Colorado Public Radio

Will recreational and medical marijuana voters have more political clout in 2020? The Cannabis Voter Project hopes so. The project made inroads identifying voters during the 2018 midterm election and now they’re turning their recruitment efforts to pot stores in Colorado and across the country.

When state Rep. Alec Garnett heard the U.S. Supreme Court would allow states to start sports gambling he didn’t waste a moment. Colorado’s Democratic House Majority Leader immediately called ‘dibs.’

He tweeted that he would sponsor a bill he initially thought would be a slam dunk for passage since there were so many reasons to do it.

State officials will pay homeless advocates $3.4 million to refurbish 28 studio apartments so mentally ill people stuck in the criminal justice system awaiting restoration to competency before they stand trial won’t sit in jail.

The 28 units will be specifically designed for mentally ill homeless people caught in limbo within the criminal justice system. These are people who have usually been charged with very low-level crimes — trespassing or public urination or drinking, for example — but have been deemed mentally incompetent to face the criminal charges filed by prosecutors. 

Updated 12:54 p.m.

Some of the biggest players in Colorado’s billion dollar legal marijuana industry are gearing up to flex their political muscle in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Senate race. On one side sits Republican incumbent Cory Gardner. Democrats haven’t chosen their nominee yet, but all eyes are on former two-term Gov. John Hickenlooper.

If that’s the matchup, industry support will likely fall to Gardner.

There’s a bee species that lives in the White Rocks Nature Preserve between Valmont and Lookout roads northwest of Louisville, and rumor has it that this species lives only in that area of Colorado.

It all started at the mall when a friend offered a puff from their JUUL e-cigarette. 

“It was kind of peer pressure,” said Beth, a Denver 15-year-old who started vaping in middle school. “Then I started inhaling it, and then I suddenly was, like, ‘wow, I really think that I need this, even though I don’t.’”

Between water and electricity, Colorado’s legal cannabis industry already has a big environmental footprint. But what about Front Range air quality? Could the plant itself be contributing to air pollution?

No, it’s not the pot smoke. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is conducting a study of terpenes, the organic compounds that make the cannabis plant smell so strong.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s entrance into Colorado’s U.S. Senate race has brought the contest to the national spotlight, in part for the rifts exposed between Democratic party leaders and progressive activists on the ground.

“West Nile disease is brutal,” said Betsy Marston, the shock of the loss of her husband still in her voice. “You suffer. He suffered.”

Her husband, Ed, the 78-year-old former publisher of High Country News, had recovered well from a heart bypass operation and was back to hiking through the Paonia wilderness. Within a span of a few days, however, his body went dramatically downhill to where “he could barely walk, and that’s when we went to the ER,” Marston said.

Open space is coveted territory for hikers and mountain bikers. Hitting the trails in Westminster or Jefferson County can mean less traffic than a trip up the mountain to a crowded Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Open space is wild-looking land set aside for preservation with the idea that it won’t be developed. Typically, voters weigh in on a tax to buy, manage and maintain it. And the city also doesn’t carve up the land into a park with picnic tables, baseball diamonds and jungle gyms. 

It’s a Colorado credo that the Western Slope is far different from the Front Range. But is it separate and distinct enough to deserve its own specific oil and gas regulations? 

The question divided a recent meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Glenwood Springs. The regulators were in town to give presentations and hear public testimony ahead of the major overhaul of state oil and gas rules mandated by the passage of SB 19-181.

Critics of the Trump administration’s decision to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction fear the real goal is to weaken the bureau. 

These concerns and suspicions have only been heightened by recent statements and actions from administration leaders. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed William Perry Pendley as acting BLM director. For years, Pendley advocated selling off the public lands of the agency he’s now leading.

For 10 years Hunter Hobbs was a heroin user. That’s what was big in North Carolina where he’s from. Then he moved to Colorado, where methamphetamine was more widespread.

“It was everywhere, and it was very easy to get,” Hobbs said. “I would buy other drugs and the person I was buying them from would provide meth as well, just kind of give it to me.”

It might be a slow wildfire season, but crews are still busy preparing. Colorado’s helicopter unit is taking advantage of the lull to train to be the first state team in the country that can fight fire at night.

A recently confirmed member of the state’s Independent Ethics Commission was investigated in 2016 for workplace harassment, ultimately agreeing to undergo counseling and spend six months away from an office she oversaw to avoid contact with employees who complained about her conduct. 

Conservative activists have taken to cafes, fairgrounds and rodeos across Colorado to gather enough signatures to ask voters a simple question: Should Democratic Gov. Jared Polis be recalled? The attempt has divided the GOP, yet some see a recall as their only option right now.

“I’m just extremely disappointed in Jared Polis,” said Kathy Abrams of Englewood as she walked up to a recall Polis petition table just outside of the Centennial Gun Club.

A decade ago Colorado lawmakers began to withhold money from public schools in order to balance the state budget.

That total shortfall now stands at a whopping $8.1 billion. Each year, a half a billion-dollar IOU is lopped off from district budgets. The loss in funding, coupled with restrictions on where school districts can set their property tax rates, has increased inequities between school districts.

On the floor of Pueblo’s Steelworks Center of the West — now a museum in what was the Colorado Fuel and Iron company steel mill’s medical building — three stripes in different colors run from room to room. They helped the mill’s many non-English speakers navigate their way to the appropriate service.

After years of government stalemate, there is finally some forward movement on cannabis legislation in the U.S. Congress. 

The lack of federal cannabis laws has affected a slew of issues from criminal justice to small businesses. The banking problem, in particular, has made it difficult for legitimate, licensed business owners. For years, big banks have refused to work with cannabis businesses because marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug on the Controlled Substances Act, on par with heroin and LSD.

Updated: 10 a.m., July 22, 2019.

In August 2015, the Gold King Mine blew out.

When it did, more than 3 million gallons of orange wastewater spilled into the Animas River in southern Colorado.

The accident occurred at an inactive mine where polluted water had been accumulating for years before an Environmental Protection Agency crew accidentally released it during cleanup work.

Conservatives gathered for the 10th annual Western Conservative Summit found an unexpected name on the agenda Friday morning: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. It was the first time a Democratic elected official has ever agreed to speak at the right-leaning political gathering in Denver.

It’s become a regular summer event on the Front Range: Ink-black clouds sweep through and unleash hail on homes, cars and unsuspecting people. As more people move to the state, all that damage is adding up to an increasingly expensive menace for property owners and insurance companies. 

Update, 10:15 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect recent reports of wolf sightings in Jackson County and Grand County.

Last year, Eric Washburn shot and killed a mule buck in Northern Colorado. Its thick coat and massive rack of antlers convinced him of the animal’s health, so he had the meat processed and chucked it into his freezer.

A bill that would install a sculpture by a Colorado artist commemorating the women’s suffrage movement in Washington, D.C. had hearings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

The entire Colorado delegation supports the bill. Boulder Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse has led the legislative effort in the House. He’s a new father and told the committee he wants his daughter “and every girl growing up alongside her feel represented, empowered and are ensured of the fundamental role that they play in our society.”

Thursday’s Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami will give two Coloradans a chance to introduce themselves to a wide audience of voters nationwide. But they’re no strangers to each other. 

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet’s lives have intersected and at times ran on parallel tracks. Now, they each want a moment to stand out. 

When most people look at the forest right now, they see an abundance of green, fed by a wet spring. When Butch Knowlton, director of emergency preparedness for La Plata County and a 40-year wildfire veteran, looks at it he sees risk.

Knowlton knows that even though snow still covers the high peaks at the southern end of the county, “some of our vegetation in our forested areas down there are already starting to dry out,” he said. As everything dries out, the chances of a fire rise.

The Trump administration has temporarily postponed plans to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants, but that hasn’t calmed fears within Colorado’s immigrant community. 

Colorado Republicans cheered President Trump Tuesday night as he officially kicked off his 2020 reelection campaign with a televised rally in Orlando, Florida.

There were at least nine county Republican watch parties across the state. In deep blue Denver, dozens of the president’s supporters, decked out in American flag hoodies and MAGA hats, packed a sports bar in the tony Washington Park neighborhood.

Published 8:30 a.m. | Updated 11:40 a.m.

Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday to outline policies he hopes will increase Colorado’s kindergarten vaccination rate while at the same time, as he describes it, “honor the rights of parents.”

Nicole Pember has two healthy daughters but during both pregnancies, she could have died.

Not only did she have preeclampsia twice, but she also had HELLP syndrome and severe postpartum depression

“We just kind of have this expectation also that women just suffer for the good of everyone and it makes it really easy to miss very serious problems,” Pember said. “Things like Preeclampsia, the symptoms are very similar to just kind of like being pregnant and miserable.”