“According to Colorado State Patrol,” according to the report, the woman was “heading down a dirt road near 20 and K roads late Sunday night” and “told emergency responders she saw a vampire in front of her. Troopers say she put her SUV into reverse and backed into a canal.”
The woman’s husband picked her up at the scene and took her home. “Inspectors do not suspect drugs or alcohol to have caused the accident,” and said, further, that “they saw no sign of a vampire.”
Colorado Medical Marijuana Law Raises Issues
DENVER (AP) – Colorado's new medical marijuana law hasn't even gone into effect, and police, attorneys and lawmakers have identified dozens of problems that could hamper regulation and enforcement.
There are questions about zoning laws. Authorities say it's hard to investigate compliance. Correct dosages are unknown. It's difficult to locate potentially dangerous growing operations. And the lack of a federal medical marijuana law raises serious questions for banks.
“We are probably going to have to do some tweaking, but we haven't seen the regulations that state agencies will put on the books,” said Rep. Tom Massey, a Republican from Poncha Springs who sponsored the measure.
Massey said local communities were given authority to make their own rules regulating dispensaries, but some issues are off-limits, including regulation of caregivers.
Massey said one big issue is finding a way to prevent organized crime from moving in and taking over.
“We've heard issues of Russian mafia, the Mexican mafia. We want to make sure this business stays clean and heavily regulated,” Massey said.
Massey said there are no established dosages and it may take years to come up with medical standards. He said patients are allowed to possess two ounces of the drug, but nothing prevents repeat purchases.
The law also keeps the location of marijuana growers secret. Attorney General John Suthers and some news outlets objected to that provision.
Under the new law, backers say muncipalities can pass regulations to keep grow operations out of residential areas.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates showed lawmakers and civic leaders attending the annual Colorado Municipal League conference on Thursday photographs of dangerous growing facilities powered by dozens of extension cords plugged into the wall that were being fertilized with dangerous chemicals which were dumped into the water supply. He said lawmakers need to review the confidentiality requirements in the new laws.
“I fully expect that a year from now, when you folks reconvene, there will have been at least one tragic fire as a result of this activity,” Oates told lawmakers.
Attorney Corey Hoffman told lawmakers federally chartered banks are refusing to accept deposits from dispensaries over concerns about accepting drug money and a federal medical marijuana law that could fix it has been stymied.
He said many legal questions have been raised that may have to be sorted out by lawmakers and the courts, including zoning laws, public safety issues, licensing fees, confidentiality requirements, regulation of grow houses, control over marijuana food products, advertising limits, search and seizure laws, workplace consumption and property rights.
The new law is one of 50 that go into effect July 1.
Other new laws include reducing late vehicle registration fees, repealing special interest tax refunds and barring slow-moving vehicles from the left lane of I-70 on steep uphill stretches.
Three Cleared in Colorado Pot-Growing Probe
GRAND JUNCTION – A grand jury declined to bring charges against three Western Colorado marijuana growers, months after the operation was raided following a neighbor's complaint.
Prosecutors asked for charges including felony marijuana cultivation against three owners of a medical marijuana dispensary called Naturals, A Wellness Center.
The growing operation was raided March 9 after a neighbor complained about a chemical smell. Officers from the Western Colorado Drug Task Force found 1,080 marijuana plants and asked for patient registry cards to justify that amount of marijuana.
The three owners – Cristin Groves, Brian Groves and Sid Squirrell – insisted they were following state law and are legal caregivers entitled to grow pot for medical marijuana patients. The owners shared marijuana registry cards.
“My client has always intended to stay within the law,” said lawyer Stephen Laiche, who represents Squirrell.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that the pot growing business has worked out of a leased building since last year.
“We are extremely happy that the community ... was able to weigh the evidence and agree that we are operating within Colorado state law,” Groves wrote the newspaper in an e-mail after the grand jury declined to bring charges Thursday night. The grand jury's decision was made public Friday.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, one of two prosecutors who presented evidence to the grand jury, declined to comment Friday afternoon.
Colorado's medical marijuana law allows patients to designate a “primary caregiver” to grow their marijuana. The amendment defines a primary caregiver as someone, other than the patient's doctor, age 18 or older and having “significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition.”
Corpse Research at Mesa State May Get New Home
GRAND JUNCTION – The nation's first high-altitude corpse research center may be back on track.
Mesa State College is trying to acquire a new site for its proposed “body farm.” It's a forensic research site where people who have donated their corpses are left to rot. Forensics researchers then study decomposition of the bodies to assist in police investigations.
The body farm would be the fifth in the U.S. and the first located in a higher-altitude, semiarid climate.
Some neighbors complained about the original site Mesa State proposed, and the school pulled that plan in March. Now college officials say they have a new site in mind, this one a mile from the nearest homes.
But Mesa State President Tim Foster and other backers aren't taking any chances. College officials went door-to-door Thursday in the nearest subdivision and talked to residents about the proposed farm. The college is putting on an open house next month to answer questions about the research proposal.
Derek Wagner, the college's director of strategic initiatives, told The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that the college considered an even more remote location for its Forensic Anthropology Research Center. But that site was rejected because it had prior uranium contamination, which could have skewed the research.
“We wanted it to be far enough away from residences but still close enough for the users of the property to get to,” Wagner said.
Fish and Wildlife Proposes Protection for Three Colorado Wildflowers
GRAND JUNCTION – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recommending federal protection for three western Colorado wildflowers, two of which it says are threatened by energy development.
The agency is proposing adding the flowers to the endangered species list.
The Parachute penstemon and Pagosa skyrocket have been candidates for the list at least 1990. The De Beque phacelia has been a candidate since 1980.
The agency will take public comments.
Josh Pollock of the Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems says the flowers are a vital part of Colorado's natural heritage.
The Parachute penstemon, with lavender and white flowers, and the DeBeque phacelia, with yellow flowers, are found only around the Roan Plateau in western Colorado.
The Pagosa skyrocket, with pinkish-white flowers, is found only near Pagosa Springs.
Alabama Man Dies While Rafting in Western Colorado
EAGLE – Eagle County authorities say the body of a 66-year-old Alabama man rafting in western Colorado has been recovered from the Eagle River.
Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy says Patrick Bush of Birmingham, Ala., was on a guided raft trip when he fell overboard while going through a series of rapids. Hoy says his body was recovered just before noon Wednesday.
Four other people, including Bush's wife, were on the raft. Hoy says everyone had a helmet, a personal flotation device, a wet suit and booties. He says Bush's death appears to be a tragic accident.
His death is being investigated and an autopsy is pending.Authorities Arrest Suspect in Hiker Kidnapping
BOULDER (AP) – Authorities in Boulder Country have arrested a man suspected of confronting and tying up a man and woman at gunpoint in the mountains west of Boulder over the weekend.
The Boulder County sheriff's office says that 42-year-old Joseph Scott Carter was arrested Monday and was being held in the county jail. Authorities say Carter is a transient who has been camping in the area the last couple weeks.
A 32-year-old Fort Collins woman and a 44-year-old Berthoud man said a man fired one shot and tied them to trees Saturday while they were hiking near Nederland's Rainbow Lakes.
The man freed himself and ran for help. Officials say the assailant released the woman.
The man suffered bruised wrists and a leg cut. The woman was unharmed.
Anti-Tax Activist Bruce Served With Subpoena
DENVER (AP) – Colorado Attorney General John Suthers finally got his man.
Suthers' spokesman Mike Saccone said Tuesday that process servers finally located anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce and served him with a subpoena after trying more than 30 times.
Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney ruled there is evidence that Bruce flouted the law and he ordered Bruce to show up July 26 for a hearing.
Bruce has said he was never properly served.
State officials wanted Bruce to testify in an administrative case looking into who's financing three measures on the November state ballot. The initiatives would limit the ability of local and state governments to borrow and spend money.
Bug Forecast: Fewer Miller Moths, More Aphids
FORT COLLINS (AP) – A Colorado State University insect specialist predicts a below-normal year for miller moths but an increase in aphids.
Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw said Tuesday there were fewer millers in the caterpillar stage last year, and probably fewer eggs.
He also says fewer miller moths will flock to gardens this year because a wet spring in some areas produced plenty of native flowers for them to feed on.
But the wet spring means a boom in aphids, which draw sap from new growth on trees, shrubs and flowers. Cranshaw says there also seem to be fewer bugs that prey on aphids this year.
Cranshaw predicts a spike in aphids in the next couple weeks, followed by a decline when predators catch up and the growth spurt in vegetation ends.
State Dept. of Education to Alert Schools of Educators’ Arrests
FORT COLLINS (AP) – The Colorado Department of Education says starting in July, it will step up compliance with a state law requiring it to alert all school districts and charter schools when a licensed educator is arrested.
Department officials say they notify schools about such serious cases as child abuse or sexual assault. Department spokesman Mark Stevens says the agency receives about 50 notifications about school employees weekly from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
State Board of Education Chairman Bob Schaffer says he believes the department has been “satisfactorily vigilant” about alerting schools of serious cases, but there's room for improvement.
A recent investigation by the Coloradoan in Fort Collins indicated the department hadn't been fully complying with the law.
Colorado Companies Report Nearly 1,000 Spills in Colo.
DENVER (AP) – Oil and gas companies have reported almost 1,000 spills to Colorado regulators over the past two-and-a-half years, totaling 5.2 million gallons of drilling liquids and oil.
They ranged from small oil leaks from half-closed valves to thousands of barrels of tainted water that escaped from pits.
It's far from the volume of oil now shooting into the Gulf of Mexico, but a Denver Post analysis of state spill reports shows that even far from offshore, drilling for oil can regularly create unintended messes:
* Produced water extracted along with natural gas and frac water used in the drilling process were the most common substances spilled. They accounted for nearly half of the spills, 461, and about 85 percent of the amount
* One hundred eighty-two spills got into groundwater and 82 into surface water. Another 10 reached groundwater and surface water. Most of the groundwater impacts were in Weld County, many of them from historic spills discovered when replacing or moving well equipment.
* Weld County and its 15,000 oil wells had the most overall spills, with 365: more than one in every three spills in the state. However, Garfield County had the most material spilled, 66,386 barrels, mostly drilling liquids and water used in natural-gas exploration.
* The spills have led to only two fines so far, both for 2008 spills by the same company that fouled springs on the Western Slope. The fines totaled nearly $650,000.
Environmental groups said they are worried about the cumulative effect of so many spills.
“To believe we can have a lot of little spills and a lot of big spills and that we're not going to see a really, really big impact is to ignore the reality of the risks of this industry,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society in Denver.
David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said many of the spills are small with no real environmental impact, while the state requires remediation for spills that affect the ground and water sources.
The state requires companies to routinely report spills of 5 barrels or more. If a spill occurs near a populated area, companies must report even smaller ones.
“Our reporting requirements are very low,” Neslin said. “Many of these reports are for relatively small spills or relatively benign discharges.
“It's not comparable to what's going on in the gulf.”
And energy companies said they move quickly to deal with spills.
“Any drop is too much,” said Curtis Thomas, director of government and public affairs for BP in the Rocky Mountains. “We immediately begin any kind of process for mitigation and remediation.”
As in the Gulf of Mexico, energy exploration is a major industry in Colorado, with oil production in Weld County and natural-gas exploration on the Western Slope.
In 2009, the state estimated that mineral exploration generated more than $700 million in revenue for local and state government.
The Post review of state documents found that 981 spill reports had been filed with the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission between Jan. 1, 2008, and June 15 of this year.
The spills totaled at least 123,193 barrels of material, or about 5.2 million gallons. However, 271 of the reports did not initially list the amount spilled. Many of those involved old spills just being discovered. For comparison, the 5.2 million gallons of fluids and oil spilled over two-and-a-half years is the equivalent of the amount of oil that spewed from the BP well in the gulf in about two days.
Kerr McGee, bought by Anadarko several years ago, submitted the most reports, 147, mainly for Weld County operations.
Anadarko spokeswoman Kimberly Mazza said the company moves quickly to notify authorities and start cleanup. Later, it reviews procedures to see what went wrong.
“We place the highest possible priority on being a safe and environmentally conscientious operator,” Mazza said.
Companies are not required to publicly disclose the mix of chemicals used in frac fluids.
Colorado's new regulations that went into effect last year require that companies disclose the content of frac water involved in spills if the state asks, Neslin said.
Environmentalists said if the material is benign, its contents should be disclosed.
“It's about the public's right to know and what's going into the streams and aquifers around the state,” said Steve Torbit, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation.
The Post analysis showed that two fines have resulted so far from the spills over the past two-and-a-half years. Both were against Oxy USA in 2008 for contamination of two springs near Parachute caused by leaks from pits containing drilling wastewater and hydrocarbons from oil and gas.
State investigators found elevated levels of benzene in the springs.
Neslin said other investigations of spills from that period are ongoing.
“In fairness, there are probably another five to 10 enforcement proceedings that are underway,” he said.
Neslin said the state instead has concentrated its efforts on new rules designed to minimize the impact of spills. For example, the rules keep drilling operations farther from water sources and people.
“I think we would all agree it's more expensive to clean up a problem after it occurs than to avoid the problem in the first instance,” Neslin said.
Aspen May Ask CU to Keep Given Institute
ASPEN (AP) – Aspen officials may ask the University of Colorado not to sell a conference center it owns in the mountain resort.
The Aspen City Council plans a Monday vote urging the college to keep the Given Institute, a conference facility sitting on about two acres of prime real estate. The university has announced plans to sell the property overlooking Hallam Lake.
CU officials say they spend $200,000 a year keep up the conference center. It could fetch $20 million if sold. The school says it would likely be demolished.
The conference center was built to hold conferences about medical technology. The building was designed by Harry Weese, a Chicago-based architect also designed the subway stations of Washington D.C.'s Metro.