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LivWell offers ounces for a penny, study shows teen pot use declines

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The marijuana mega-chain LivWell Enlightened Health is giving back in a big way this holiday season. The philanthropic arm of the company, LivWell Cares, recently announced that while supplies last, qualified patients can purchase an ounce of high-cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis at any of its recreational locations for just a penny.

Let's say that one more time, for impact: a penny. (State law prohibits the company from giving away medicated products for free.)

OK, so you want in. But what does it mean to be a "qualified patient?"

LivWell is partnering with two patient advocacy groups, American Medical Refugees and the Cannability Foundation, which represent thousands of medical marijuana patients in the state. They'll help identify the patients with highest need.

"Our patients came to Colorado in order to legally access the medicine they need for themselves and their families," Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran, founder of American Medical Refugees, stated in a release announcing the promotion. "They have given up so much and are so financially drained."

This isn't LivWell's first foray into philanthropy. Over the summer, the company gave away over 8,000 high-CBD ounces — valued at over $800,000 — to Colorado veterans. LivWell Cares does a variety of charitable activities in communities where the dispensary operates, including neighborhood clean-ups and donation drives.

Not so impressionable

Underage pot use declines. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM / PHOTOGRAPHEE.EU

One of the main arguments against marijuana legalization — "But think of the kids!" — has sort of fallen flat. In fact, fears about a possible increase in pot use among young people have proven unjustified: Underage cannabis use in Colorado is on a subtle decline since pot shops opened for business.

The most recent addition to data on this trend comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal agency that often betrays a Drug War-era mentality. Its newly released National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that during 2014 and 2015, 11.2 of Coloradans ages 12 to 17 reported using marijuana within the past month, down from 12.5 percent in 2013 and 2014. Use among that age group nationwide has generally followed suit, though Colorado's decline was relatively more steep. Teen use in Colorado remains higher than the national average, though that's been true since before legalization.

Findings by our own state government show a similar trajectory. Colorado Department of Health and Environment's annual Healthy Kids Survey — which looks at everything from substance use/abuse to mental health to sexual habits and more — found a statistically insignificant change in teen use between 2013 and 2015. The rate actually has dropped since 2009, when the state saw a proliferation in medical marijuana stores.

Adult use, meanwhile, is on an upswing nationwide including here in Colorado, according to the SAMHSA report. Of course, that trend could be attributed to the normalization that follows legalization. As in, now that the taboo around partaking is wearing away, people may feel more comfortable telling a pollster the truth about their habits.

So look up these reports for yourself, print them out and be prepared for the next time anyone tries to insist that marijuana legalization will lead to more kids getting high. Undercover stings like the one that caught an employee at Pueblo's Strawberry Fields letting an underage customer enter and make a purchase at the dispensary show just how serious law enforcement, compliance officials and the industry itself are about keeping these products out of youthful hands. And for good reason, since studies show marijuana can have a negative effect on the developing brain.

Now perhaps that lovely refrain — "But think of the kids!" — can be leveled by legalization proponents.

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