"I don't know why they're there, other than that they don't trust government. And I think they have reason for that sometimes."
That's Jeri Howells, mayor of Fountain, referring to the pro-MMJ folks who showed up at Fountain City Council's last meeting, despite there being no mention of medical marijuana on the agenda. Once assured it would not be discussed until the city's June 8 meeting, they left.
And then Councilors started discussing it.
"I said, 'We should not be having this discussion. The public has left. We should not be having this discussion,'" Howells says. "Well, the four that wanted to keep discussing it just kept on discussing it, and they were talking about another moratorium [as the current one ends June 7]."
The four that persisted, Howells says, were Harold Thompson, who proposed the motion to begin post-public discussion, Lois Landgraf, who seconded the proposal, Sam Heckman and Sharon Brown.
Fifteen minutes passed.
"Then I said, 'I cannot believe this. I am not going to stay for this meeting,'" the mayor remembers. "'This is not proper,' I said again to [City Attorney Allen Ziegler], but he didn't stop it. He didn't say anything to me, you know, nothing. So I got up — I left. I was really angry."
Landgraf has a different take.
"The public had left, but that's their choice," she says. "It was not made clear [that MMJ would not be discussed]."
Why did the mayor, then, walk out?
"I'll leave that to you to figure out," says Landgraf, who argues that all Council did was agree to raise the issue on June 8. "I'm not trying to mislead you in any way."
Regardless, the city attorney now sides with the mayor.
"I do feel that it would have been better if the discussion had been deferred until the public was there, since members [of the public] had left," Ziegler says. "I think it should have been deferred, and I didn't comment at the time, and in hindsight I regret that."
Last week, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce director Ernest House came before City Council to advocate delay of licensing MMJ centers — essentially trying to force the closure of every center in the city. Which raised a central question: Does the Chamber support medical marijuana?
"It's fair to say [our position is] that our members came to us, and that they're the ones who brought the issue forward for the Chamber to do some due diligence," says Stephannie Finley, president of the Chamber's governmental affairs division, citing a survey the Chamber took of some 10 percent of its membership. Roughly 60 percent of respondents wanted to see licensure delayed.
So, no, the Chamber is not a supporter. What about feedback from the dispensaries that belong to the Chamber?
"I think one [business] approached the Chamber, recently, about joining," Finley says. "I'm not certain where that is in the process."
Would the Chamber deny the applications of medical marijuana centers if more wished to join?
"No, it does not happen," Finley says. "We're not allowed to not accept different businesses."
At the end of the five-minute conversation, Finley bristles at a mention of Vice Mayor Larry Small's comments that the Chamber picked an odd time to break its silence on the issue, after an apparent prolonged absence from Council.
"Well, he was very false in that, and I take great umbrage with that statement," she says, citing recent Chamber appearances at City Hall regarding the Copper Ridge development and the Southern Delivery System. "It'd be easy to check with the facts. I apologize that Mr. Small doesn't stay aware enough of what's happening between the Chamber and the city."
Sense and sensimilla
Bob Wiley has a message for District Attorney Dan May: "The policy you promote is likely responsible for moving your friends to harder drugs. Grow up Dan, and quit blaming marijuana for your miseries."
This, from an e-mail the Sensible Colorado board member wrote to me in response to last week's CannaBiz column. Curious, we called Wiley — who also serves on the Springs' Medical Marijuana Task Force — for more.
"Well, [May's] probably a great guy, and maybe he knows better than some of the misinformation he's putting out, or maybe he's doing it because that's what he perceives his job to be," Wiley says. "But I don't think it's part of his job to be a political advocate on one side or the other."
Wiley is referring to appearances the city's top prosecutor has made at City Hall, advocating the banning of medical marijuana centers.
"When he's talking before City Council as the D.A., he should be factual — brutally factual. And he has not done that."
Wiley also has a problem with the children's book May says he found in a center.
"It looked like it was ... instead of the D.A.R.E. officer telling your kids how dangerous marijuana is, and that it's addictive — the 'gateway drug' stuff — that it basically gives the parents a way to talk to their kids," he says.
The MMJ advocate, instead, recommends May read Judge James P. Gray's Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs, which Walter Cronkite called a "thorough and scholarly work."
"I think we need to be honest," Wiley says, "because there's a difference between marijuana being illegal because it's dangerous, and dangerous because it's illegal."
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