TIME Rand Paul

Rand Paul Becomes First Major-Party Candidate to Court Pot Donors

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a campaign stop at an Embassy Suites hotel on June 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a campaign stop at an Embassy Suites hotel on June 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

DENVER (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul courted donors from the new marijuana industry Tuesday, making the Kentucky senator the first major-party presidential candidate to publicly seek support from the legal weed business.

Paul’s fundraiser at the Cannabis Business Summit — tickets started at $2,700, the maximum donation allowed for the primary contest — came as the marijuana industry approached its first presidential campaign as a legal enterprise.

The candidate entered the closed-door fundraiser through a private hallway, instead of visiting the convention floor or meeting pot business owners who weren’t donating to him.

But many of the 40 or so people who attended the fundraiser called his appearance at the summit a milestone. The campaign did not release fundraising totals.

“This is a historical moment, that our industry is now working together with a presidential candidate,” said Tripp Keber, owner of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs, which makes cannabis-infused sodas and sweets.

Another fundraiser attendee, Mitzi Vaughn of Seattle, managing attorney for a law firm that caters to pot businesses, said Paul criticized drug war-era policies but didn’t specifically say what would change if he were elected.

“Most of us, despite what others think, are in this to end the drug war,” Vaughn said.

Though legal weed business owners have been active political donors for years, presidential candidates have so far shied away from holding fundraisers made up entirely of marijuana-related entrepreneurs.

Former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson held a fundraiser with the Drug Policy Alliance in 2012 before leaving the GOP and running as a third-party candidate. But that event came before recreational pot was legal in any state.

“It really speaks to how important this issue is and how far it’s come,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a major sponsor of legalization campaigns in Colorado, Washington and other states.

“We’re seeing officials at the local, state and now federal level recognize this is now a legitimate industry, just like any other legal industry in many facets,” Tvert said.

Paul has embraced state marijuana experiments, while other candidates have either taken a wait-and-see approach or expressly vowed to challenge state legalization efforts.

Paul has joined Democrats in the Senate to sponsor a bill to end the federal prohibition on the use of medical marijuana. He also backs an overhaul of federal drug-sentencing guidelines, along with a measure to allow marijuana businesses to access banking services.

Asked last year whether marijuana should be legal, Paul said, “I haven’t really taken a stand on that, but I’m against the federal government telling (states) they can’t.”

TIME Marijuana

Here’s Why Marijuana Prices Appear to Be Dropping in Colorado

The cost of getting high is getting lower

After about 18 months of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, the market keeps getting bigger. And now a new survey shows that pot prices in Colorado are actually declining, even as the number of customers increases.

Over the past year, the price for 1/8th of an ounce of recreational pot dropped as much as 40% in Colorado, according to a report from global brokerage services company Convergex, which recently surveyed several marijuana dispensaries in the Centennial state. Convergex reports that the average price for 1/8th of an ounce dropped from between $50 and $70 last June to between $30 and $45 now. The price of a full ounce is now between $250 and $300 after selling for roughly $300 to $400 a year ago.

One reason the cost of getting high is getting lower is because of increased competition from new dispensaries and the expansion of growing facilities. The limited number of dispensaries allowed to sell recreational marijuana during much of the first year of legal sales were able to keep prices relatively high, but prices have come down as more and more entrepreneurs get dispensary licenses and enter the market. At the same time, the report by Nicholas Colas, Convergex’s chief market strategist, notes that “it is also a natural result for any maturing industry as dispensaries try to find the market’s equilibrium price.”

The report also notes that, while the number of customers dispensaries tend to see from day to day has remained fairly constant over the past year, the amount each customer spends is on the decline, with the diminishing novelty of legal recreational pot possibly resulting in an increase in restraint among customers.

Regardless, as the number of dispensaries grows and customer flow remains steady, the size of Colorado’s recreational pot market continues to grow. The Colorado Department of Revenue reported $4.39 million in taxes from recreational marijuana sales for the month of April, which suggests a total of $43.9 million in sales for that month (based on the 10% sales tax), representing a 98% increase year-over-year. Convergex forecasts a total of $480 million in revenue for 2015, which would be more than a 50% increase over 2014.

Meanwhile, the state’s sales totals could receive a sizable boost on Sept. 16, when Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will institute a one-day repeal of the 10% sales tax for recreational pot sales. After that one-day tax holiday, the sales tax will be permanently downsized to 8% in a move meant to further squeeze out the state’s black market for the drug, which is still illegal on the federal level.

TIME People

Star High School Athlete Dies From Rare Form of the Plague

This photo provided by Dawn Gaes shows Poudre High School baseball player Taylor Gaes during a baseball game.
Dawn Gaes—AP This photo provided by Dawn Gaes shows Poudre High School baseball player Taylor Gaes during a baseball game.

An average of seven people contract the plague in the U.S. annually

A 16-year-old star athlete died earlier this month in Colorado, one day after his birthday, after he contracted a rare form of the plague, health department officials confirm to PEOPLE.

Taylor Gaes, a pitcher and quarterback at Poudre High School in Larimer County, died on June 8 on the way to the hospital, county health department spokesperson Katie O’Donnell told PEOPLE.

He contracted septicemic plague, she said, a highly fatal form of the disease which results when the bacteria enters the bloodstream directly.

It’s believed that Gaes contracted the plague on Thursday, four days prior, O’Donnell explained.

“While the investigation is still ongoing, [Gaes] may have contracted the disease from fleas on a dead rodent or other animal on the family acreage,” the health department said in a press release.

Gaes displayed flu-like symptoms, including mild aches, but nothing serious for a teenage athlete, O’Donnell said. He even played in the Thursday night baseball game.

“We often talk about Taylor’s potential as an athlete, but he was much more than that,” his varsity baseball coach Russell Haigh told the Denver Post. “He was a good friend to all of our players. He was a special young man.”

An excellent hitter, according to the Post, Gaes was primed for real success as the varsity team’s No. 2 pitcher and, at age 15, the starting first baseman, Haigh told the paper.

His family has asked for donations to the Taylor Gaes Memorial Baseball Fund, which pays youth baseball league entrance fees for kids. They’ve raised more than $2,100.

Gaes’ teammates are wearing patches on their uniforms.

“They are doing well. That’s not to say they do not have pain. Young men are amazingly resilient,” Haigh told the Post. “I think it helps that they continue to play baseball. I think that’s what Taylor would want them to do.”

The health department said in the release that it is coordinating with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the State Health Department and the Larimer County Coroner’s office.

Gaes’s death is the first confirmed case of plague in Larimer County since 1999, according to the release. An average of seven people contract the plague in the U.S. annually, predominantly in the West and Midwest, according to the release.

It’s the third plague case in Larimer County in 30 years, O’Donnell said. “It’s very, very rare,” she said and not transferable from human to human.

The public health concern now is that one of the many people who gathered at the Gaes family property for a recent memorial service may have come in contact with an infected flea or tick, O’Donnell said – it’s something the Gaes family was very worried about, she said, that another child would get sick.

The service was held before the family knew how Gaes had died, she said.

O’Donnell said they’re now at the “very tail end” of the incubation period and they haven’t received any calls from people who’ve been to the property and now have flu-like symptoms.

That doesn’t mean there have been no more contractions, she said. But the plague is treatable if caught early enough and this case’s exposure should prompt people to speak with their doctors if they feel ill.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Crime

Psychiatrist Called Mother of Colorado Theater Shooter With Concerns

James Holmes, Lynne Fenton
Colorado Judicial Department—AP In this image taken from video, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes' former psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton, center, exits the courtroom after testifying in the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo., June 16, 2015.

But she was told that James Holmes had been shy and socially awkward for many years

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — The psychiatrist who treated James Holmes before he attacked a Colorado movie theater said she did not have enough evidence to have him detained, but was so concerned after he confessed his homicidal thoughts that she violated his health care privacy to call his mother.

Dr. Lynne Fenton testified Tuesday that Holmes told he was having homicidal thoughts as often as three or four times a day, but never let on that he was building a weapons arsenal and planning a mass killing. If he revealed his intent, “I likely would have put him on a mental health hold and contacted the police,” Fenton said.

But her concerns remained, even after he abruptly walked out of her office in June 11, 2012, about a month before he sprayed bullets into the audience at a Batman movie, killing 12 people and wounding 70 more.

Fenton called Holmes’ mother, but was told that her patient had been shy and socially awkward for many years, diminishing the apparent risk that he would be a danger to himself or others.

“I thought it was much less likely this was a sudden, new psychotic break,” Fenton said. Freed from patient-client privilege by Holmes’ insanity plea, Fenton testimony in Holmes’ death penalty trial marked her first public statements about him. Among other things, she described his behavior as anxious, hostile, bizarre and so worrisome that she took it upon herself to alert campus police but didn’t find the evidence needed to hold someone against his will.

Defense attorneys say Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, is schizophrenic and was in the grips of a psychotic episode as he carried out the attack on July 20, 2012. If the jury agrees, he’ll be committed indefinitely to a mental hospital.

The state must prove he was legally sane at the time, which is the conclusion of two court-appointed psychiatrists who examined Holmes months and years after the attack. A guilty verdict could bring the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Fenton’s testimony helped explain how she handled Holmes and his thoughts of killing people. But it’s unclear how it will play with jurors trying to assess his mental state at the time of the shooting.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Tamara Brady, Fenton acknowledged she had written in her notes that Holmes “may be shifting insidiously into a frank psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.”

Fenton’s session notes said his demand to know her “philosophy” might indicate “psychotic level thinking.” When Brady pressed her on that, she confirmed Holmes was at the age when schizophrenics sometimes experience their first psychotic break.

Fenton and Holmes had five therapy sessions between mid-March and June 11, 2012, when he dropped out of the graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado. He had come in with what a social worker described as the worst obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms she had ever seen.

Holmes got medicine but deflected efforts to probe his thinking, Fenton said.

At times, he showed flashes of anger, she said.

When Holmes couldn’t get a prescription filled because Fenton miswrote his name on the prescription, he sent her an email with an emoticon that he said signified him punching her. When she asked him about it, he responded: “Violence, is that what you wanted to hear?”

Fenton said Holmes may have been worried that she was trying to lock him up. Brady asked whether Fenton pressed him on that point, and she said she did, but “he wouldn’t answer.”

Two years after the attack, Holmes told a court-ordered examiner that he kept secret his elaborate schemes and to-do lists. He waited until just before the assault to mail his journal to Fenton.

“I kind of regret that she didn’t lock me up so that everything could have been avoided,” Holmes told the examiner.

Fenton, who also faces a civil suit accusing her of not doing enough to stop the attack, faced a few more questions from the jury before leaving the witness stand. A prosecutor asked if she could be released from her subpoena, but the judge agreed with a defense objection, saying she may be summoned again.

___

Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

TIME Drugs

Even in Colorado Medical Marijuana Can Still Get You Fired

Brandon Coats, Michael Evans
Ed Andrieski—AP Brandon Coats is pictured with his attorney, Michael Evans, after a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in Denver on April 25, 2013.

The state supreme court found that Dish Network was allowed to fire a quadriplegic employee although Colorado law permits medical pot

For the fifth time in seven years, a state high court has ruled that employers have the right to fire employees who use medical marijuana.

In a decision released today, the Colorado Supreme Court found that Dish Network, the national satellite TV provider, did not act illegally when it fired Brandon Coats, a Denver-area call center rep, in 2010 after Coats tested positive for marijuana. Although Colorado law permits the use of medical marijuana, the court ruled that Dish was within its rights because pot remains illegal under federal law.

Although the case is limited to Colorado, the court’s decision has national ramifications. Previous cases in California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington all swung for the employer, but the Colorado case was seen as the best chance for a ruling in favor of medical marijuana patients–and not just because of the state’s embrace of medical and recreational pot.

For one, Coats was a particularly sympathetic plaintiff. The 35-year-old has been quadriplegic since a car accident at age 16 and has been considered a model employee since being hired by Dish in 2007. In 2009, Coats obtained a state-issued license and began using medical marijuana at night, after work. “I take it at home every night,” he said in an interview last year. “It helps me sleep. I wake up with less stiffness, and it quiets my spasms all through the next day.” By sleeping off the psychoactive effects, he could report to work clear-headed the next day while the antispasmodic effects of the drug continued to calm his system. In 2010, Coats was selected for a random drug test. He came up positive for marijuana–as he told his boss he would–and was fired soon after for violating Dish’s anti-drug policy.

Coats and his lawyer, Michael Evans, contested the firing in state court. Similar marijuana patients in other states had sued–and lost–by citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or the state’s medical marijuana statute. Colorado is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that allow medical pot. These laws allow a patient to cite medicinal use as a legal defense against criminal marijuana charges, a practice known as “affirmative defense.” But State courts have declined to expand the statutes to include immunity from firing. In fact Colorado’s medical marijuana law, like those in many states, holds that employers are not required “to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place.”

The odds were against Coats. So his lawyer tried a novel approach. Colorado has a “lawful activity” statute that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for engaging in legal off-duty conduct. Coats’ marijuana use, Evans argued, was exactly that: legal and off duty. Dish replied that Coats’ medical pot, though consumed off-duty, was nevertheless active on-duty. “Coats freely admits that his [medical marijuana use] affected him while at work, even claiming that it altered his job performance,” the company said.

In effect, a drug Coats said helped him perform better at work was the reason he was fired.

This is the kind of Alice in Wonderland logic born of a circumstance in which marijuana is simultaneously a state-legal medicine and a federally illegal drug. (Because Coats’ firing happened in 2010, Colorado’s 2012 legalization of recreational pot had no bearing on the case.) But Dish’s argument wasn’t as crazy as it might sound. Steroids improve a baseball slugger’s job performance. Cocaine can increase a factory worker’s short-term productivity. To maintain a drug-free workplace (or at least a federally illegal drug-free workplace), Dish was willing to sacrifice the career of one employee–even one as sympathetic as Brandon Coats.

In the end, Coats’ case, like those before his, couldn’t overcome the inexorable power of federal law. Colorado’s “lawful activity” statute, the state high court ruled, did not extend its protections to activities considered illegal under federal law. In a released statement, Dish Network officials said they were pleased with the decision: “As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law.”

The ruling, said Evans, means that “most employees who work in a state with the world’s most powerful medical marijuana laws will have to choose between using medical marijuana and work.”

Coats described himself as “very disappointed” by the decision. “If we’re making marijuana legal for medical purposes we need to address issues that come along with it,” he said.

The latest ruling means that those issues won’t be solved at the state level anytime soon. The barrier is clear: Little will change unless the federal government evolves its own position on marijuana.

Barcott is a journalist who has contributed to the New York Times, National Geographic and other publications. His new book “Weed the People, the Future of Legal Marijuana in America,” from TIME Books, is now available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

MONEY Marijuana

Colorado Stoners Are Getting a Tax Break

Colorado will reduce its state sales tax on marijuana to 8% by 2017

The current tax on marijuana in Colorado is 10%, but legislators have decided to permanently reduce it to 8% in an effort to cut into the black market. There’s even a one-day tax holiday on Sept. 15, 2015, so mark that down on your calendar. This is taking place while neighboring Oregon is debating whether to install a tax on consumers buying weed; right now — or rather, once marijuana legalization comes into effect— only growers will pay taxes on it, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

TIME Retirement

This Is the Worst City to Retire In

FRANCE-ELDERLY
Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images An elderly couple walks in le Touquet, northern France, on September 8 ,2013

Retirees should look to Arizona instead

If you want to retire well, set out for Arizona. According to a new Bankrate survey out Monday, the Grand Canyon state is home to three of the country’s best cities for retirees, ranked by metrics like cost of living, weather, crime rate, health care, taxes, walkability and the well-being of seniors living in the area.

“It’s just a great place for a low-maintenance, outdoor type of lifestyle,” Chris Kahn, a Bankrate analyst, told USA Today. “Your dollar is going to stretch further in Arizona.”

But where’s the worst place to call it quits? That’s New York City.

The survey’s full results for the best places to retire are as follows:

1. Phoenix metro area, including Mesa and Scottsdale

2. Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia.

3. Prescott, Arizona

4. Tucson, Arizona

5. Des Moines, Iowa

6. Denver, Colorado

7. Austin, Texas

8. Cape Coral, Florida

9. Colorado Springs, Colorado

10. Franklin, Tennessee

Meanwhile, the worst cities for retirees include the Big Apple; Little Rock, Ark.; New Haven, Conn.; and Buffalo, N.Y.

TIME Accident

Massive Sinkhole Swallows Police SUV in Colorado

Police officer involved in the accident suffered minor injuries

A Colorado police officer had to climb onto the roof of his SUV and pull himself out from below the earth’s surface after a massive sinkhole swallowed his patrol car.

Sheridan police Sergeant Greg Miller was driving through an intersection around 2:15 a.m. Friday when the road beneath him gave way, sending his SUV plummeting 10 to 15 feet, reported NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver.

“Next thing I know … dirt – I’m assuming dust from the airbag – was floating around,” Miller told KUSA. “I hear the rushing water, and all I see is a dirt wall in front of me.”

Miller was trapped.

“The…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Research

Living at High Altitudes May Increase SIDS Risk, Study Says

A new study looks at how residential altitude affects newborns

A new study suggests babies that live at high altitudes may be at a greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) compared to infants living at lower altitudes.

Each year, around 3,500 infants under age one die unexpectedly in the United States. Still, public health experts remain uncertain for why SIDS occurs.

In a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers sought to determine whether altitude might play a role in SIDS risk. The researchers looked at residential altitude of over 393,000 Colorado infants, as well as their birth and death certificate data between 2007 and 2012.

After accouting for a variety of complicating factors, the researchers found that babies that lived above 8,000 feet had slightly over double the risk of experiencing SIDS compared to infants that lived under 6,000 feet.

The study did not determine why higher altitudes might increase the risk, but others have suggested that hypoxia, not having enough oxygen, may play a role in SIDS. Researchers suggest the findings should be kept in mind when coaching new parents.

TIME Crime

Colorado Triathlon Canceled in the Wake of Multiple Shootings and Sniper Fears

Bicyclist Fatally Shot
Jason Pohl — AP Windsor Police investigate the area where a cyclist was fatally shot in Windsor, Colo.

Federal agents join investigation into possible serial shooter

A popular triathlon in northern Colorado has been canceled following a rash of shootings near the small town of Windsor, which has left one person dead and another injured.

John Jacoby, 48, was shot dead earlier this week while cycling along a stretch of road just outside of Windsor, reports ABC News. The incident occurred in close proximity to an earlier shooting late last month, when a 20-year-old woman survived being shot in the neck while driving along Interstate 25 outside of nearby Fort Collins.

Local officials are working in tandem with federal investigators, who are scrambling to see if the two events are connected. In the wake of the shootings, organizers of Pelican Fest Sprint Triathlon have canceled the race slated for this weekend because of security concerns.

“My decision was based on the overall safety of all the athletes, volunteers, traffic control personnel, spectators and vendors,” wrote Dennis Vanderheiden, the race’s director, in a post published online. “The proximity of the shooting death and the bike course gave me real concerns.”

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