Mountain News: Health professionals fret about use of pot 

click to enlarge raising questions Health professionals in Aspen are raising questions about the recreational use of marijuana.                                                                                                           file photo BY alison taylor
  • raising questions Health professionals in Aspen are raising questions about the recreational use of marijuana. file photo BY alison taylor

ASPEN, Colo. — For decades, Aspen and Pitkin County have been tolerant of marijuana and, to an extent, other drugs. But a recent presentation of health-care professions there reported much that makes them uncomfortable.

The Aspen Daily News reports speakers fretted about overdoses of marijuana from edible products, drugged driving, and increased use by youth, to name just a few of their concerns.

"It was my position then and it still is now as your advocate... (that) we must aggressively educate the public about a substance that is possibly causing physical and mental harm," said Tom Dunlop, a former environmental health director for Pitkin County.

"In the past we've appeared before (the county commissioners) regarding smoking and obesity. Today's it's recreational use of marijuana," Dunlop added.

The Daily News says speakers did acknowledge precise medical benefits of cannabis, such as for children suffering from pediatric seizures, and as an appetite stimulant for cancer and AIDS patients.

County Commissioner George Newsman agreed that the absence of long-term empirical study of marijuana's effects has left "more questions than answers." The industry, he said, is way ahead of the community.

But Joe DiSalvo, the Pitkin County sheriff, disagreed strongly with many statements. The dispensaries, he said, are working in a responsible manner and many of the concerns about marijuana labeling and keeping the drug out of the hands of children are being addressed.

Truckee joins Tesla's supercharging highway

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Tesla is installing a supercharger station in Truckee. The company's website says it now has 111 such stations across North America where owners of the Model S can get half-charges in as little as 20 minutes for free.

Earlier this year, Tesla charging stations opened along the I-70 corridor in Colorado, part of an effort to give assurances to owners of the electric cars that they can drive from Atlantic to Pacific without being out of range of a fast charge.

The company now has charging stations up and down the Pacific Coast as far as Squamish, near Whistler. The company's map shows new stations planned for the TransCanada Highway to Calgary and north toward Edmonton.

Wildlife "occurrences" rise briskly in Banff

BANFF, Alberta — For whatever reason, what is called "wildlife occurrences" has surged past 1,000 in Banff National Park. The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that occurrences range from elk lumbering along the shoulder of the highway to bears nosing through garbage cans.

No terrible things have come of these occurrences, although many younger grizzly bears were out on their own for the first time this summer. Like youngsters everywhere, they have a habit of testing limits. They bluff-charged people and, from a human perspective, got uncomfortably close to campsites.

Telluride takes step to limit panhandlers

TELLURIDE, Colo. — People in Telluride this summer have found panhandlers annoying enough that the town council is now considering a law that would limit the legality of panhandling by restricting places, methods and times it can occur.

Kevin Geiger, the town attorney, told the council at a recent meeting that the U.S. Supreme Court has, in a variety of recent cases, found that public solicitation, or panhandling, is a constitutionally protected right under the First Amendment — provided that the soliciting occurs in a setting which is viewed as a public forum for the free expression of ideas.

Local governments can, however, limit the "time, place and manner" of soliciting, and in Geiger's view, New York City, Kalamazoo, Mich., and Longview, Wash., have laws that are both strong and legally defensible.

The Telluride Watch reports a bit of skepticism among council members. Thom Carnevale said he believes the law would be unnecessary and could be used to stigmatize groups of people.

Jim Kolar, the town's chief marshal, said that the panhandlers that are triggering complaints this year are different from those of previous summers and have lengthy criminal histories.

Mayor Stu Fraser supports the proposed law. Returning from a meeting of mayors in Colorado, he said aggressive panhandling is a common problem — and he believes Telluride can provide an example of how to legally deal with it.

"This exists in small towns, resort communities and non-resort communities across the state, so it's not just in big cities or other states," he said, "And the only towns I saw actually dealing with it were trying to do so through aggressive panhandling laws. If we act now and pass an ordinance we will be able to set an example for other towns, who will look to us for guidance and to see whether what we are doing is working."

A big spat in Crested Butte, and now a party

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — This weekend, if all goes as planned, three blocks of Crested Butte's iconic Elk Avenue will turn blue as 1,000 revellers are flown in by Budweiser, drinking nothing but Bud Light amid streets, lamp posts and racks for knobby-tired bicycles all sheathed in blue.

For this, the town will get $500,000 in a direct-cash payment. It also will fill lodges and restaurants for the first weekend of September, when the town normally turns quiet again.

But Crested Butte had a furious argument for several days before the decision was made. Since spring, town officials had been talking with special-events planners from Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of Budweiser, but had shared little information with the public until a big, blow-up meeting on Aug. 25, just 10 days before the winners of Bud Light's contest were scheduled to arrive.

Even after some steam was vented at the first meeting, the second meeting several days later drew 200 people. But even after seven hours of testimony over the two evenings, reports the Crested Butte News, the town council was unanimous in voting to grant the permit.

The News explains that many protesting the plans fretted about sullying Crested Butte's "brand." Others resented the clandestine process — which, town officials said, was necessary to reduce the number of unwelcome people drawn to the town.

Jim Schmidt, a member of the council for 24 years, acknowledged a "failure" in communicating with the community. But he also pushed back at critics.

"This event is not shameful and despicable. What's happening in Ferguson, Mo., and the Gaza (Strip) is shameful and despicable. I am also offended by accusations of impropriety by the council. That has not happened at all."

Shaun Matusewicz, another council member, said much of the opposition seemed to be based in fear. "I don't operate from a place of fear, I operate from a place of facts," he said. He noted that he had previously worked special events in New York City, and he had one application to shut down Central Park that was all of seven pages long. The application to Crested Butte was hundreds of pages. Budweiser will have 90 of its own security people.

In other words, it looks like Budweiser's folks have done their homework about how to paint the town blue with out leaving it black and blue.

Aaron Huckstep, the mayor, also chided opponents for their conservatism. "The notion is that we have to overcome all possible objections to this isn't the Crested Butte I know and love," he said. "If that were the case there would never have been a klunker tour over Pearl Pass or a Chainless (bicycle) Race."

He and other council members also alluded to reports of people from Budweiser being treated disrespectfully, contrary to the generally friendly atmosphere of the town.

"We treat guests with respect here. And as for us, let's remember that we are not just a walkable community, but we are a talkable community. You can speak to your neighbors and your representatives if you have questions or concerns. Now, I too, am ready to have a party."

iPad tortoises moved to a warmer climate

ASPEN, Colo. — In early August, the new Aspen Art Museum opened with an exhibit that somehow had to do with the old ghost mining towns of Colorado. In this display, African tortoises had iPads strapped to their backs with images of these ghost towns and were let loose in the exhibit, located outdoors on the top floor of the new building.

They were, the museum announced at the time, to remain until October. But as snow starts to dust the highest mountains and nighttime temperatures in Aspen chilled to 44 in late August, the museum was directed by its veterinarian advisor to get the tortoises to some place warmer.

The Aspen Daily News, in its story, seemed to ask whatever were they thinking? These are creatures from equatorial Africa, on the southern edge of the Sahara, with temperatures commonly 80 to 100 degrees.

Whatever they were thinking, the tortoises are gone but the exhibit is still up. If art museums are supposed to incite discussion, this one certainly succeeded.


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