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Colorado passes $1 billion in marijuana revenue since 2014

That's only counting revenues from taxes, fees, and licenses.


Photo credit: Carlos Osorio
/ Getty contributor
  • Colorado's Department of Revenue announced last week that the recreational marijuana industry has generated more than $1 billion in revenues from a total of $6.56 billion in sales.
  • Legalization remains a controversial issue in Colorado, where only 55% of residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012.
  • Ten U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, with Illinois set to legalize it in 2020.

Colorado has earned more than $1 billion in revenue since legalizing recreational marijuana in 2014, the state's Department of Revenue announced last week. That revenue — which comes from taxes, licenses, and fees — helps fund public education programs and health services throughout the state.

"[The marijuana] industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction," Governor Jared Polis said in a statement.

Colorado currently has nearly 3,000 licensed marijuana businesses, which have sold a total of $6.56 billion in marijuana products since January 2014. The state's marijuana laws are still evolving. Last month, Polis signed two bills that legalized cannabis delivery services and social-use areas, which will be "kind of like cigar lounges, which also help get the smell out of neighborhoods," the governor wrote on Facebook.

"Today's report continues to show that Colorado's cannabis industry is thriving, but we can't rest on our laurels," the governor said on Wednesday. "We can and we must do better in the face of increased national competition. We want Colorado to be the best state for investment, innovation, and development for this growing economic sector."

​Legalization remains controversial

Although Colorado's Amendment 64 is clearly a fiscal success, not all residents like legalization. After all, 45 percent of Colorado voters voted against the amendment in 2012, and today about 200 municipalities have outlawed pot retail shops, even though possession remains legal.

One main concern is kids using marijuana. Although studies suggest usage rates among Colorado teenagers haven't significantly increased since legalization, some experts have expressed concern about how marijuana is affecting teenagers' mental health.

"Horrible things are happening to kids," Libby Stuyt, a psychiatrist who treats teens in southwestern Colorado and has studied the health impacts of high-potency marijuana, told The Washington Post, which reported that visits to Children's Hospital Colorado facilities for paranoia, psychosis, and other "acute cannabis-related symptoms" jumped from 161 in 2005 to 777 in 2015, in the Denver area.

"I see increased problems with psychosis, with addiction, with suicide, with depression and anxiety," Stuyt said.

What explains this (potential) increase in mental health problems among young cannabis consumers? One explanation is potency. The legal marijuana products available today are, on average, much stronger than, say, the pot Americans smoked in the 1970s. What's more, people are consuming highly potent pot in different ways; one popular example is smoking hash oil from an oil rig.

Studies have established that consuming cannabis can damage a young person's brain. But that doesn't necessarily mean that fighting legalization is what's going to best protect kids.

"[Colorado's legal pot industry is] in many ways stamping out a black market that doesn't care whether they sell to kids," Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from the community of Longmont, said in an interview.

Still, some argue that Americans need to fully realize just how potent today's marijuana is, and the psychological damage it might be inflicting upon us.

"We are holding on to a construct of marijuana which today is antiquated," Ben Cort, a drug-treatment consultant, recently told students at Olathe Middle and High School, as reported by The Washington Post. "Ten years from now, there's going to be a reckoning."

Ten U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, with Illinois set to legalize it in 2020.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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