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One key issue before Colorado regulators is how to define impairment by drivers. Should presence of THC, the principal psychoactive constituent in cannabis, in a person's bloodstream make a person under the influence?
"I personally know a lot of patients who can handle a huge amount of THC in their systems and don't show any impairments," says Chris Olson, spokesperson for the County Sheriffs of Colorado. And if mere presence of THC is considered impairment, then what about caffeine? "There's a point at which you can have too much in your system and you can't do anything. You can't even sit still," he says.
Olson, who has had two transplants and has had his colon removed, opened a medical dispensary in Frisco, just off Interstate 70, in August 2009. He argues that Colorado, despite the legalization, has mishandled the permitting requirements, making it difficult for people with legitimate needs for marijuana to gain access.
While the local sheriff joked about the epidemic of 21-year-olds with neck pain, Olson argues that marijuana is safer for human consumption than Tylenol.
Regulators, he says, have been ignorant and had to be trained. However, he admits that "a lot of business owners who weren't of high integrity" had become dispensers of medical marijuana.
With the complete legalization of possession, but still not public use, many feel a certain relief. Smith tells the story of a student at the local Fort Lewis College, who was arrested for smoking pot in a parking lot. In her defense, she produced evidence of a medical need: irritable bowel syndrome.
"The story became that, one bad morning in the bathroom and you too can qualify for a medical marijuana card," says Smith. "To me, the hypocrisy has been lifted by Amendment 64 (approved in November), but it will be a very, very hard thing to monitor and control."
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