Boulder backs off on ‘lab rat’ campaign


I reported last week that the Boulder Valley School District, which I wouldn’t call a pro-cannabis organization, announced after careful consideration that it wouldn’t support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “Don’t Be a Lab Rat” campaign to scare teenagers into not using cannabis and wouldn’t allow the slick, ad-agency rat cages to be placed on school property.

The city of Boulder announced Friday that it was set to erect one of the life-sized lab-rat cages near the corner of 13th Street and Arapahoe Avenue, right across the street from Boulder High School property. Thankfully, on Tuesday, after Councilman Macon Cowles brought the issue up on the city email hotline, the city quickly backtracked and announced it would not participate in the campaign, either. Better late than never.

What I still find crazy about the whole thing is that the campaign assumes high school students are all stupid. Let’s assume that most Boulder High School students are already aware of the campaign, which kicked off with saturation coverage across television, newspapers and social media. I’m guessing the students already know what it’s about and that it’s aimed at them, and they are also aware that the school district has decided not to participate because officials called it an inappropriate way to encounter students about marijuana use and abuse.

Skillfully designed and executed though the cages are (the large bottle was an especially “edgy” touch), the cages and the messages are little more than slick, sophisticated advertising. Do we really believe high schoolers won’t, or don’t already see through this “campaign”?

Let’s hope that other towns and school districts think through this stupid campaign as thoughtfully as BVSD. I hear that “rat cage selfies” are already the rage on Instagram and Facebook.

Denver lawyer Robert Corry lost a round last week in his legal attempt to end Colorado state taxes on cannabis. Corry and several plaintiffs Friday were seeking a temporary injunction from Denver District Judge John Madden that would stop all retail cannabis taxes, arguing that by paying them, owners of marijuana businesses are acknowledging they are breaking federal law, which violates their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

It’s an interesting argument that exposes the continuing disparity between state and federal cannabis laws. Under federal statutes, cannabis is illegal. In Colorado, it’s legal to be sold to adults. And many licensed cannabis businesses also pay federal taxes. (Even though the federal government considers it illegal, it still wants your tax dollars.)

He filed the lawsuit June 9 against Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Department of Revenue, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver Treasury Division. “Marijuana-specific taxes require plaintiffs and any other person paying said taxes to incriminate themselves as committing multiple violations of federal law, including but not limited to, participating in, aiding and abetting, or conspiring to commit a ‘continuing criminal enterprise’ and ‘money laundering,’” Corry wrote. “These illegally collected taxes are ultimately laundered by the State of Colorado through J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, which also participates knowingly in the continuing criminal enterprise.”

Corry told me earlier this week that his point is that, under Amendment 64, marijuana should be treated like alcohol.

“In Colorado, alcohol is taxed at a reasonable rate,” he said. “I don’t support taxes with the risk of prosecution. I want the industry to succeed. As long as it’s taxed higher than any product in the state’s history, the underground will win. Put a 40 percent tax on anything and you’re going to have a black market, in particular here, which already has a black market that has existed for decades.”

After lengthy testimony, Judge Madden ruled against the injunction, saying that the plaintiffs hadn’t proven an overriding need for an immediate halt to sales taxes. Corry said that the judge will next rule on motions to dismiss and, sometime in the next year, the case will go to court.

Finally, if you’re somewhere and you feel like you’re too stoned to drive between now and the end of the year, Uber, the ride-share taxi alternative, which is launching in Boulder today, has partnered with Weedmaps and Denver’s The Clinic dispensaries for a promotion that allows anyone to call Uber for a ride home. By typing the code “cliniccms” into a cell phone, the company will donate $5 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

In Colorado the legal limit for intoxication is five nanograms per milliliter of blood. Since THC can reside in the body for a long period of time, many regular or even some occasional cannabis users could easily test higher than that even if they hadn’t ingested that day and aren’t intoxicated. And if you’ve consumed cannabis and find yourself drinking in a public establishment, a “transportation network company” like Uber or Lyft could come in handy.

The promotion’s kick-off was tied to the Clinic Charity Classic, a golf tournament held earlier this month to raise money for MS, one of those diseases that current research suggests cannabis can help. It’s sponsored by Weedmaps, the online community app that allows users to rate strains and dispensaries.

This is one of those win-win situations. Getting cannabis, which has been demonized for so long, into the mainstream is going to take time, and promotions like this are part of that long process.

“It’s crucial because the culture war still isn’t over,” says Weedmaps CEO Justin Hartfield. “Selling to the responsible side of the community is a good face to put forward.”


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