The Highs and Lows of Colorado's Medical-Marijuana Experiment: Nederland and Prescription-Happy Docs

November 8 2010, 2:00 PM

The New York Times explores the "tie-dyed" life in the town of Nederland, which didn't vote on any measures related to marijuana during last week's elections—although changing demographics in the Boulder County mountain hamlet have apparently divided the town over the issue. For decades, marijuana has been "mainstream in this outpost of the counterculture," where seven dispensaries serve a population of 1,400—and where state records show "the concentration of medical-marijuana patients and dispensaries selling medicinal cannabis is higher here in Colorado's old hippie heartland than in any other corner of the state." Right outside Ned, in Gilpin County, for instance, nearly one in 20 residents qualify for cannabis treatment, a rate that's higher than three times the state average.

Meanwhile, as many as 2,000 medical-marijuana patients across Colorado could learn they've been rejected for the state-issued cards they thought they would receive. Their doctors could be on a list of 18 physicians who specialize in prescribing medical pot but are now banned from recommending the substance, reports Westword. Some doctors and clinics are riled by the change because state health officials decided to inform only patients—not the affected doctors. The head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been vocal about his concern that doctors who legally prescribe the drug under state law aren't doing enough follow-up care and that a majority of the state's 16,000 medical-marijuana licenses trace to just a handful of doctors. But thanks to changes in state law regarding restrictions on certain types of physicians, the state can now tell people they'll have to find another doctor to prescribe them cannabis.

For law enforcement officers, marijuana has also become a touchy subject. Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy thinks the law "is so poorly worded you could drive a truck through the loopholes" (via the Vail Daily).