This upcoming Tuesday Raul Perez and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy are hosting an informational session on the effects of Amendment 64 "and what we as citizens can expect," reads an e-mail from Perez. "Learn about the personal protections, the retail and taxing process, and the incredible importance of Hemp.
"The event will take the form of two Q&A sessions, the first will be led by Raul Perez and Michael Mangin Chairs of SSDP and [Young Americans for Liberty] at UCCS respectively. Then we will have an audience driven Q&A," Perez writes. "Our panel members are Mark Slaugh, Jason Lauve and Loring Wirbel. Mark is the CEO of iComply, a local cannabis regulatory company, and he was the southern Colorado director for the pro a64 campaign. Jason is the publisher of Cannabis Health News Magazine and is a longtime hemp activist. Loring is the Pikes Peak ACLU Chapter Chair and has long advocated for the rights of American citizens."
The Contra Costa Times is reporting that yesterday Aaron Sandusky, a 42-year-old former dispensary owner, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for conspiring to manufacture marijuana; possession with intent to distribute; and conspiring to operate a drug-related premises.
Sandusky faced as much as life in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson gave him the minimum sentence possible under federal guidelines.
"In this case, as the defendant was warned, the court's hands are tied," Anderson said. "Whether you agree with the defendant's position or not." ...
"I want to apologize to those with me and their families who have been victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state," Sandusky said in court.
Though the case is by no means unique, it's a good reminder that, whether you think it justified or not, pioneers in the cannabis industry risk it all.
Just when you think the saga of leukemia sufferer (and medical marijuana patient) Bob Crouse has ended, it pulls you back in. Finally able to return to normalcy after winning his protracted trial with the help of the public defender's office, and then winning the return of his marijuana, seized as evidence, with the pro-bono help of attorney Clifton Black, Crouse is confronting a final hurdle: repayment.
The Independent has learned that on Dec. 27, Black and attorney Charles Houghton filed suit against the city of Colorado Springs for its failure, via the police department, to maintain the marijuana as required in Amendent 20. Though Black declined to elaborate on the case's details at this time, it has come out previously that the roughly 60 pounds of seized crop — some 55 plants and 6.5 pounds of matter — were worth around $307,000.
It became an issue after Crouse was arrested in May 2011, and charged with possession and distribution of marijuana. When police collected the plants as evidence they cut them down, as opposed to just taking clippings. The problem is that the constitutional amendment, passed by Colorado voters in 2000, says, "Any property interest that is possessed, owned, or used in connection with the medical use of marijuana or acts incidental to such use, shall not be harmed, neglected, injured, or destroyed while in the possession of state or local law enforcement officials."
"I'll be very brief," says Black. "We just feel that our client should be compensated for the damage to his property."
City Attorney Chris Melcher's office has said Melcher will be available for comment later in the day; this post will be updated when we hear back.
For more on Crouse, see our 2011 profile here; our story detailing the string of losses District Attorney Dan May has experienced with recent MMJ cases (which include Crouse's June acquittal, and Ali Hillery's acquittal in December) here; and everything else related here.
• In Wednesday's Independent we've got an interview with Colorado Springs Rep. Mark Waller on what's coming up for the third attempt at passing legislation that codifies how much THC can be in the blood of Colorado's drivers. In the meantime, though, the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction has a pretty good look at what's happening.
"Under the justice committee bill that [Sen. Steve] King and incoming House Minority Leader Mark Waller are to introduce, the bill will call for a 5-nanogram standard, but make it a 'rebuttable inference' law," writes Charles Ashby. "That’s legalese for something that’s not quite certain, and therefore, rebuttable with expert testimony in a court of law."
• The first marijuana-focused private establishment opened today in Denver at 4:20 p.m. Club 64, the Denver Post reports, will disclose various meeting sites to its members via its website, which people can apply to join for $29.99 (payable via PayPal).
The rules around cannabis clubs have yet to take shape, which becomes all the more clear in this pure-gold passage detailing the full-circle run around the reporter, Electa Draper, got from a string of government officials.
"Nothing in the amendment language permits consuming (marijuana) openly and publicly," said Mark Couch, spokesman for the state Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64.
The rules on any clubs or lounges, Couch said, "will be sorted out in the months ahead by legislators, law enforcement and the task force." He suggested law enforcement should be contacted for clarification.
Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the department would have to consult with city attorneys. Denver Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said he had no comment, except the city awaits further guidance from the state.
State Attorneys General Office spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said the task force should be asked questions related to implementation of Amendment 64.
Today, we received a copy of the notice Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey distributed to patrol officers around the middle of December. There's nothing ground-breaking here, but it's nice to know how the results of the passage of Amendment 64 are being looked at internally.
Based on Governor John Hickenlooper’s December 10, 2012 proclamation certifying the vote on Amendment 64, members of the Colorado Springs Police Department need to be aware of the immediate changes related to the enforcement of marijuana possession and use.
Amendment 64 decriminalizes the non-public use, and possession, of less than an ounce of marijuana by persons twenty one years of age and older. The Amendment does not change any of the current Municipal Ordinances and/or Colorado Statutes as they relate to individuals under the age of twenty one. An individual twenty one or older is authorized to possess an ounce or less of marijuana but they are not permitted to use the marijuana in a public place or in a manner that endangers others. If it is necessary to issue a summons for public consumption of marijuana it should fall under Municipal Court 9.7.206: Possession of Cannabis.
Citizens are allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants, not more than three of which may be mature, flowering plants, in an enclosed, non-public, locked space. There are no current requirements that personal grows need to be in the home.
Today's the day you'll cite when you tell your kids where you were when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a "declaration [that] formalizes the amendment as part of the state Constitution and makes legal the personal use, possession and limited home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older."
"Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," the governor wrote on his Facebook page. "We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."
So, hey, voters in Colorado (and Washington) finally did themselves what no majority of legislators has had the political courage to attempt: ending prohibition of marijuana. It's a hell of a thing, says Mason Tvert, co-director of the amendment-backing Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
"This is a truly historic day," Tvert says in a separate release. "From this day forward, adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and possession of marijuana. We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately."
Now we can all back to doing what medical-marijuana business folk have been doing the past years: waiting to see when (or if) the federal hammer will fall. As the New York Times reported on Thursday, there are a variety of possibilities:
One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. ...
A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated. ...
Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored antimarijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.
In a separate statement issued today, the U.S. Attorney's office for the state of Colorado essentially restated its previous position: "The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state. The Department's responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance.
"Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 10th in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.”
Ultimately, President Obama's in an unenviable position, the Times reports.
“It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his base right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”
A release from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, says that a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 shows that 58 percent of respondents agree that marijuana should be legal, an increase from the former high of half. Also, 50 percent said they think the federal government will legalize the substance in the next 10 years, and 4 -percent said they think President Barack Obama should not interfere in recent laws passed here and in Washington state.
"These results demonstrate that the American people do not want the federal government to interfere in state marijuana laws," says Steve Fox, the director of government relations for MPP, in a statement. "More than 55 percent of voters in Colorado and Washington have elected to regulate the sale of marijuana, rather than have the market controlled by gangs and cartels. The Obama administration should not undermine their rational action by putting profits back in the hands of criminals. Now is the time to respect the people of Colorado and Washington and their desire to opt out of the failed policy of marijuana prohibition."
"Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered," he says. "New prominent voices are joining the chorus calling for change every day. Most thoughtful politicians have known for a long time that our marijuana prohibition laws are broken, but until recently the issue was considered too controversial to speak out about. Now more elected officials are beginning to realize that working to repeal failed status quo policies is not only the right thing to do, but that there's a large and growing constituency of voters who will have their backs in case out-of-touch opponents decide to launch stale 'soft on crime' attacks."
Yesterday the folks behind Amendment 64, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, issued a press release "calling on Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and other Colorado prosecutors to follow the will of the voters by no longer filing cases of adult marijuana possession and dismissing all pending cases in which the sole charge is possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by an adult 21 or older."
The campaign's call is inspired by actions out of Washington, where voters passed a similar measure and King and Pierce county prosecutors are dismissing over 220 marijuana-related cases.
Here's the Seattle Times: "In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively."
Of course, similar moves in the Centennial State are already afoot. Yesterday on his Facebook page, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett wrote, "Amendment 64 passed in Boulder County, 66%-33%; accordingly, the 20th JD DA's office will dismiss all pending possession of MJ less than an ounce, and MJ paraphenalia cases, for defendants over the age of 21. Cases of driving under the influence of MJ (or any other drug, including alcohol) remain a top priority."
And despite his reputation as the face of anti-marijuana in El Paso County, District Attorney Dan May has something similar in mind, as we reported in this week's CannaBiz.
Lee Richards, spokeswoman with the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office, says a similar move is afoot locally, though specifics are scarce.
"It's not like they keep track of just marijuana cases, so I have no idea how many marijuana cases there are," she says. But "is Dan going to re-evaluate and look at some of the cases? He is. He will be."
Asked for more details, Richards says there hasn't been an official statement from the district attorney, just more of an unofficial shift in priorities: "I can't say for sure that there's been a meeting. I just know anecdotally that he's made this clear around the office: that we're not gonna waste time and resources going after [low-level marijuana cases]."
Gov. John Hickenlooper's now-infamous comment, made in the wake of the passage of Amendment 64, that partakers shouldn't "break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly" has taken on a life of its own. Besides being repeated in almost every media that's covered the Colorado outcome, it's led to a few real-life instances of snack activism.
First, there's Denver attorney Rob Corry delivering the fated edible duo to the governor's office, and now the below photo, delivered via press release.
Denver Relief Consulting understands that people are going to have a sense of humor about legalization of marijuana. That's why consultant Ean Seeb posed for a photo with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday with bags of Cheetos and Goldfish.
The governor last week issued a tongue-in-cheek statement following approval by Colorado voters of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state. He joked, "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish [sic] too quickly."
Clearly, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was poking fun at cannabis users. But Denver Relief Consulting is highlighting the very serious message voters in Colorado, and also in Washington, sent to public officials on Tuesday: Regulate marijuana and reverse prohibition.
"At this point, we've all had our fun, but now it's time to get down to business together," commented Seeb. "With Gov. Hickenlooper's leadership, we can implement statutes and regulations that will immediately address the federal government's concerns, while respecting the will of 55 percent of Colorado voters. We made a clear choice on election night, and the governor has a unique opportunity to be on the right side of history and forge a sensible path forward."
Seeb caught up with Hickenlooper at a fundraiser at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, during which he approached the governor with a bag of Cheetos and a bag of Goldfish. The governor graciously agreed to take a photo with him.
Seeb is a co-owner of Denver Relief, one of Colorado's first medical marijuana centers, and also a partner at Denver Relief Consulting. The firm recently launched nationally, providing cannabis industry consulting based on nearly 10 years of experience in the burgeoning industry.
Denver Relief Consulting hopes that after the reality of legalization settles in, public officials begin to have a very serious conversation about the transition. Several federal lawmakers from Colorado have already begun that discussion. U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, are working on legislation that would allow states to establish their own marijuana laws without fear of federal interference. And the lawmakers expect to gain support from the Washington congressional delegation.
Also, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has signaled his support for state rights on the issue. In an interview with CNN, Brown said the federal government should respect the will of individual states on how to regulate marijuana.
The other day, legendary local disc jockey Jack Mehoff, with KILO 94.3, spoke with Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol co-director Brian Vicente. The 12-minute conversation ranged across the many questions the passage of Amendment 64 has raised, so give it a listen for a nice overall understanding. But here's an interesting bit from Vicente (beginning at 7:25) on federal intervention:
It’s worth noting that the federal government cannot prevent Colorado from legalizing six plants and an ounce for adults 21 and over; they, like, literally cannot prevent states from passing state criminal laws like that. Where the federal government could try to intervene could be with the storefront model. I don’t believe they have a strong legal case to do so, but if they were to put up a fight there, or if some local officials or police were to not respect and uphold the law, then I think that would the worst-case scenario I’d see. But we have a large majority of Colorado voters that want to see this law implemented in a safe and effective fashion, so we feel confident that officials will allow that to happen.
Sure, there's been constant jokes about folks moving to Colorado (like in this comment) thanks to the passage of Amendment 64, but where are they going to live? Here's a few tweets from folks talking about making their new home in Colorado Springs.
Chronic The Hemphog is so moving to Colorado Springs
— Thomas Mundt (@tnmundt) November 7, 2012
I'm moving to Colorado Springs in the summer..... whats this I hear about marijuana? I'm no longer interested in the stuff, but I'm CURIOUS!
— Gabriela Gonzalez (@soliloquy4) November 7, 2012
Who's moving to Colorado Springs with me? Shit would be so DOPE!
— Zach Chumley (@chumchum85) November 7, 2012
RT @marquisehandles No really tho...who's talkin about moving to Colorado Springs?/ MEEEEEE. I don't smoke tho, but I ski! Lol
— mmmMeagan(; (@simpLEIGH_mee) November 7, 2012
The passage of Amendment 64 has sent interested parties into search mode for how to obtain the now legal-ish substance. The only problem is, says Tanya Garduno, they've been calling exactly the wrong place: medical-marijuana centers.
"It’s just out of control," says the president of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council in a phone interview with the Independent. "All the centers around the state are getting calls constantly right now, since the election, that regular people are wanting to come in, anyone over 21 is wanting to come in, and purchase.
"So, what we’ve done is we’ve put signs out on the outside door that remind people that you must have your red card, you must have your ID, in order to purchase," Garduno says, noting she's received panicked calls for help from Durango to Pueblo. "There is no over-21 purchasing at any of the centers — these are still medical facilities. And none of the new laws are even set to take hold until after the first of the year, and the feds have committed to try to keep that from happening."
In that vein, the Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office issued a statement this morning, saying, "The Department of Justice's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is reluctantly on board. "Despite my strongly held belief that the 'legalization' of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General's Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution," says Suthers in a quoted statement.
But the brand-new territory has been interesting for all. Bridgette Boyd, manager of Garduno's center, Amendment 20 Caregivers, says she's received five calls just this morning.
"They seem fine," she says. "They want more clarity on the amendment, though."
As for regular patients, Garduno says they should simply carry on: "We don’t want patients to let their red cards lapse," she says. Patients should "know that they still must have their red cards on them in order to possess their medicine; that regular people can’t do the ounces — that’s just not something that’s feasible until after the laws go into effect."
For more on what people can do, see our story from last week.
Though it seems like it's coming out late, considering some of the people in it mention voting "this Tuesday," the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has nonetheless today released what is likely its final salvo in this campaign season, a video called "This Is Our Moment."
It's a lovely, three-minute bit featuring light piano and text of statistics interspersed with regular folks talking about being on the right side of history and the like. Give it a look, and don't forget: As long as you're in line before 7 p.m., you'll soon be a-votin'.
Tonight at 7, the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council will be hosting a live interrogation of several political candidates, all for your voting (and viewing) pleasure. Actually, the aforementioned will be more like a pleasurable mixer at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, but the "questions" part still stands.
"Join us for the last mixer of the year as we bring important candidates from across Southern Colorado to meet our entrepreneurs and enterprises," reads a notice of the event. "Don't miss the chance to introduce yourself to current and future leaders at County, State, and City levels. With Amendment 64, new MMED rules, and an important national election just around the corner, you don't want to miss this opportunity to represent yourself professionally and sensibly to the people making decisions impacting your future."
Because nobody can get enough of either these electoral days, here are some bits dealing with marijuana and the coming election.
• First, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, a national research organization, yesterday released a report saying that between 1986 and 2010, roughly 210,000 Coloradans were arrested for marijuana possession, with more than half of those coming in the last 10 years.
Some other findings, as quoted in the press release:
— In the last decade, Colorado arrested Latinos for marijuana possession at 1.5 times the rate of whites, and arrested blacks at 3.1 times the rate of whites. But young blacks and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.
— Latinos are 19% of the Colorado's residents, but they are 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. This is the first study to show arrests of Latinos in Colorado
— Police made 108,000 marijuana possession arrests in just the last ten years.
— African-Americans and Latinos are less than a quarter (23%) of Colorado's residents, they made up more than a third (35%) of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
— Marijuana possession arrests in Colorado rose sharply over the past 25 years, from 4,000 in 1986 to 10,500 in 2010, totaling 210,000 arrests.
"Marijuana possession arrests create permanent criminal records easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks," said Loren Siegel, co-director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, in the release. "A criminal record for the 'drug crime' of marijuana possession creates barriers to employment and education for anyone, including whites and the middle class."
Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of NAACP for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, issued a statement in agreement.
"Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on all Coloradans, and it is our communities of color that are paying the biggest price," she says. "Law enforcement resources should be used to address violent and otherwise harmful crimes. They should not be directed toward the enforcement of irrational marijuana laws that disproportionately impact African-Americans and other people of color. It is time for a more sensible approach.”
• Second, national advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access launched a website yesterday "that provides patients and their supporters with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the candidates in their districts," says the release.
Here's how they grade Colorado's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives:
DeGette, Diana L. CO-1 Honor Roll
Polis, Jared CO-2 Honor Roll
Tipton, Scott CO-3 Fail
Gardner, Cory CO-4 Fail
Lamborn, Doug CO-5 Fail
Coffman, Michael CO-6 Fail
Perlmutter, Ed CO-7 Pass