifying medical condition that had doctors baffled and resulted in seizures so severe and unstoppable that in one particularly grievous instance she dipped close to entering diabetic shock. She’s faced treatment options that ranged from medications with severe side effects to invasive brain surgery. She’s faced starting her life anew in Colorado simply because the treatment that she found most effective was illegal in her home state of Texas. She’s faced self-important yet ill-informed lawmakers who dismissed her success and questioned the morality of giving a child cannabis medicine. She’s faced so many daunting things, it’s almost hard to believe that she hasn’t yet faced being a teenager.
At the age of seven, Alexis had her first seizure. With no history of epilepsy in the family, her parents assumed the worst. “I was sure she had brain cancer,” says Dean Bortell, Alexis’ father. The family had recently moved into what Dean describes as his dream house on the edge of a lake in Texas, and the possible explanations for Alexis’ seizures were terrifying. After swimming in the lake nearly every day, the idea that Alexis had come under attack by one of the brain-eating amoebas that were the subject of an increasing number of local news reports loomed in Dean’s mind.
“Strangely, it was a relief. Of all the things it could have been — besides nothing — epilepsy was the best,” says Dean.
But the clear-cut diagnosis came without clear-cut solutions. Alexis’ doctors, despite their best intentions and information, could find nothing that would help in a meaningful way. “We went down this rabbit hole of drugs and we end up on a drug called Depakote,” says Dean. Depakote, while partially effective in stymieing Alexis’ frequent seizures, came with its own host of side effects, chiefly erratic and aggressive behavior. “It was bad, she would completely wig out with Depakote,” says Dean.
Doctors informed them that these outburst were taking the place of seizures, but they were troubling enough that Dean made sure to keep any knives out of reach for fear that Alexis would harm herself or her younger sister, Avery.
Alexis before and after cannabis therapy.
Alexis says she doesn’t remember a lot from this time in her life. While the drugs were minimally successful in treating her epilepsy, they did little to restore her childhood. At the same time that the Bortells faced the seemingly hopeless prospects of treating Alexis’ condition, elsewhere cannabis medicine was making serious headway in mainstream culture. CNN’s special report, titled simply “Weed,” had raised national awareness of the potential treatment that cannabis offered for patients suffering from epilepsy, and it was the follow up “Weed 2” that opened Dean’s eyes.
Dean, a Navy veteran with conservative leanings, hadn’t considered the possibility. His squadron spent a small portion of their time in the Navy trying to impede drug smugglers, and he was working as a software engineer for a company contracted to work in the health care industry, neither of which lent itself to the idea of cannabis as medicine, especially for his young daughter. But after his wife Liza showed him a recording of “Weed 2,” Dean began to reexamine his position
“I went to bed that first night thinking, ‘What if they’re telling the truth?’” says Dean. “Everything I’ve been led to believe, both in the health care industry and out, is maybe not a lie, but certainly not complete.”
The documentary tells the story of the Wilson family, who emigrated to Colorado from New Jersey to find medicine for their sick daughter. It was a revelation for Dean. “I wasn’t against it, I was just wrong about it,” he says. “I didn’t necessarily have anything against it, I just never thought I’d give it to my child. Never.”
In a turn of serendipity, Dean had recently begun working for a company with operations in Denver, though he continued to work remotely from the family’s home in Texas. He decided that he would rent an apartment in the Denver area, which would allow for the residency requirements that Alexis would need to get her medical marijuana referral, a contingency that the family could fall back if things continued going poorly in Texas.
The Bortells were soon awash in the world of medicinal cannabis, something they knew almost nothing about at the time.
“We thought we could just pay cash, get her seen by the best doctors and know what she needed to take, when she needed to take it — that level of granularity,” says Dean. Only having familiarity with the CNN series, Dean sought out the one variety of medicine he knew of: Charlotte’s Web. However, they soon found that the strain was not widely available, and they were forced to examine other options.
Throughout all this, Dean is clear that at no point did the family bring cannabis medicine out of Colorado. “We could have went and gotten marijuana for [Alexis} and took it back to Texas. But we didn’t, because if we had it would have been a scandal,” he says. Still, the fact that Alexis had a Colorado red card made the family a target in Texas, says Dean.
Alexis, not yet 10 years old, found herself at the center of an issue that she didn’t ask for, but that she would shoulder nonetheless. The family had carved out an otherwise ideal life in Texas, which included a beautiful home, friends and a place in their church, but found that because of the avenue they were pursuing to treat Alexis they were no longer welcome. “People would say, ‘Why don’t you just move?’ What if people had said the same thing about women voting?” Dean asks. “A lot of my hyper conservative — not friends anymore, obviously — they would make the argument for private property rights then tell you to move in the very next breath.”
Thrust into the fight for medical cannabis, Alexis and her family soon found that those elected to represent the citizens of Texas were often uncaring to the plight of those same citizens. Alexis points to then Texas State Rep. Scott Turner as a particularly egregious example, who claimed he had serious moral and ethical concerns about cannabis medicine.
“Medical cannabis is a plant, but it’s [also] a community that does amazing things, and I’m not sure why he would basically call a community … immoral,”
“Medical cannabis is a plant, but it’s [also] a community that does amazing things, and I’m not sure why he would basically call a community … immoral,” says Alexis. When it is suggested that perhaps this is because Rep. Turner is a douche bag, she giggles and sheepishly replies, “That’s what I wanted to say.”
Then, in February of 2015, the dynamic changed. A particularly bad episode brought Alexis to the hospital, where doctors found themselves powerless to stop her from seizing. The incident was so sever that her blood glucose levels dropped low enough that she was in danger of entering diabetic shock, says Dean. After a terrifying night in the ER, Alexis was presented with two options by the neurologist: brain surgery or Felbatol, a drug with potentially deadly side effects that include blood poisoning.
Facing these options, the family consulted Alexis’ pediatrician, who had been her primary physician since before her diagnosis. While Dean is adamant that Alexis’ pediatrician did not explicitly recommend that she pursue cannabis medicine, their visit solidified the way forward in his mind. “After that conversation, the take away was 100 percent clear that I had a fundamental choice,” he says. “I could either go with a drug, Felbatol, that had a statistical enough chance of killing my daughter [that] I had to sign waivers for a black box warning for her to even pick it up, versus marijuana, which had never killed anybody. The worst that could happen is we’re right back to where we stared.”
Two weeks later, the entire family had moved to the apartment outside of Denver.
Now, Alexis continues her fight to expand access to medical cannabis, though she is doing so from the slightly friendlier climate of Colorado. Now 11 years old, she has been seizure free for two years, and she’s looking to expand the discussion and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. “I want to fight for the patients. I’m trying to help the people that can’t speak,” says Alexis. She’s not alone in her medicine either. Last year, Dean also began using medical cannabis to treat a traumatic brain injury he sustained while serving in the Navy years ago.
“Who from my family should die,” she asked, “me or my dad?”
That passion recently brought her to a meeting of the Colorado House of Representative’s Finance Committee, where House Bill 1220 was under discussion. The bill would create a state-wide limit on the number of marijuana plants allowed in private residences, and the hearing drew an unruly crowd of cannabis patients and advocates. Testifying before the committee after listening to more than three hours of testimony supporting the bill, Alexis explained that she her father required different strains, and that the proposed limit would not allow them both to grow the medicine they needed at home. After hours of loyal drug warriors decrying the current limits, 11-year-old Alexis took the microphone, addressing the incredulous committee. “Who from my family should die,” she asked, “me or my dad?”
The committee’s de facto reply: it would have to be one of them. The measure easily passed the committee and later the House.
Alexis’ assessment of this tone-deaf solution to the black market by lawmakers is simple and straight to the point. “Criminals don’t care what the law is,” she says.
Now, on the 35-acre farm the family lives on outside of Larkspur, that bravado and confidence isn’t as apparent. Instead, Alexis seems like a typically shy 11-year-old girls. She loves drawing and working on the farm, where the family has set aside eight acres for her and Avery to source organic produce that will go to individuals in need as part of their charity, Patches of Hope, an idea that is also tied to cannabis patients. “Some patients, they don’t have a lot of money, so they have to choose between food and medicine. I want to help out and just make food for them,” says Alexis. “They can home grow [cannabis], and a lot of people are already doing that.”
Not content with simply educating ignorant lawmakers, she’s even co-authored a book. Titled “Let’s Talk About Medical Cannabis,” it’s a project she’s been working on in some form for nearly the entirety of her time as a medical cannabis patient, having written what she describes as nearly an entire book prior to this one. “I was going to write it a lot about me, but as I kept writing it a lot of other names started to pop in,” says Alexis.
“Cannabis isn’t a bad, dangerous drug; it’s a plant that in my case saved my life,” she says. “Taking cannabis is better for my health than dying.”
“Let’s Talk About Medical Cannabis” weaves Alexis’ own narrative with the politics of advocacy, home growing advice, and much more. It’s all been reviewed by experts in the field of law, politics and cultivation, says Dean. She even manages to get in a few digs at the politicians that turned their back on her, including Rep. Turner.
The book will be unveiled at the Southwest Cannabis Conference taking place April 22-23 in Fort Worth, Texas, where she will also be a keynote speaker, kicking off a country-wide book tour. The choice to begin the tour in Texas was Alexis’ choice, a tribute to activists Vincent Lopez, who stood with her at many of the events that made up her early days of advocacy in the state before his passing in 2015. The book is dedicated to Lopez’s memory, and Alexis hopes to give the first copy to his mother.
While traveling cross country, Dean’s respect for the law won’t allow the family to bring any cannabis medicine, however. Instead, Alexis will be medicating before short jaunts on a plane, bringing only her doctor-prescribed Marinol with her.
Despite this perhaps slightly precarious arrangement, Alexis remains dedicated to the cause of spreading awareness for the benefits of cannabis. For this incredible girl, dispelling the myths about cannabis looks to be a calling that will remain with her for the rest of her life. “Cannabis isn’t a bad, dangerous drug; it’s a plant that in my case saved my life,” she says. “Taking cannabis is better for my health than dying.”
The possibility of returning to Texas full time should the laws there change is fading from Dean’s mind, though they still own property where they’d like to spend time if the laws were to change. In the mean time, the home they’ve found in Colorado seems an increasingly good fit, and Dean says the state has earned his loyalty. As for Alexis, her involvement in politics at such a young age is certainly setting her up for future civic contributions. Dean’s pride in his daughter is clear when he says, “If she ever runs for office, I hope it’s in Colorado.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday made the bold claim that the Trump Department of Justice would likely be targeting adult-use marijuana in the eight states that have voted to legalize it. While Spicer was clear that this would not include attacks on state medical marijuana programs, the news is troubling for the markets that have so far flourished in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as the burgeoning industry in Alaska and the prospective industries in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine that have yet to take shape.
Spicer tied any forthcoming enforcement to an effort to stymie the opioid epidemic, saying that the federal government shouldn’t be “encouraging people” by allowing adult-use cannabis laws.
Drawing a clear distinction between medical laws, which have previously been protected from federal meddling by an attachment to a previous appropriations bill that barred the Department of Justice from spending money interfering with state-legal medical marijuana programs.
“That’s something that the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into,” said Spicer. “They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”
Despite Spicer’s unfounded claim that adult-use marijuana somehow worsens the crisis of opioid addiction, most data shows that medical cannabis laws lessens opioid use. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a 25 percent lower rate of death due to opioid overdose in states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010.
Another study out of the University of Athens looked at data from 2010 to 2013, finding that on average of doctors prescribed 1826 fewer doses of pain medications, including opioids, in states with medical marijuana programs.
A study published in The International Journal of Drug Policy found that 63 percent of respondents registered to receive medical cannabis were using the plant in place of prescription drugs.
Spicer’s claim that progressive cannabis laws lead to increased opioid use may not be based in fact, but the impact on tax revenues and local economies that enforcement actions predicated on this claim are more easily nailed down. Colorado sold over $1 billion in cannabis sales last year, generating more than $127 million in tax and fees for the state.
Earlier in the press conference, Spicer stated clearly that Trump represented a party that believed strongly in states’ rights.
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