Yesterday, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach called recreational marijuana a "public safety issue," and indicated that he's likely to advocate for a ban on pot shops in his city. Bach added that he'd had discussions with Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder regarding a possible ban in the more liberal tourist town.
Intrigued, we followed up with Snyder. And in a voicemail to the Indy, Snyder says while he's not looking at a ban, he is looking at something.
"Basically, I don’t think a ban is really an option out here in Manitou: We had some pretty high numbers in support of every marijuana measure that’s been on the ballot in the last few years," Snyder says. "However, I have expressed concern that I don’t wanna be the only jurisdiction in El Paso County that is going to allow for retail centers.
"My concern is if Colorado Springs doesn’t allow retail marijuana, then the pressure’d be enormous on Manitou. And I don’t want our little town to be overrun with a dozen retail centers and really become kind of a mecca for marijuana activity," says the mayor. "So, if that were the case, if Colorado Springs were to enact a ban, then I’d probably be looking at some type of cap — a density cap, or even just an outright limit on the number of establishments that we might allow out here in Manitou."
While Mayor Steve Bach didn't exactly come right out, at his monthly press conference, and say he plans to push for a ban on recreational marijuana, he did make it clear that he not only considers the plant a safety risk to the citizens of Colorado Springs, but also a risk to the city's job-sector and economy as whole.
"I’ll be going to City Council on Tuesday, the 28th of May, and during 'mayor’s comments' I’m going to express to City Council my recommendation to them on this matter," said Bach in response to a question from TV newsman Eric Singer. "I will tell you where I’m leaning: Recreational marijuana is not only a public-safety issue of great concern to the city — the police chief can verify that for you — it is also, I believe, a very serious economic development issue.
"You know, I spend a lot of my time, around our city, calling on our primary employers to thank them for being here and employing our citizens, and asking what our city can to do to help them be successful," Bach said. "And I’m told over and over, by defense contactors and primary employers of all types, that they’re very concerned about this matter, the commercial sale of recreational marijuana."
Asked if a ban wouldn't be a smack in the face to the city's purported support of small businesses, Bach compared recreational marijuana to porn.
"And when you talk about small businesses, um, I would just offer that adult bookstores are small businesses; I’m not sure we wanna allow those around the city. So we have to be thoughtful.
"I do agree with Council — we ought to have plenty of public conversation; the citizens oughta be able to weigh in on this — but what I’m hearing from a lot of primary employers is they’re watching this very closely, as to what we’re gonna do about this."
A press release from the proponents of marijuana legalization — including Mason Tvert, Betty Aldworth and Christian Sederberg, who we interviewed for a story on the amendment's task force — says "numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64."
"The proposal entails the General Assembly referring an unconstitutional measure to the November 2013 ballot in addition to the measure required to establish excise and sales tax levels for marijuana sold under the provisions of Amendment 64," reads the release. "The unconstitutional measure would amend the Colorado State Constitution to entirely repeal Amendment 64 if the voters do not approve the tax levels proposed by legislators."
The Denver Post reports the move is getting a fair amount of consideration from legislators, but faces a steep path to becoming reality.
"[Rep. Frank] McNulty said lawmakers who support the idea haven't agreed on final language for a repeal proposal, instead saying that — with only 13 days left in the session — they are still working on 'finding the right mix,'" wrote John Ingold. "It is unclear whether supporters have the backing of legislative leadership to introduce a bill this late in the session or whether they could amend it onto the existing bill on marijuana taxes. And it is unclear whether they would be able to generate the two-thirds support needed at the Capitol for lawmakers to put a measure repealing a constitutional amendment to voters."
There's a full-on revolution in Colorado music, driven by last November's passage of Amendment 64. OK, actually maybe there's just been a handful of songs, but that's still more than Amendment 65 has generated. What, musicians: Limiting corporate contributions and expenditures doesn't jazz you the way a mom-and-pop weed shop does? Well, guess I can't argue with that.
So, after entertaining the hip-hop strains delivered by the Rocky Mountain Kyngz, then Jay the 420 Kid, we bring you local group Bear Scat Mountain's "Amendment 64," a bouncy little bluegrass number with a message of celebration.
"After a while, you know, I came to find / I got more done when I was of clear mind / But when I want to escape the Rat Race / and put my mind in a different kind of place / One thing that can help with that need / is if I find a little God-given weed / and since we live in the Land of the Free / there's no way this should be a felony."
Like the Rocky Mountain Kyngz before him, who wrote the Amendment 64 anthem, Jay the 420 Kid wanted to send-up the local recreational-marijuana scene in stylish verse. This time the topic's a little more specific: the lovely stuff found at Club 710, the cannabis social group, and the Weed Pimps (who we covered here).
Here's some of "Weed Pimp Club 710 Anthem":
"There's been new strains, new things that I've never seen / I've never taken dabs 'til I met WP," raps the 420 Kid around the two-minute mark, referencing smoking hash. "Ooh-wee, I got an ounce of that skunk / pass me a bowl and I'll load that shit up / I don't bogart the stuff, I like smoking people up / And when I got a pound we smokin' blunt after blunt"
Everybody's taking note of the Pew Research Center's historic poll revealing that the largest percentage of Americans ever support legalizing marijuana — 52 percent — and that includes Stephen Colbert.
In a four-and-a-half minute clip, the satirist laments the latest lost moral battle. "Now, it's bad enough, folks, that there's medical marijuana in 18 states, and recreational pot is now legal in both Colorado and Washington — and those two states are planning to turn Idaho into a bong. But now, even worse, people are comparing this pot-tastrophe to another attack on our values."
And, of course, he's talking about same-sex marriage. "You hear that? Same thing. 'Oh, oh, I can't help who I am. I was born attracted to watching seven hours of Planet Earth while eating a sack of croutons.'"
A new poll released by the Pew Research Center reveals that, "for the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana."
Pew found that 52 percent of those polled suport the outright legalization of marijuana, compared to 45 percent against, and that 72 percent think "government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth."
The survey finds that an increasing percentage of Americans say they have tried marijuana. Overall, 48% say they have ever tried marijuana, up from 38% a decade ago. ...
Among those who say they have used marijuana in the past year, 47% say they used it “just for fun,” while 30% say it was for a medical issue; 23% volunteer they used it for medical purposes and also just for fun.
“You can only fight an unwinnable war for so long," says Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in a press release. “It's time legislators caught up to their constituents in calling for an end to an unwise use of limited and valuable law enforcement resources.”
Maybe it's a nod to people tired of legalese, but a new memo sent yesterday on behalf of Schriever Air Force Base, from the desk of 1st. Lt. Skylar Streetman — a young lawyer recently moved to Colorado Springs, according to her blog — is surprisingly direct.
"While the people of Colorado have voted to change their state constitution, the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] remains unchanged," writes Streetman. "The mission of the U.S. Air Force is of paramount importance, and Airmen who use marijuana are neither prepared nor suited to carry out that mission."
The reason for the scornful memo is, of course, the passage of Amendment 64 last November. And while it doesn't lay out any new territory — a previous colonel made similar noises in 2010 — the memo has a certain style to it. Like here, where Streetman seemingly talks skeptically about the road Gov. John Hickenlooper and others have gone down in recent months:
"Although federal law supersedes legislative initiatives of local governments, Colorado government officials stand behind the decision of their electorate despite growing concerns over the federal implications of this state constitutional amendment. While there has been no significant federal government enforcement response to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado to date, this inactivity does not negate the possibility of federal government action in the future."
And then there's the whole "neither prepared nor suited" part that's clearly not worried about the veterans committing suicide in ever increasing numbers, soldiers who may have found relief from their emotional trauma through marijuana use.
"Bottom line, the DOD will continue to use random urinalysis testing as a means of detecting marijuana use by military and civilian personnel," writes Streetman, "and commanders will continue to have the authority to bring the full force of the UCMJ against those Airmen who choose to use, possess, or distribute marijuana."
Tomorrow you're going to read in our marijuana column CannaBiz that today (Tuesday), Colorado Springs City Council was expected to have the first reading of a marijuana amendment. That measure would amend city code to officially criminalize possession of marijuana by someone under 21, or in amounts above an ounce, as spelled out in Amendment 64. They were also set to make consuming or displaying marijuana in public, or in a vehicle on public property, similarly, and officially, illegal.
Unfortunately for us, the proposed change was delayed in today's meeting after our issue had gone to print, so the information will be incorrect. We're sorry.
Staff recommended Council vote to delay considering the issue until the body's first meeting in March, which it did unanimously. "And if I could provide some clarification as to why we pulled the item: We did not have time to vet our proposal with the mayor prior to presenting," said one city employee. "So we need to circle back and make sure that he's in agreement with the staff's recommendation and presentation to Council."
In this week's CannaBiz column, we brought you word of KC Stark's new social club for cannabis smokers called Studio A64. Located right above the Triple Nickel Tavern, the business' grand opening is today, Saturday, Feb. 23, and tickets $10.
"Based on everyone I’ve talked to in the state, that I know of, people have done this but no one has a sales-tax license and no one has a permanent brick-and-mortar location like we do," said Stark, one of the most active entrepreneurs in the local marijuana scene, in an interview last week. He specifically juxtaposed it against another creation, Club 710, a more mobile outfit (until further notice), which we reported on in early January.
Studio A64 will supply pre-packaged drinks and snacks, as well as music, entertainment and Silver Surfer Vaporizers, but goers will have to bring the cannabis themselves.
"I’m not gonna give shit to nobody — I don’t sell marijuana," he said. "I’m just allowing you a place to exercise a constitutional right as an adult."
Stark's also clear about the inherent risk of operating in the gray area of Amendment 64, where something's not necessarily prohibited, but it's not clear that it's allowed, either. Recently, Westword reported on the dim view Attorney General John Suthers took with related ideas, like businesses that offer weed for free then charge for something ancillary, like Colorado Springs' Billygoatgreen MMJ.
"You know what? They could possibly ban everything but what I’m doing, I think," Stark said. "I think what I’m doing, constitutionally, if we actually get to court and can afford that battle, I think that we may be the case that sets what A64 really means: what is public, what is private. Because we all have an idea, but there is no case law.
"But if I can join a club and watch people dance fully nude, and bring my own liquor, well, you know, I think I can have no nudity, no sales of marijuana, and I can sell you a postcard and a cup of coffee and a Jimi Hendrix poster, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong."
Yesterday, we stopped by for a real quick preview of the business. Below are a couple shots of what people can expect.
Update, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2:29 p.m.: CSPD has released the names of the three individuals arrested in connection to Billygoatgreen MMJ: Pritchard Garrett, 31; Shilo Campbell, 27; and Daniel Conticchio, 29. Conticchio's photo was unavailable at the time we requested it, but the others' are below. All were charged with "offenses related to marijuana — distribution."
Two weeks ago we brought you the tale of marijuana home-delivery service Billygoatgreen MMJ. The company sought to slip through the section in Amendment 64 prohibiting receiving remuneration in exchange for cannabis by providing the substance for free and taking "donations" for growth and research instead.
It's a gray area with plenty of risk, as attorney Brian Vicente confirmed in our story. But as we also quoted Lt. Mark Comte with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division, "If I show up at your house with less than an ounce of marijuana, I'm 21, you're 21, and I say, 'Hey dude, it cost me 50 bucks in gas to get over here,' and you give me 50 bucks for my gas, there's nothing illegal."
Well, maybe not, but either way, in the last couple days, owners of the service were contacted by police, arrested and charged with distribution, according to a post on Billygoatgreen's Facebook page.
"we met with a high profile lawyer and he says if we fight it and loose were looking at LIFE in PRISON!!!!! out on bail waiting for court dates," reads the statement posted yesterday. "they are using a undercover police boyfriend and girlfriend to trick people on craigslist. DET.Lemkool is the name of the undercover cop. first they say its legal to donate then arrest you and your looking at life in prison. not so sure that sounds fair"
We contacted the service for more details.
"They raided my house with swat team and sheriff's when my wife was home alone," the anonymous man responded in an e-mail. "Made a felony stop on me at the same time and 3 of us were taken to jail for distribution of marijuana. I posted bail and all 3 people are home safe.
"They took both our cars and both phones laptop and $3000 or so in cash being saved to repair my wifes car. They took everything they could but left all the mmj because our grow is 100 percent legal.
"Because of my past record im looking at a plea deal of 10 to 24 years or take it to trial and risk 25 to LIFE bro even though the last charge I had was 8 years ago. ... Life in prison for a marijuana charge. If I ever knew my family was in danger I would never chosen this path. I truly believe I didnt break the law and certainly not anything that could cost me life in prison."
CSPD would only confirm "that warrants were executed," but declined to provide more information because "this remains an open and active investigation." Asked what changed from Comte's original statement of legality, public communications specialist Barbara Miller e-mailed that "nothing changed with Lt. Comte. The law is vague so we can’t speculate on hypotheticals — there are elements that are both legal and illegal."
A poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, and released Thursday, shows that 72 percent of those polled think the federal government should refrain from arresting folks using marijuana in the states that have legalized it; 24 percent think they shouldn't.
In other questions, 68 percent think the government should not prosecute marijuana growers; and 64 percent think those who sell the substance should be left alone.
"Republicans usually make the case for federalism, but in all three instances — smoking, growing, selling Reason-Rupe finds higher numbers of independents and Democrats embrace the federalist argument that the federal government should stand down in states that have legalized marijuana," writes Reason.com, which commissioned the look.
Interestingly, the support for the legalization of cannabis is way lower than the support for the federal government backing off of users. Hard to say if this reflects a general mistrust of power — the same poll shows Congress' approval numbers at 17 percent — but either way, only 47 percent of those polled support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, with 49-percent opposed. A similarly worded question — "Some people argue the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol. Do you agree or disagree?" — revealed 53 percent of respondents agreed.
The poll was conducted between Jan. 17 and 21, and included 1,000 adults reached by mobile and landline phones.
The other day we got an e-mail letting us know the video was ready. Strap on your YouTube glasses, and fire it up. (The action gets going around 1:35.)
——— ORIGINAL POST: Nov. 30, 2012, 1:02 P.M. ———
The Rocky Mountain Kyngz really require no explanation. Like the picture of a dollar bill on their Facebook page shows, it's all about the "Richest Dollar Pursuit." (I mean, they attended Stack Your Money University.)
Anyway, the Kyngz just seem to be a fun-loving bunch working to go hard and celebrate a certain lifestyle. To that end they've released their latest joint, titled "Amendment 64." (Look for the video soon.)
Some of our favorite parts:
• "I'm from that smoky state, you can see us from the coast / Rocky Mountain Kyngz, yeah we smoke the fuckin' most / Legalized weed, man, thanks to your votes / What up Colorado, roll another one to make a toast"
• Them Colorado chicks smoke the most, bakin' them goodies, blowin' clouds like a ghost / RMK, yeah we on the way, smokin' good all day, from that dispensary"
• "Been legal, red-card holder / I could smoke from the Springs up to Boulder / Without one weight on this kid's shoulders, now everyone statewide can — thank you voters / The police-man can't trip no more / Feds stay out this unless you want civil war"
The Marijuana Policy Project may seem a little far afield for our focus, being based in Washington, D.C. as it is, but it was some $1 million of its money that paved the way for advertising pushing Amendment 64. (And you may have heard that it passed.)
So when the group sent an e-mail with its strategic plan — a list of eight goals it "can reasonably accomplish by the end of 2013" — well, we figured you might be interested, too.
1. Decriminalize marijuana possession in Vermont.
2. Legalize medical marijuana in New Hampshire.
3. Build support for legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in Rhode Island.
4. Increase support for tax and regulate proposals in California, Maine, and Oregon.
5. Build MPP's number of supporters online.
6. Continue the steady, positive drumbeat in the news media.
7. Achieve a record vote for medical marijuana legislation in the U.S. House.
8. Build support in Congress for ending marijuana prohibition nationally.
Finally, we may be reaching the end of a story we've been following for almost 18 months: the attempt by Americans for Safe Access, and related parties, to see marijuana rescheduled from its current status as a Schedule I substance, which has taken the group from a 2002 petition to a 2011 denial, to a subsequent lawsuit.
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. rejected ASA's argument that the Drug Enforcement Administration's "final order denying their request to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana was arbitrary and capricious," reads the judgment written by Judge Harry T. Edwards.
So, basically, ASA's request to reschedule the drug to Schedule III, IV or V was rejected. Then its lawsuit saying the rejection was illogical — and not taking into account research that's already out there regarding cannabis' medical benefits — was rejected by the court.
There was a small highlight early in the case, when ASA maneuvered around and narrowly kept its standing. Unfortunately, the outcome of the whole thing hinged on portraying the bureaucracy of the DEA in a certain negative light, which was always a longshot.
"Under the Administrative Procedure Act, a court may set aside an agency’s final decision only if it is 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,'" it reads. "We will not disturb the decision of an agency that has ‘examine[d] the relevant data and articulate[d] a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.'"
Here's the DEA's reasoning regarding one of its five conditions of rescheduling, that the substance have proven medical use.
"To establish accepted medical use, the effectiveness of a drug must be established in well-controlled, well designed, well-conducted, and well-documented scientific studies, including studies performed in a large number of patients," it wrote in its initial rejection of ASA's request. "To date, such studies have not been performed. The small clinical trial studies with limited patients and short duration are not sufficient to establish medical utility."
The court said that the DEA would only consider studies that were as rigorous as what the Food and Drug Administration would put new drug applicants through, and that just any "peer-reviewed" study would not be sufficient.
"To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well-documented studies that conclude otherwise," says Joe Elford, chief counsel with ASA, in a statement. "The Court has unfortunately agreed with the Obama Administration's unreasonably raised bar on what qualifies as an 'adequate and well-controlled' study, thereby continuing their game of 'Gotcha.'"
Regardless of where you stand on marijuana's medical benefits, it's not hard to see the DEA took its sweet time deciding the issue. ASA and others (called the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis) first filed their petition in 2002. Nine years later, in 2011, the DEA rejected it, after being sued for the first time, which was five years after it had received the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' opinion in 2006 that there was not enough proof of medical efficacy.
"The Obama Administration's legal efforts will keep marijuana out of reach for millions of qualified patients who would benefit from its use," says Elford, noting the group would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. "It's time for President Obama to change his harmful policy with regard to medical marijuana and treat this as a public health issue, something entirely within the capability and authority of the executive office."