Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Want to make marijuana policy? City seeks volunteers for working group

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 1:00 AM


Seats need a-fillin' on the city's Medical Marijuana Working Group created early this year to "study, review, evaluate and develop recommendations related to the regulation of marijuana within the City of Colorado Springs." They're the seats once occupied by Charles Houghton, a local marijuana attorney who stepped down because of scheduling conflicts, and Rebecca Lockwood, a caregiver to sick children on medical marijuana oils who gave up her seat so she can sue the city over residential growing limits. That lawsuit will be filed soon, she says, once her son's paperwork is in order.

As we've reported in CannaBiz, there've been concerns about the lack of actual patients and their advocates in this group which has produced some policies — like the plant count limit and moratorium renewal — that rub the cannabis community the wrong way. So, here's the chance to live up to the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

From the city's press release on the matter: "Current vacancies include positions representing the medical marijuana industry and medical marijuana caregivers, and City Council is also interested in applicants with experience as medical marijuana patients and as experienced professionals in areas relating to medical marijuana, i.e. attorneys, medical professionals, or educators."

Obligations include meeting once-a-month for two hours, listening to presentations on various marijuana-related topics and discussing possible changes to city code. Interested parties should send a letter of interest and resume outlining relevant experience to Eileen Gonzalez either by email to or by snail mail to City Council; P.O. Box 1575; Colorado Springs, CO 80901. Questions? Call 719-385-5452.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Legal weed is here to stay in Pueblo County, museum coming

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Pueblo Starbuds manager Peter Mutty shows off some of his star buds. - BROOKE WARREN / HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
  • Brooke Warren / High Country News
  • Pueblo Starbuds manager Peter Mutty shows off some of his star buds.

The marijuana legalization movement forged decisively ahead this election, though under a new shadow of doubt cast by Donald Trump’s victory.

See next week’s CannaBiz for more on what changes at the federal level could mean for the legal cannabis industry. (Spoiler: we really don’t know yet.) Today, however, find solace in the news that our neighbors to the south rejected efforts to roll back retail marijuana sales in both the city and county of Pueblo.

Election Day dragged into the next day, thanks to an overloaded server that caused long lines at polling places and long delays in reporting the results. While the results aren't final, over 70,000 people appear to have cast their votes on Proposition 200 — the Pueblo County measure that would’ve shut down over 160 retail marijuana businesses — according to unofficial results posted on the county clerk’s website. Of those, 57 percent voted "no" — a larger margin than initially passed retail marijuana it four years ago.

Voters also rejected Proposition 300, the city’s equivalent of Prop 200.

The results further validate arguments made by opponents of the measure during campaign season that Pueblo voters have already demonstrated they’re cool with recreational marijuana, despite insistence on the other side that they’re having second thoughts. Spokesman for the pro-pot campaign, Growing Pueblo’s Future, and owner of Mesa Organics, Jim Parco called the vote a clear message.

“[Citizens] have seen the positive impacts that the regulated, retail marijuana industry has had in Pueblo County,” he said of the results. “We were the first [state] to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use retail marijuana, and now, the first [county] to decisively defeat prohibitionists in a do-over vote.”

In celebrating the victory, Parco also announced plans to create the first ever National Marijuana Museum in Pueblo. Owner of Legacy Homes in Pueblo Branson Haney will chair the community-based steering committee.

“With now more than 30 states having legalized marijuana, we have entered a new era where society is finally acknowledging that the benefits of legalized cannabis far outweigh the costs,” he said on election night. “With Pueblo County as the leader in the national legalization effort, it is now time to lead the effort on improving education and knowledge of marijuana’s rich history — scientifically, socially and culturally. And we’re going to do it right here in Pueblo, Colorado.”

To stay up-to-the-minute with the museum’s progress, follow their Facebook page for updates.

And from here on out, Pueblo citizens who prize their freedom to buy legal weed and all the economic benefit it brings can rest easy that it may well be here to stay. Unless, of course, the Department of Justice under the incoming Trump administration decides to bring down the ax…

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Suthers preaches against MJ legalization in Arizona

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 2:01 PM

  • Paige Filler
Mayor Suthers trekked to Arizona to speak against legalizing weed. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mayor Suthers trekked to Arizona to speak against legalizing weed.
Mayor John Suthers is so passionate about marijuana — he's against Colorado's legalization of it — that he traveled to Arizona to help out opponents of a ballot measure there that would allow possession of small amounts by adults, among other things.

According to a report in The Phoenix New Times, Suthers spoke against Proposition 205, which would allow those 21 and older to consume MJ in private and grow a few plants for their use.

The New Times' story reports that Suthers blamed lots of societal ills on pot, including a growing homeless population here.

He spoke on behalf of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which opposes the ballot measure.

Suthers and City Council are on the path to completely abolish marijuana here, having adopted ordinances that require phasing out of pot clubs and reducing the number of plants patients can grow for their own medicinal use.

We've asked the city who paid for his jaunt to Arizona this week — he spoke at a news conference on Tuesday — and will circle back when we get an answer.
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ute Pass Brewing's hemp-happy 4/20

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 4:17 PM

Yesterday's 4/20 celebrations had at least one cannabis-related event for those who chose not to smoke. We headed up to Ute Pass Brewing Company in Woodland Park to check out their selection of five hemp beers and hemp-added snacks.

Largely, the beers were good, though nothing astonishing and world-changing. Their hemp porter was the most successful, rich and toasty with a hint of creaminess. Said toasty flavor also showed up in the amber ale, which tasted darker than it looked and had a pleasant balance overall. But the amber also left a slight fatty or oily feeling in the back of our mouths, a sensation which was stronger with the wild hop ale. On the upside, said ale was brewed with wild-harvested hops from Manitou and several ghost towns in the area, according to our server, and that's super cool. But the ale needed a touch more hop to balance the oily quality from the hemp seed. As for the lightest beer, the honey nut blonde had a mighty honey quality and a hint of wheat — a little sweet, but pleasant.

Our server warned us, though, that the ESB was the most hemp-forward beer, and he was not lying. It tasted quite singular, with powerful grassy and vegetal notes overwhelming, finishing with nutty hints — good — under an oxidized-greens funk — not so good. Make no mistake, though, this beer was an interesting experiment, and I'm interested in seeing the next version.
Food fared a little better, though. It's possible to mess up a plate of green chile fries ($5), but it takes some doing. A little hemp seed in the chile added protein and little flavor to a respectable plate of Southwestern goodness. And the gluten-free vegan hemp tamale (a little steep at $6.50) had a pleasant warmth in the filling, though the masa wasn't the most fork-friendly. While the "hempanero" chicken wings ($8.50 for 7) were cooked beautifully under their sticky sauce, there was no spice to speak of. A shame; the clean sweetness would have benefit from a little kick.

Ute Pass Brewing Co. did something adventurous and laudable with the 4/20 holiday, and they packed the dining room full doing it. 
Left to right: ESB, porter, amber ale, wild hop ale, and honey nut blonde — all brewed with roasted hemp seed. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Left to right: ESB, porter, amber ale, wild hop ale, and honey nut blonde — all brewed with roasted hemp seed.
Hemp or no, green chile cheese fries are the bomb - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Hemp or no, green chile cheese fries are the bomb
A gluten-free vegan hempseed/corn/black bean tamale from Wally's Tamales. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • A gluten-free vegan hempseed/corn/black bean tamale from Wally's Tamales.
Though the clean sweet glaze on these wings was tasty, we wished for more heat. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Though the clean sweet glaze on these wings was tasty, we wished for more heat.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Medical marijuana advocates rally for growing rights on 4/20

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 3:20 PM


In addition to all the consumption oriented festivities going on today, a march on City Hall brought a small but mighty crowd of medical marijuana supporters out to vent some frustrations. Their message? Leave our plants alone.

Amendment 20 may have legalized medical marijuana back in 2000, but patients now feel their rights are under attack. That attack comes in the form of a proposed ordinance to limit all residences in the Springs to 12 marijuana plants total, period, no matter how many adults, patients or caregivers live there.

Around 30 diehards turned out to voice their discontent on council’s turf.

Notable among the crowd of patients, their family members and supporters were two people who say they plan on becoming candidates for city council — Joseph Carlson and Hemp Hurd — both of whom intend to make cannabis a central part of their campaign.

Carlson’s take on the matter as a would-be elected official: “I say leave it alone, let them grow. We should be focusing on the rapists, the murderers — not the patients.”

Both federal and local law enforcement have raised concerns about so-called “home invasions" — when out-of-staters move into Colorado’s legal marijuana haven, grow a ton of plants in a residential home then ship it to thirstier markets throughout the country. Fear of that kind of criminal activity is what’s driving plant count limits here in the Springs and in municipalities around the state.

Legitimate medical marijuana users, like 47-year-old Tammie Bruner, worry about shouldering the consequences of a few bad actors. She moved to the Springs in September from Kentucky to get better access to the one medicine that works against her seizures: cannabis.

“I was shocked to come here and find out they were still coming after my medicine,” she told the Independent.

If she can’t grow all her plants at home she’ll have to make up the difference at a dispensary. And that, Bruner says, is an expensive prospect.

“It costs like $45 a gram and that only lasts me two days if I’m really careful. It takes a lot (of cannabis) to control my seizures. And that’s the only reason I have my life back,” she says. “I don’t want to become a criminal again, I just was to be healthy and happy.”

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UPDATE: 4/20 Events Roundup

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 10:26 AM

  • Shutterstock
Club History Vape Club is holding its Fourth-annual Colorado Springs 420 SmokeOut starting at noon today. Get ready to enjoy burlesque, live music, food, games, comedy, prizes and 420-friendly movies until midnight. Show up at 4:20 p.m. for a free joint. For more information, click here. 
Roll your joints, pack your bowls, ready your dabs and unwrap your edibles. Today is the day.

Here's a more complete list of the Springs' 4/20 events, plan ahead. (Please note that all events are for ages 21 and up unless marked otherwise.)
  • Start the day off with political action. 4/20 is the day of the Cannabis Patient Rights Coalition’s march. Be at Acacia Park before 10 a.m. to take part and stand up for medical marijuana patients’ access to medicine. The event runs until noon. For more information, click here.

  • Club Pothole's Pothole 420 Music Festival features a full day of events. From noon to 3 p.m., expect somewhat of a street festival, with live performers and a variety of vendors. After, get a free joint for participating in a community cleanup. Then party into the night with live music. For more information, click here.

  • Speakeasy Vape Lounge is hosting its own full-blown music festival, featuring live music from 14 different artists performing hip hop, reggae and more. Doors open at 4:20 p.m., and admission includes a free dab. For more information, click here.

  • The Lazy Lion is kicking things off early with three days of smoking, glass blowing, live music and food trucks, starting on Monday, April 18. For more information, click here.

  • For stand-up comedy, try The Dab Lounge. Two hilarious Denver comedians, Brent Gill and Byron Graham, are coming down for a very special Comedy Anarchy session. For more information, click here.

  • Studio A64 is hosting a big party and smoke session with New York DJ Robert Chong. For those who like things a little quieter, there will also be poker.

  • If you don’t smoke but still want to celebrate, head up the pass to Ute Pass Brewing Co. They're putting a couple of hemp-brewed beers on tap which are sure to be interesting. Also expect special bites that use hemp flour, like hemp tamales and hemp-beer-battered onion rings. They announced five beers in this week's Side Dish column: a hemp seed ale, a porter, an amber, an ESP and a Wild Hemp Hop — think IPA. And there's not a dab of THC in sight. For more information, go to

  • For anyone at least 18 years old, Elev8 Glass Gallery is hosting a big party at its downtown location. Scheduled not for 420, but for Saturday, April 23, will feature live music, food, glass blowing demonstrations, free marble making and a big prize wheel. Expect also a massive store-wide sale and a variety of vendors. For more information, click here.

That's what we know so far. As more events are announced, we'll update this page. Until then, smoke safe!
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sign a petition, keep your cannabis clubs

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 3:30 PM

My Club 420 owner Anthony Robinson with the petition's first signatory. - JOE TREVINO
  • Joe Trevino
  • My Club 420 owner Anthony Robinson with the petition's first signatory.
There's only one week left to sign the petition to overturn City Council's legislation banning cannabis clubs in the Springs. If you haven't been keeping up, on March 23rd, Council approved three ordinances targeting the clubs. The first bans any new cannabis clubs from opening. The second mandates a new business license for all cannabis clubs — with heavy new regulations on what they can and can't do. And the third orders any and all cannabis clubs in town to cease business by 2024. 

To prevent this from happening, several of the Springs' cannabis clubs have formed the People's Social Alliance, and started petitions to overturn each ordinance. Each petition needs 14,649 valid signatures by 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 to force City Council to take action.

So if you're a registered voter in the city of Colorado Springs and you want to keep the local cannabis clubs open, here's a list of places where you can sign the petition:
  • Canna Canyon at 1507 W. Colorado Ave.
  • Club Pothole at 519 N. 30th St.
  • The Dab Lounge at 1532 N. Circle Dr.
  • The Lazy Lion at 4950 Geiger Blvd.
  • My Club 420 at 6628 Delmonico Dr.
  • Springs Dreams at 4157 Centennial Blvd.
  • Studio A64 at 332 E. Colorado Ave.
Remember, the deadline for the petitions is 5 p.m., Thursday, April 21.
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Monday, April 4, 2016

Cannabis clubs mobilize in self-defense

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 1:49 PM

  • Courtesy of Joe Trevino
Springs residents who voted for Amendment 64 were understandably disappointed to watch City Council opt out a year later. That disappointment morphed into indignation as city officials repeatedly and methodically tightened marijuana regulations right up to the brink of what’s allowable under state constitutional amendments. Now, that indignation has manifest into political activism aimed at aligning city policy more closely with what citizens want.

“I’ll be honest, a month ago if you had asked me who the mayor was, I didn’t know,” says Anthony Robinson, aka Zip Floppyjoints, owner of the My Club 420 cannabis club. “But I’ve woken up.”

Robinson and his club are part of a coalition of eight cannabis clubs across the city. They want a referendum on council’s recent decision to ban such clubs.

That vote came down on March 23, when City Council voted to prohibit the opening of any new cannabis clubs, mandate licensure for all clubs that operated prior to the moratorium (subject to all sorts of new rules) and force those clubs to close doors no later than 2024. Before those ordinances officially passed, strategies for undoing them had already begun forming. Now, two are in action.

One is a lawsuit filed in district court by Denver-based attorney Robert Corry, on behalf of nine establishments and 14 individuals. The complaint asks for the ordinance to be struck down for violating the plaintiffs’ right of association, freedom of speech and due process under the U.S. Constitution, as well as their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, religious freedom and the right to medical and personal use of marijuana under the Colorado Constitution.

The other mounting challenge is a petition filed with the city clerk’s office this week by the People’s Social Alliance (PSA), consisting of My Club 420, The Dab Lounge, One Love Club, Canna Canyon, The Lazy Lion, Springs Dreams, The Pothole and Studio A64.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson says that per guidelines established by the City Charter, the group will have to gather 14,649 valid signatures to force a referendum that basically asks councilors to consider repealing the ban they already passed. If council declines, though, voters will get the opportunity to repeal the ban in a special election within 90 days.

The PSA will focus on canvassing the pockets of the city that voted most heavily in favor of Amendment 64, according to Robinson. “We’re expecting 200 volunteers by the end of the week,” he told the Independent. “And most of them are vets. We’re going to be everywhere. We’re going to get it done.”

To be clear, the so-called "ban" on cannabis clubs really consists of three ordinances: one that prohibits the establishment of new clubs and requires existing clubs to shut down within eight years; one that creates a marijuana consumption club license those grandfathered clubs need to get; and one that establishes a fee structure for the new license. In other words, the PSA has to turn in three separate petitions with 14,649 valid signatures each to force a referendum on the whole she-bang.

The deadline is 5 p.m., April 21, and the ordinances won’t take effect until a resolution is reached.

City Clerk Johnson further explained that an unscheduled special election isn’t in this year’s budget. “It would cost around $300,000, and we don’t have that in the election account,” she told the Independent. “The city would have to come up with it somehow.”

Robinson sees this petition process as the first step toward getting the local government to reflect the will of the people.

“The fact is, this is how the Republican party started, this is how the Democratic party started,” Robinson mused. “Political movements start in bars, and we’re getting pretty galvanized in here.”
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Council bans cannabis clubs knowing full well lawsuit is coming

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 2:54 PM

  • Nat Stein
A marathon session at City Hall on Tuesday featured council dissenters of all stripes: those who pushed back on Councilor Andy Pico’s proposed resolution opposing refugee resettlement; those who delivered a petition demanding repeal of the recently enacted Pedestrian Access Act; those who bemoaned the proposed land-swap deal with The Broadmoor; and finally, those pleading, once again, for council to keep cannabis clubs unshuttered. None of that was resolved except for the club issue (but not in the way most had urged.)

The clubs — which are membership-based social clubs that allow for adult marijuana use — have caused consternation for city officials for several years now. They first started springing up after a voter-approved Amendment 64. In 2014, Studio A64 won a zoning violation appeal in which the city granted the downtown club a similar use determination — in essence saying that cannabis clubs are like social clubs, so are zoned as such (permitted in multifamily residential, commercial and industrial zone districts.) More clubs opened up all over town, even after the six-month moratorium on new marijuana business licenses began in September. (The city couldn’t stop issuing a license that didn’t exist.)

Then, earlier this month, the planning commission recommended banning the clubs outright. Councilor Don Knight took the ordinance to council, proposing the group prohibit the opening of any new clubs, mandate licensure for all clubs that operated prior to the moratorium (subject to all sorts of new rules) and force those clubs to close doors after eight years. This is the ordinance council gave a final reading on Tuesday.

Councilor Bill Murray moved to table the ordinance for six months so council could work with the industry to develop more moderate regulations. In the end, council voted 6-3 in favor of adopting Knight’s original proposal. Councilors Jill Gaebler and Helen Collins joined Murray in voting “no.”

“We talk about limited government all the time, but limited government is not about number of employees, it’s about limited laws,” Murray said. “We’re turning democracy into a morality play.”

Gaebler said she was skeptical of the public process behind the measure — or lack thereof. Collins, on her part, said she didn’t think a ban would be constitutional.

Knight and Councilor Keith King both argued that council had already exercised its right, under Amendment 64, to opt out of the retail side of marijuana. Knight cited articles from the Gazette and Fox news as proof. (Those articles highlight the clubs’ practice of offering marijuana to patrons who didn’t bring their own, sometimes in exchange for a donation or reimbursement. “Assisting” another adult in the use of marijuana is permissible under Amendment 64.)

Club owners and goers took their opportunity during public comment to try and correct some misconceptions.

Ambur Racek, owner of Studio A64, insisted that cannabis clubs are benign relative to bars that serve alcohol.

“I get off at 1 a.m. in the morning and every time I drive downtown I see people outside the bars, stumbling around, causing problems, getting into fights. We are peaceful people,” she said. “All we want is a place to be accepted as human beings. Smoking weed is how we choose to relax, and it isn’t hurting anyone. It’s our right.”

Presence Mercier, patron and cousin of a local club owner, took a different tack. “Even if you hate pot, that’s fine,” she said. “But we all love money, right? Think of what you’d gain from these clubs.”

Jason Warf, lobbyist who represents nearly all of the local clubs, pointed out that the council sought no industry input in developing regulations. “You’ll never be able to achieve sensible policy unless you include us,” he said. “The way it stands as of today, a bill at the state level will be out next week. I’ve gone back to the drafters to make sure what you’re doing here will conflict with what we’re doing at the state level.”

Joking that being from Denver shouldn’t be held against him, activist attorney Robert Corry reminded council that Amendment 64, which he had a hand in drafting, protects the activities in question. “In Colorado, adults have the right to associate with each other, consume marijuana, cultivate it, distribute it and help others with all those things,” he said. “That’s the supreme law of the land. The voters have spoken.” And just like other constitutional rights which council members swore to uphold, the rights afforded by Amendment 20 and Amendment 64 are “non-negotiable,” Corry said. “That may be difficult for you, but that’s the reality.”

Jill Gaebler asked Corry how other municipalities in the state are dealing with cannabis clubs.

"Not a single one has banned them, because they can’t,” he answered. Plus, a city devoid of venues for social consumption creates other problems, he explained. “Marijuana will be smoked by adults in groups no matter what you do. You can’t prevent me from inviting 50 of my closest friends over to smoke pot together. So where are they going to go? … Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.”

At the end of his testimony, Corry made a show of delivering the city attorney a draft lawsuit he intends to file as soon as the mayor signs the club ban ordinance. On behalf of nine clubs and 14 individuals who own or operate those clubs, the complaint asks for the ordinance to be struck down for violating plaintiffs’ right of association, freedom of speech and due process under the U.S. Constitution as well as their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, religious freedom and right to medical and personal use of marijuana under the Colorado Constitution.

Councilor Knight took exception to the claim that council has no right to ban cannabis clubs.    

“We will talk about that in district court,” Corry said.  
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Nation's highest court tosses anti-pot lawsuit against Colorado

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 12:05 PM

  • SHutterstock

For over a year, Colorado has been staring down a lawsuit from neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma that sought to quash our recreational pot industry. Plaintiffs not only claimed that legal weed trickling over the border “[places] stress on their criminal justice systems,” but also made a federalist argument that the state laws in question unconstitutionally contradict federal laws. The petition, filed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than through appeal of a lower court ruling, asked justices to strike down all of Colorado’s laws, rules and regulations that deal with recreational cannabis.

On Monday we got an answer: case dismissed.

The justices were scheduled to discuss the suit behind closed doors four times over the past two months. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. penned a brief on behalf of the Justice Department urging the court not to hear the case in December. Then, Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death in February stirred more speculation in Colorado’s favor.

According to Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, who had a hand in crafting Amendment 64, the lawsuit was “meritless” all along. “States have every right to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, just as Nebraska and Oklahoma have the right to maintain their failed prohibition policies,” Tvert said in a press release following the dismissal. “Colorado has done more to control marijuana than just about any other state in the nation. It will continue to set an example for other states that are considering similar laws in legislatures and at the ballot box.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito thought that the U.S. Supreme Court should hear the case because it’s the only judicial body that can. “The complaint, on its face, presents a ‘controvers[y] between two or more States’ that this Court alone has authority to adjudicate,” Justice Thomas wrote in a dissenting opinion. “The plaintiff States have alleged significant harms to their sovereign interests caused by another State. Whatever the merit of the plaintiff States’ claims, we should let this complaint proceed further rather than denying leave without so much as a word of explanation.”

While Colorado’s cannabis community can breathe a sigh of relief that this suit got tossed, it’s not the final word for the industry’s future. “This decision isn't really a win for marijuana advocates — it maintains the status quo,” commented Aaron Herzberg of the medical marijuana holding company CalCann Holdings. “Marijuana is still federally illegal and is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it's in the same class as heroin — which is absolutely ridiculous. While states are free to establish their own marijuana law, the federal government needs to reform federal law to allow for access to banks and to reform the tax codes to treat marijuana businesses fairly. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening until well after the presidential elections."

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Does Bernie Sanders' stance on marijuana legalization matter?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:53 AM

  • DonkeyHotey/Flickr.

Of all the questions lingering over Colorado’s burgeoning pot industry, perhaps none is weightier than who will control federal drug enforcement after  November 2016? How Americans vote on the top of the ticket could be make or break for the future of legal  weed in the Centennial state. And of all the remaining candidates, only one appears a reliable ally to the legalization movement. (Don’t bother sitting down, this will not be a shocker.) It’s the Democratic socialist from Vermont — Bernie Sanders.

Now, the full extent to which the cannabis community will mobilize for Bernie still remains to be seen. Kyle Sherman, CEO of cannabis software startup Flowhub, says the choice this election season is clear for his him and his colleagues. But they’re taking the wait-and-see approach.

"Bernie Sanders seems to have the support of most cannabis enthusiasts, given his pro-drug law reform platform, but it doesn't seem like there'll be all that much activity in support of him as a candidate unless he becomes the Democratic nominee," Sherman says. "Once the candidates for each party have been announced, however, my company will be launching a GOTV campaign centered around cannabis as a primary issue, and I hope others in the space take similar steps."

Others in the industry are wasting no time organizing and empowering the cannabis community to get their interests represented at the highest level of government.

Hillary Clinton, who could very well end up the Democratic nominee, is tentative and vague on the topic. In November, she hinted that she’d be open to liberalizing her stance. At a town hall in South Carolina, the former Secretary of State told the predominantly black audience that she supports medical marijuana. “I want to move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so researchers can research what’s the best way to use it, dosage, how does it work with other medications," Clinton added. (In Schedule 2, marijuana would keep company with cocaine and methamphetamine.) A month prior, she had declined to say whether she supports states’ right to legalize. During her first presidential bid in 2007, Clinton said flat out that "I don't think we should decriminalize [marijuana].”

So her position is “ever-evolving” (pragmatist-speak for: “Let’s see where public opinion goes.”)

Sanders, to be fair, isn’t as gung-ho as he could be.

“When I was mayor of the town of Burlington [Vermont],” the Senator told Katie Couric last year, “which has a large university, and one or two of the kids were smoking marijuana, we suspect, we didn't arrest too many people for marijuana.” But he himself doesn’t partake. In the same interview he joked about being "the only person who didn't get high in the Sixties" before clarifying: "I smoked marijuana twice, and it didn't quite work for me. It's not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people.”

Warren Gill, regional press secretary for the Sanders campaign, says, “It’s the whole package [that’s] drawing a lot of folks to our side. You know, the U.S. has more people in jail today than any other country, and we are spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. That's just obscene, and I think our supporters realize how wrong it is that hundreds of thousands of Americans have a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted after causing the near collapse of our entire economy.”

The “single-issue voter” may indeed be the unicorn of electoral politics (nonexistent, though subject to frequent speculation).

“It's not my No. 1 issue, but the decriminalization of drugs in general is very important,” says Hazen Garcia, a local businessman in his 30s who’s feeling the Bern. “Addicts and users deserve treatment, not incarceration.”

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Marijuana industry fuels building boom in Pueblo

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 4:08 PM

  • “1976 Little Construction Vehicles” by JD Hancock, Creative Commons, via Flickr.
“One could say that cannabis is driving our economic recovery in Pueblo,” Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace says in a press release touting new data out of the Pueblo Regional Building Department. “It's often hard to provide objective numbers. In this case, we have very hard numbers; and the result is staggering.”

Last year, 228 commercial building permits were issued in Pueblo for the city and county. Of those, 90 were related to the cannabis industry. That’s just about 40 percent. The impact was especially significant in Pueblo County, where nearly 65 percent of all commercial building permits (74 of 115) were cannabis-related.

Pueblo was still reeling from the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s when the recession hit, and while other Front Range cities have somewhat bounced back since the 2008 crash, Pueblo’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high.

The region has seen some growth in the energy and manufacturing sectors, but nothing that rivals the prominence steel once had. However, that might be changing now.

The city of Pueblo has no recreational dispensaries and just one medical marijuana center inside the city limits. Unincorporated Pueblo county has 13 recreational shops. So the retail side of the industry isn’t exactly booming, but all the pot shops up north need supply, and that’s where Pueblo comes in.

According to statistics recently  released by the county, virtually all cannabis-related construction last year was for cultivations and infused products manufacturers. County voters approved an excise tax on cultivation that funds capital improvement projects and higher education scholarships in 2015.

“If cannabis is legal, and someone is going to make their community wealthy off of it, why shouldn’t it be Pueblo?” Pace asks in the press release. “We’ve struggled too long, our agricultural community has faced constant assaults on their water, we deserve this economic shot in the arm.”
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Community packs town hall to support cannabis clubs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 11:12 AM

  • Nat Stein
Around 20 people marched from Studio A64 on Colorado Ave to City Hall Tuesday evening to protest City Council’s proposed ban on new cannabis clubs. Far more — around 150 — packed the chamber in an extended public comment hearing.

Heather Witting, who has a background in medical marijuana, elicited cheers when she calmly described the current situation in the Springs like the end of prohibition. “These clubs are inevitable,” she said. “I don’t understand what you’re afraid of.”

Jered McCusker, owner of the One Love club that is temporarily closed due to fire code violations, told Council that if he can’t re-open, he’ll sue.

Jason Warf, lobbyist for the industry, expressed incredulity that he wasn’t included in the process of developing regulations. “Never in my life have I seen the government try to regulate an industry without input from that industry,” he told Council after having been barred from speaking at the work session Monday. “That’s just not the way the world works.”

Out of the nearly 40 who testified, two men spoke out against the clubs. One worries they create a nuisance in neighborhoods, especially with other clubs and bars nearby. Another told the City Council he hoped they would choose “virtue over vice” and warned that legal marijuana brings out the “undercurrent of society.”

  • Nat Stein

Councilor Don Knight brought the proposal to Council after working with several departments — including Planning, Public Safety and the Mayor’s Office — to put together three options for regulating so-called “marijuana consumption clubs.” Last week they decided to recommend the third option: no new cannabis clubs and existing clubs have to shut down by March 2021.

Council will give the ban a first reading in two weeks with a final vote expected March 22.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Should Colorado Springs ban cannabis clubs? Tell City Council what you think tonight!

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 2:04 PM

  • File photo
Councilman Don Knight wants his fellow council members to consider an all-out ban on cannabis clubs inside Colorado Springs city limits.

Tonight, starting at 6 p.m., is the public’s first chance to weigh in. (Go to City Council Chambers, 3rd floor, City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Avenue.) 

And Studio A64 owner Ambur Rose has announced a march on City Hall to protest the proposed ban. (Visit this new Facebook page to connect with the march.) 

Knight first brought the proposal to a work session on Monday after working with several departments — including Planning, Public Safety, and the Mayor’s office — on three options for regulating the so-called “marijuana consumption clubs.”

Under either of the first two options, a “marijuana consumption club” would be defined for licensing purposes as “[a]n establishment, organization, association, club, or other similar entity or place where a purpose is to allow the consumption of marijuana, medical marijuana or marijuana product on the premises.”

The draft licensing ordinances would also prohibit: the transfer or sale of marijuana; cultivation; manufacturing of marijuana products or storage of marijuana; operation between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.; and any person under the age of 21 to enter the club.

Option 1 would: relegate clubs to parcels zoned for industrial use at least 1,000 feet from a school or drug treatment facility; subject them to new licensure; and require a ventilation and filtration system.

Option 2 would do the same as the first, though making the clubs a conditional rather than a permitted use.

Option 3: No new cannabis clubs, and existing clubs must shut down by March 2021.

Last week, the Planning Commission decided against the first two and went instead with Option 3, which is what Knight took to council Monday night.

Find all three draft ordinances the commission considered in this story at
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Monday, February 22, 2016

Pueblo ranchers challenge judge's dismissal

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 12:05 PM

Phyllis Windy Hope and Michael Reilly — the Pueblo County landowners who sued everyone imaginable trying to shut down both a neighboring indoor grow-op and Colorado’s entire legal marijuana industry — filed a notice of appeal challenging a judge’s dismissal last month of their case against public-sector defendants.

The suit, backed by D.C.-based anti-legalization group Safe Streets Alliance, claimed that the “criminal enterprise” next door was lowering their property value and emitting an offensive odor. They sought treble damages from a father-son pair of dispensary owners, the grow operator, a developer, an insurance company, a water supplier, Pueblo County's marijuana licensing board, county commissioners, the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, Department of Regulation and Gov. John Hickenlooper under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — a commonly misused federal law meant for prosecutors to go after mob bosses. Judge Robert Blackburn rejected the argument that county and state officials are violating the federal Controlled Substances Act by licensing, regulating and taxing Colorado’s voter-approved retail marijuana industry.

The appeal moves the case to the federal appeals court in Denver while the remaining case against the private-sector defendants remains open. Plaintiff attorney Brian Barnes says he won't share substantive details of the appeal until his team files an opening brief in a few weeks.

Read their entire complaints in this story at

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