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
Tonight brings the second local debate over the coming marijuana question, Amendment 64. Hosted by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, it will be held in the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Upper Lodge at 6 p.m. Speaking for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will be co-director Mason Tvert, while El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa will represent the opposition.
As a preview, here's what Tvert said at a Littleton debate last week, as reported by the Denver Post (with a retort from a familiar face).
"We should have an honest debate," said Mason Tvert, one of the initiative's proponents, at the Littleton debate. "And honest debates begin with evidence. There just isn't any evidence of problems associated with marijuana laws as they change." ...
Ken Buck, the Weld County district attorney, said the federal government could crack down if Colorado legalized marijuana. But, even if it didn't, more liberalized marijuana laws would hurt the state's reputation.
"Our brand will go from business-friendly and healthy to Rocky Mountain high," Buck said.
We've left a message with a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for confirmation, but in the meantime it seems a second petition to have post-traumatic stress disorder added to the state's list of conditions considered treatable with medical marijuana has, essentially, been denied.
"In order to approve the petition, the Heath Department must schedule a Public Hearing in front of the Board of Health within 120 days," reads a press release from Brian Vicente, Sensible Colorado and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Since 120 days have elapsed since the petition's filing without a Hearing being scheduled, the petition is effectively denied."
Because of this a new group, Veterans for 64, will be formed to back Amendment 64, the marijuana-decriminalization ballot question.
We covered the issue in our July issue of ReLeaf, writing at the time, "It's an interesting situation, because since its inception in 2000, the Colorado medical marijuana law has never OK'd anything but the original maladies. Contrast that with states like New Mexico, which put PTSD on its list of approved ailments at the behest of its veterans; California's already lenient law — which was written to allow doctors to prescribe MMJ at their discretion for what the California Department of Public Health calls "any other chronic or persistent medical symptom"; and Arizona, which has already done exactly what Sensible Colorado is trying to do."
The real kicker in that story came in a quote from Vicente, who said that 18 veterans are committing suicide per day.
"The state's failure to act is an effective denial of this compassionate petition," says Bob Wiley, Vicente's colleague at Sensible Colorado, in the release. "Our only option is to support Amendment 64, which will ensure that Coloradans 21 and older who suffer from PTSD will no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana."
A news conference announcing the new group will be held at the El Paso County Courthouse — scene of multitudes of protests over the prosecution of Colorado MMJ patients and providers — starting at noon on Thursday.
Laura Harris, director of the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, will attend
Thursday Wednesday night's mixer from the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council. The festivities kick off at 7 at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, and entry is $10.
"July 1st of year two has come and passed, and we approaching a very historical election year for our State," reads a release on the event. "Ms. Harris will give information about what is happening at the MMED, across the State, and will clarify rules and regulations as we promulgate another year of medical marijuana industry."
E-mail any questions for Harris to CSMCC's membership director Mark Slaugh, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday, a press release from the Colorado U.S. Attorney's office said that all 10 medical-marijuana centers that were notified in the most recent wave of closure letters have closed as requested.
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA will continue this initiative until all marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of a school are closed," reads the release. "A fourth wave of warning letters will be forthcoming as marijuana stores are identified within this 1,000 foot 'drug-free school zone.'
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office believes that a vast majority of marijuana stores operating within 1,000 feet of schools have now closed, even those that did not specifically receive a warning letter. If members of the public have information regarding a marijuana store they believe is within 1,000 feet of a school in their neighborhood or elsewhere they are encouraged to send an email to email@example.com."
We were never able to identify the Colorado Springs dispensary that office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said was one of the notified, though previous centers affected by the action include Indispensary and Westside Wellness Center. The term "closed" is also not exactly accurate, as Altitude Organic Medicine moved off the west side to a downtown location when it received its own letter in the second round.
After Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement saying he couldn't support the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado (via Amendment 64) because it "has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation," the campaign behind it struck back.
"Governor Hickenlooper's statement today ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics," reads a release from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which wasted no time in bringing up the governor's brewpub-building past. "After building a personal fortune by selling alcohol to Coloradans, he is now basing his opposition to this measure on concerns about the health of his citizens and the message being sent to children. We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not. The public health costs of alcohol use overall are approximately eight times greater per person than those associated with marijuana. And alcohol use is associated with violent crime. Marijuana use is not."
The blow from the governor comes a day after the campaign suffered a loss in court, with its request to have several items that were struck from the voters' blue book reinstated denied by judge Robert Hyatt.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the proponents of Amendment 64, the coming ballot question that will decriminalize set amounts of marijuana, have filed a lawsuit in Denver district court seeking the roll back of changes that were made to the amendment's language in the so-called voter's blue book.
Here's more from a press release:
Specifically, the campaign is seeking a Preliminary Injunction asking the court to direct the Legislative Council Staff to reinsert the deleted arguments. It also filed to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order over the weekend to prevent the Legislative Council Staff from sending the blue book to print with the improper modification.
At a hearing last Wednesday, in what the evidence clearly shows was a misunderstanding, the Legislative Council removed some of the strongest arguments in support of Amendment 64 without the knowing support of two-thirds of the committee required to modify the final draft of the blue book prepared before the hearing by the Legislative Council Staff. State law requires the guide to include the major arguments in support of each state issue that will appear on the ballot. The deleted arguments were: Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol; the consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe; and law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol continues its push for Amendment 64, this time lining up support from the academic community in the form of a letter signed by some 100, or so, professors of various things. Four come from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and one from Colorado State University-Pueblo.
"The State of Colorado, as well as our nation, have successfully walked the path from prohibition to regulation in the past: Eighty years ago, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition at the state level, which was followed by repeal at the federal level," the unified voice of academia declares in a press release. "This year, we have the opportunity to do the same thing with marijuana and once again lead the nation toward more sensible, evidence-based laws and policies."
Dr. Dale DeBoer, chair of the economics department at UCCS, says his support for decriminalization is based on the ineffectiveness of prohibition, combined with evidence showing marijuana's no more harmful than the stuff you can legally buy today. As well: "To the extent that marijuana has health consequences," he writes in an e-mail, "these are better treated via health care (like with alcohol abuse) than through criminalization."
We asked the good professor if he agreed with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy's assessment that the passage of Amendment 64 could result in a $100 million windfall for the state of Colorado within five years.
"I am personally always suspicious of numerical estimates that I did not generate," he replied. "While these estimates are possible — and I have no reason to doubt them — I have not recreated these studies. As such, I take these numbers as possible but reserve some healthy caution in regards to them.
"That said, there must be some budgetary savings from narrowing the scope of the law and some revenue enhancement from taxation of a now illegal substance. Given my stance on your initial question, any financial gain should be welcome — but is not my main reason for supporting the movement."
As far as sounding out the amendment's chances of passage, well, all you have to do is hop on Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights' Facebook page to witness that, as usual, there's division even among those in the MMJ community. Those against the amendment have even, almost uniformly, changed their profile picture to a negative version of the "Yes on 64" logo — a move that equates to "the 21st-century lawn sign," as Vermont journalist Tyler Machado put it on Twitter.
Of course, that might just be the price you have to pay for progress, according to DeBoer: "Any change of this nature is difficult (witness the earlier political machinations surrounding prohibition)," he writes. "As such, I won't be surprised if this has to be tried again at another election."