Friday, February 19, 2016

Facebook, Instagram crack down on marijuana-related accounts

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:28 PM

Handfuls of marijuana businesses —  in Colorado and around the country —  had their social media accounts shut down in the past month or so in what appears to be a coordinated effort spanning Facebook and Instagram. The Guardian reports that it’s not just dispensaries  —  ancillary business owners are logging on to find cancellation notices too. Freelancer Josiah Hesse found marketing agencies, apparel companies and other startups in the industry that have been edged out of mainstream social media platforms, despite not actually selling any cannabis products themselves.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.04.21 AM

The relevant part of Facebook’s policy can be found under the “Regulated Goods” section of its community standards page. Here's a screenshot of a portion of that page:

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And this is how Instagram spells it out in their community guidelines:
Follow the law. Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region) is not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods. Accounts promoting online gambling, online real money games of skill or online lotteries must get our prior written permission before using our products.
  Hesse got no response from Instagram and only generic PR deflection from Facebook for his Guardian article.

Notable too, of course, is that there’s really no shortage of cannabis content on these platforms — A quick search for #weed will show you some of it. So there are no ready answers for why these businesses’ accounts are getting axed — or for why it's happening now.

It could be that social media platforms would just not rather mess with federal law kind of like the banking industry. Or, it could be other people within the industry flagging their competition so the sites will take them out. Or maybe it’s all a ploy by cannabis-specific social media sites that’ve sprung up in recent years — MassRoots and Social High, most successfully — to get the whole community to migrate over to their platforms.

Prominent brands like Leafly and High Times magazine, appear untouched by the recent razing.

Regardless of the “why,” it’s safe to say this is not good news for an industry that relies on social media to get its message out. Now, it seems, would be an unfortunate time to go back underground.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

State legislators look to tackle stoned drivers with new technology

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 10:25 AM


One of the main — and perhaps most reasonable — arguments against legalization of marijuana is that more stoned drivers on the road create a risk to public safety. Sure, everyone has that one friend who supposedly drives better high. Whether weed impairs motor skills as alcohol does may in fact be a valid question, but not one policymakers are currently entertaining.

What they are pondering is how to enforce drug-impaired driving laws  when there’s not really a breathalyzer equivalent that can accurately test for THC levels in a person's system. Because THC lingers in users' systems, you could get pulled over, test positive for THC in your blood from a weeks-ago bong hit, then get handed a DUI conviction.

Actually, 2015 was the second year the Colorado State Highway Patrol tracked the number of marijuana-specific DUI charges. The state reported 4,546 citations issued for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 665 of those people had marijuana in their system when they were charged.

The State Patrol is in the midst of a pilot program to test-drive five different THC-detecting devices. Every field office in the state has at least one such device, according to Maj. Steve Garcia with the Patrol’s training branch. When troopers pull over drivers on suspicion of driving while stoned, they ask whether the driver would like to participate in the program. “Sometimes people are glad to participate, and sometimes they want nothing to do with us,” Garcia told The Cannabist.

The ideal device would be able to reliably detect five nanograms of THC — the magic .08 of marijuana impairment, as determined by the Legislature — in a driver’s saliva. Prospective devices the state is looking at range from pregnancy test-like to toaster oven-like. So to find that ideal device, 125 select state troopers test a suspect’s saliva using this technology, but only after an arrest has been made and blood has been tested. (Saliva results are, however, discoverable in court, should it come to that.)

The State Patrol is somewhat cagey about giving too many specifics, according to The Cannabist. Information about the devices, the companies that manufacture them, how effective they are, how much they cost, which troopers are using them, etc. is all still under wraps.

So if you get pulled over and asked to partake in the pilot program, what should you do?

Sure, science is cool. But exposure to unnecessary risk is not. Prominent Denver DUI attorney Jay Tiftickjian put it bluntly to The Cannabist: “If anything is voluntary, and if it’s not something that could be in their favor, then why would they expose themselves to that? If anybody asked me if they should, I would obviously tell them not to.”
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Colorado sees nearly a billion dollars in 2015 legal cannabis sales

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 1:39 PM

  • Shutterstock

$996,184,788. That’s the magic number for 2015, representing the value of all the cannabis — both medical and recreational — that was purchased in Colorado in year two of retail sales, and comes courtesy of new data from the state Department of Revenue. Marijuana attorney Christian Sederberg told The Cannabist upon hearing the figure: “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”

For those who love to geek out on weed math, here’s how it all breaks down:

Around $588 million of the total came from recreational side, $408 million from medical.

Recreational sales generated more than $113 million in revenue for the state in 2015 — $109.1 million from taxes and $4.7 million in license and application fees.

Medical sales generated over 21 million in revenue. The state made $11.4 million off taxes and $9.8 million off license and application fees.

The 2015 sales in our regulated marijuana marketplace made nearly a $300 million dollar jump from 2014, when the state generated $76.1 million in total revenue ($56.2 million from recreational and $19.9 from medical, if you’re still keeping track).

Remember that Colorado sets aside the first $40 million raised from the excise tax on wholesale transfers of recreational marijuana for public school construction. The rest of the revenue to the state will go toward prevention of youth drug use, addiction treatment, research and public education campaigns.

“Just six years ago, Colorado received zero dollars in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana in the state,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project commented in a triumphant press release noting that millions of dollars in sales occur in every state. “Colorado is one of the few where those sales are being conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses.”
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Judge dismisses federal marijuana suit against Pueblo County and Colorado officials

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 9:03 AM

Yesterday, Judge Robert E. Blackburn dismissed charges against Pueblo County, as well as other government agencies and officials, in a lawsuit that challenges the legality of recreational marijuana.

Filed in February 2015, the suit asked the U.S. District Court of Colorado to find Amendment 64 illegal due to conflict with the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The suit also asked the Court to find Pueblo County guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Judge Blackburn dismissed these claims, concluding, in short, that private parties aren't allowed to seek recourse for violations of the Supremacy Clause. He also concluded that it's up to the U.S. Attorney General and the Department of Justice to enforce — or not enforce — the Controlled Substances Act, under which marijuana is still federally illegal. Government entities can't be prosecuted under RICO, he said, as "[they] cannot form specific criminal intent."

Last February, the Washington, D.C.-based anti-marijuana group Safe Streets Alliance filed the suit — along with Pueblo County landowners Hope and Michael Reilly — against Rocky Mountain Organics, which was constructing a recreational grow facility near their property in Rye. The plaintiffs also held officially responsible Governor John Hickenlooper; Barbara J. Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue; W. Lewis Koski, director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division; the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners; and the Pueblo County Liquor & Marijuana Licensing Board.

Only the public-sector defendants, however, are off the hook. Rocky Mountain Organics owners Joseph and Jason Licata, as well as the landowner, the leaser, an insurance company, and a developer are among the private-sector defendants named in the suit. All may still be looking at a RICO suit.

Safe Streets Alliance filed two RICO suits last February. The second was against Summit Marijuana and its banking, bonding and accounting companies. Said financial companies either disavowed any association with Summit Marijuana or settled, and the suit was dropped.

Though drug-law expert Sam Kamin told The Cannabist Safe Streets' case would have lost at trial, he added that suits like this "are going to be incredibly problematic for the industry going forward. The folks who helped to bring this suit and sought out plaintiffs for this suit are looking for more and other lawsuits.”

All told, this is good news for Amendment 64 supporters. Between this and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. advising the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss Nebraska and Oklahoma's lawsuit against Colorado, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that legalization will be struck down by a Supreme Court decision.

Read the full text of the decision here:

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Green Neighbors

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 10:59 AM

  • Atomazul/Shutterstock
On Oct. 20, Canadians swung for the Liberal Party — they hold 54 percent of parliament seats, plus the Prime Minister seat with Minister-elect Justin Trudeau. 

Colorado and the nation at large should take notice. One of Trudeau's campaign promises is the nationwide legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana.

In an Oct. 1 press conference, Trudeau said his government would get to work "right away," taking cues from best practices worldwide — including Colorado.

Watch the Canadian Broadcasting Company's video of the conference at the bottom of this article.

Canada's not alone in pursuing legalization. This week, the Mexican Supreme Court will decide whether or not  the nation's laws against marijuana are constitutional. According to a report from Fusion, a Mexican marijuana club, the Mexican Association for Responsible Self-Consumption and Tolerance, petitioned the government for the right to grow, own and consume marijuana. The club claims that the right to get high is part of the Mexican constitutional doctrine of free development of personality.

Andres Aguinaco, the club's lawyer, equates a ban on marijuana to a limit on how much fast food someone can eat — he and the club encourage the government to tax and educate, rather than ban. Based on the politics of the Mexican supreme court, the odds are good that Mexico will acknowledge a citizen's fundamental right to use marijuana. Fusion adds that "A favorable ruling in the SMART case doesn’t mean marijuana will automatically become legal nationwide, but it will likely set a precedent."

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Council splits rushed bill, halts new cannabis clubs

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 4:24 PM

After three and a half hours of discussion and debate, City Council passed the first reading of half of a highly-contested ordinance, which will will put a six-month moratorium on any new cannabis clubs. 

Council members Don Knight, District 1, and Larry Bagley, District 2, co-sponsored the moratorium on the opening of new cannabis clubs or medical marijuana facilities — dispensaries, grow operations and any other commercial businesses included.

After Knight and Bagley moved to vote on the bill, Council member Andy Pico, District 6, demanded the bill be bifurcated — split in two, so the Council could vote on moratoria for cannabis clubs and medical marijuana facilities separately.

Knight immediately presented a version of the bill with all references to medical marijuana removed and Council passed the measure 8-to-1, with Helen Collins, District 4, voting against it and stating that the rushed approval contradicted the Council's commitment to transparency. With the cannabis club moratorium passed, Council then voted 7-to-2 to move the vote on the first reading of the medical marijuana moratorium to their next regular meeting, slated for October 13, with Bill Murray and Tom Strand, both at-large, opposing. 

The ordinance was not added to the agenda as an emergency measure, contrary to best information available before the meeting — it will still have to be voted on again at the October 13 meeting. However, the moratorium on new cannabis clubs is in effect until the next meeting, whether it's passed or not.

Wynetta Massey of the City Attorney's office explained that because the ordinance included a September 22 planned start date, it falls under the Pending-Ordinance Doctrine. The Doctrine states that pending property ordinances can take effect on first reading, though they still have to be passed on second reading.

In effect, the ordinance was written to use this Doctrine to prevent more cannabis clubs from rushing to get grandfathered in under current rules before the second reading of the ordinance.

In plain English, Council approved a three-week moratorium on new cannabis clubs, and, on October 13, they will most likely vote to extend that moratorium to March 22, 2016.

This ordinance was released nine months to the day after KOAA released an investigative report on a local cannabis club, The Lazy Lion, and "discovered" that the club was using a legal grey area to provide its members with cannabis, as advertised on the Lion's website. This invites the question as to what the city has been doing to draft a licensing and legal structure for cannabis clubs in the last nine months. Collins asked that very question, but the discussion moved on before an answer was provided.

We will update this page with more information on the situation as it comes in.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New poll says voters want president to respect marijuana laws

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 3:34 PM


A press release from advocacy group Marijuana Majority says voters in early presidential primary states want whoever wins to respect state marijuana laws as its pertains to drug enforcement.
Supermajority Support From Democrats & Republicans in Iowa & New Hampshire

New polling data reveals that voters in early presidential primary states overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws. Among respondents, 71% in Iowa and 73% in New Hampshire agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 13% of Iowans and 15% of New Hampshirites think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

"Politicians running to become our next president should take note of just how uniformly voters in these key states want to end federal marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, which commissioned the poll. "Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they're out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected. That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016."

The new data shows that support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is especially high among Democrats and independents in both states, although there is at least 60% support across all demographics, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative.

See for the full results and demographic breakdowns. Infographics displaying some of the data are also available.

Angell added, "The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to allow state marijuana laws to be enacted, but there are still several things this president can do to get the federal government completely out of the way and give these local policies a chance to be fully implemented."

Under current federal law marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive category (even cocaine and methamphetamine are lower). As a consequence, research on the drug is impeded and state-legal marijuana providers must pay extra taxes that other businesses don't. And federal employees can be fired for using marijuana even while not at work and in states where it is legal. The administration has the explicit power to reclassify marijuana without further Congressional action. Advocates are also pushing President Obama to use his constitutional power to grant pardons and commutations to people incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses, and to call off ongoing prosecutions of people who were acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

"Since marijuana reform is so hugely popular with voters, taking these actions before he leaves office would be a serious legacy booster for the president," Angell said.

Previous polling has demonstrated that there is broad national support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference. For example, a Pew survey showed that 59% of Americans do not want the federal government to enforce marijuana laws in states that allow legal use, and CBS News found 58% support for the idea that marijuana laws should be set by states instead of the federal government.

The new surveys, conducted by Public Policy Polling, include 1,500 registered voters in Iowa and 841 voters in New Hampshire. The Iowa poll, conducted August 7-9, has a margin of error of +/-2.5%. The New Hampshire poll, taken August 21-24, has a margin of error of +/-3.4%.

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What's next in cannabis legislation?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 10:30 AM

On Tuesday, Studio A64 hosted a conversation on legislation that will affect all cannabis clubs in Colorado. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • On Tuesday, Studio A64 hosted a conversation on legislation that will affect all cannabis clubs in Colorado.

Tuesday morning, Studio A64 owner and statesman of all things dank and sticky KC Stark invited District 17 state Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, into his studio to discuss cannabis legislation, as part of the Cannabis Business Hour on Sirius XM 420 Roupe, Stark, and local attorney Charles D. Houghton Charles T. Houghton, Esq. discussed a variety of still-pending concerns, including PTSD and medical marijuana, but much of the discussion centered around cannabis clubs.

Roupe has drafted a bill to regulate cannabis clubs. As it stands, her bill will allow for private cannabis clubs, but clubs can't sell cannabis. There will be a license, and specifics will be determined from community to community. Roupe will be holding two stakeholders' meetings to get comments from the public before revising and presenting the bill at the next legislative session starting in January, likely with support from District 11 state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D). The first meeting will take place at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 10. The second meeting (date to be determined) will be in Denver.

Roupe has invited a variety of stakeholders – members of the District Attorney's office, City Council, Mayor John Suthers and El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, as well as members of regulatory agencies and the owners of local cannabis clubs. The public will be welcome as well. All three parties agreed that good legislation isn't written in a vacuum. 

And Roupe, it seems, has been doing her homework. Roupe and Stark discussed how other countries have dealt with cannabis clubs. Uruguay, for instance, allows marijuana to be smoked wherever you can smoke tobacco – mostly outside. Spain has members-only clubs, much like the Springs, but all product is produced by the club and consumed on-site. And Amsterdam's notorious cannabis cafes, as it turns out, are a product of the Dutch government deciding not to enforce their marijuana laws rather than any formal legalization. All ban the use of alcohol in their clubs.

What Stark is looking for with A64, though, has more to do with the Elks Lodge. He says the Lodge formed, initially, as a means of getting around Victorian bans on serving alcohol after a certain hour. Today, Elks Lodges in dry counties serve much the same purpose as cannabis clubs: a legal place to have a drink or a smoke. Roupe recalls doing just that while living in Oklahoma – the club asked that she pay for mixers.

They also addressed the elephant in the room: cannabis clubs acting like de-facto dispensaries by effectively selling cannabis on-site. 

“I think they’re jumping over the ropes," says Roupe. "You cannot sell it in Colorado Springs unless you have a medical license … and in our county, we decided to ban [recreational sales] with the option to revisit that eventually. And here are those clubs who are flaunting those values and saying ‘come and get me.’” 

Stark says that when he won the legal challenges against opening A64, in February of last year, people assumed cannabis clubs could sell cannabis. 

“Are those people committing crimes? That’s not my decision," says Stark. "But by not having a clear set of definitions, we kind of opened up Pandora’s box.”

“A lot of this is driven by fear of the unknown," says Houghton. "We don’t know what this means. We don’t know what it means to my neighborhood… where are they going to fit along the continuum from liquor stores to shoe stores to heavy industry.” But Houghton thinks that education is the key. If people know what happens at a cannabis club, whether it's music, arts and theatre, yoga, stand-up comedy or poker, they will have that much less to worry about. 

“Educated people make good decisions as long as they’re not basing those decisions on antediluvian reefer madness.”

We expect to have the text of the bill draft later Tuesday; expect updates on this page.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NEW UPDATE: Mayor has the power to quash pot ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 11:54 AM

  • Peazo Cogollo

UPDATE: We just heard from the city on this issue, and the City Attorney's Office says the city code was changed to put to rest the conflicts contained in the City Charter. Here's the message in full:

The blog stated, “Turns out, the mayor might even have the authority to veto an initiated measure.” While it is true that City Charter § 3-70(e)(2) does not extend the Mayor’s veto power to Council referrals of initiated ordinances or Charter amendments, City Code § 1.2.108(B)(3) does:
3. The Mayor shall not have the power or authority to disapprove by veto the following types of ordinances:

a. Ordinances pertaining to quasi-judicial decisions or acts.

b. An ordinance approving bonds to be issued by the City on behalf of Colorado Springs Utilities, Memorial Health System or any municipal enterprise.

c. An ordinance pertaining to any act permitted by article VI (Utilities) of the Charter.

d. An ordinance submitting a Charter amendment, referring an initiated ordinance or Charter amendment, or referring a Charter convention question to the qualified electors. (Emphasis added.)

When we were working through the comprehensive revisions to the City Code to implement the Council-Mayor form of government, we identified the lack of Charter clarity as it pertained to the veto power over Council referrals of initiated ordinances and Charter amendments. This language was added to the City Code to ensure that any initiated measure meeting the signature requirement would be placed on a ballot for the electorate to consider.


UPDATE: Former Council President Scott Hente says he thinks this is a wrong conclusion about the Charter.

Specifically, he states in an email to us: 
I'm not sure I entirely agree with your assessment of the Charter. 12-10(e) of the Charter says "...the Council may, of its own motion, submit to electoral vote for adoption or rejection at a general or special municipal election any proposed ordinance or measure in the same manner and with the same force and effect as is provided for initiated ordinances.15 (1979; 1985)"

I think it's important to note that the wording says "...Council may, of its own motion..." That implies to me that Council, on its own authority, can submit an initiated ordinance.

I think it's also important to note that the years mentioned after this part of the Charter (1979 and 1985) indicate that this part of the Charter was not changed in 2010 when the Charter was changed to reflect a Council/Manager mayor form of government (often, erroneously, referred to as a "Strong Mayor" form of government.

If you point out that the Charter is in conflict with itself over this issue, I would agree. As we have previously discussed, there are other items in the Charter that are in conflict as a result of the 2010 vote.
So we went to the author of the latest version of the City Charter, Kevin Walker, who headed up the Mayor Project and drafted the change that brought us the mayor-council form of government in 2010.

Walker says Hente is right and that the charter as written isn't clear, and that one interpretation is that only those instances listed in the Charter for when the mayor cannot veto a Council action apply, whereas Hente has identified other places in the Charter that say the Council acts outside the veto authority of the mayor.

Charter commission anyone?

———————————-ORIGINAL POST 11:54 A.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2015—————————————————————-

Something John Suthers said last night during the KKTV/Gazette mayoral candidate forum with Mary Lou Makepeace got me to wondering.

In response to a question about allowing recreational marijuana sales in the city, Suthers said that while he opposes it and feels opening the door to rec sales will do nothing to stem the drug cartels' activities, if City Council votes to place a measure on the ballot, he wouldn't stop it.

Initially, I thought, "Whoa, since when does the mayor have veto power over a Council referred measure?" But guess what, the mayor does, in fact, have that authority. Council could then override the veto with six votes, if they could muster that support.

Turns out, the mayor might even have the authority to veto an initiated measure. That means that when a group of citizens circulate petitions to place a measure on the ballot using signatures of the electorate and bring it to Council and Council then places it on the ballot (assuming enough valid signatures were obtained), the mayor can stop it dead in its tracks unless there are six Council votes to override his veto.

That doesn't seem right to me. But according to the City Charter, here are the only times the mayor cannot veto a Council action:
Notwithstanding the foregoing subsections, the Mayor shall not have power to disapprove by veto the following listed types of ordinances, this limitation applying only to the following specifically identified ordinances: an ordinance accomplishing any quasi-judicial act; an ordinance approving bonds to be issued by any City enterprise; an ordinance pertaining to article VI, "Utilities," of this Charter; an ordinance submitting a Charter amendment to a vote of the qualified electors; or an ordinance proposing a Charter convention. (2010)
To translate, the mayor can't veto zoning, annexations and other land-use actions (quasi-judicial act); nor can the mayor veto Council's votes to issue debt by one of its enterprises, such as Springs Utilities; nor can he veto any action involving Utilities. 

Lastly, and perhaps more importantly to the pro-marijuana community, he can't veto a City Charter amendment. Hence, to sidestep a veto by a mayor who adamantly opposes recreational marijuana, one strategy would be to write the ballot measure as an amendment to the Charter. 

In contrast, there's no such work-around required for Makepeace, who says the city should allow recreational sales, regulate them and collect the tax from them. Here's a release she issued on Monday:
Mary Lou Makepeace, candidate for mayor of Colorado Springs, has announced her support of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs.

"The people of Colorado Springs voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and I support their decision," says Makepeace. "Legalizing marijuana will make our community safer by marginalizing the black market. We will be able to regulate it, as we do cigarettes and alcohol. And we will be able to benefit financially from its legal sale."

Makepeace notes that support for recreational marijuana cuts across all sectors of our community.

"I have heard from young professionals and senior citizens, liberals and conservatives that they want their voices to be heard," she continues. "I say it is time for Pot for Potholes."
In any event, Suthers has promised not to stand in the way of a ballot measure approved by Council, and Makepeace is ready to let retailers open shop.

The runoff election, being conducted entirely by mail, will be May 19.

The Independent has endorsed Makepeace.
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

CDOT launches weird campaign for 4/20

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 4:38 PM


The Colorado Department of Transportation has its eye on the upcoming 4/20 weekend, so it has a variety of (kind of strange) promotional efforts as a part of its " Drive High, Get a DUI" campaign.

“With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, we have a responsibility to pioneer marijuana education campaigns to keep our roadways safe,” says Sam Cole, CDOT’s communication manager, in a news release. “For 2015, we have some unique and eye-catching ways to grab marijuana users’ attention, and hopefully reinforce safe marijuana consumption and laws in the process.”

• The Smoking Car — Over 4/20 weekend in Denver, and in Boulder and Fort Collins throughout the summer, Coloradans will notice a “smoking” car popping up at large events. The car fills with smoke as if people are getting high inside. The smoke quickly dissipates showing the message “Drive High, Get a DUI” in neon lights. Don’t worry when you see the smoke though, staff is on-hand controlling it. The “smoking” car serves as a visual reminder that marijuana and vehicles don’t mix under any circumstances. Contact us for opportunities to view the smoking car.

• End Game Arcade — CDOT has developed a one-of-a-kind arcade game that are being installed this week at seven dispensaries throughout the state. The game appears to be a classic racing game, but when users attempt to play, a CDOT public service announcement reminds them that driving high is illegal. Players are offered alternative games to play. See below for specific locations where this awareness activity is taking place.

• Cannabis Cup — On Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19, CDOT will have a presence at the Cannabis Cup — an event drawing nearly 40,000 marijuana enthusiasts. As attendees line-up in the morning, CDOT will distribute snacks branded with marijuana safety messaging, and once inside, CDOT is hosting a booth featuring a medley of activities you can legally do while high, reminding people that driving isn’t one of them.

• Cannabis Quiz Cab — As Cannabis Cup attendees begin to head home, they should be on the lookout for the Yellow Cab Ztrip van for a chance to play the Cannabis Quiz Cab — a partnership between Yellow Cab and CDOT. Participants will answer trivia questions while riding in the Quiz Cab for the chance to win up to $100 in Ztrip credits that can be used toward future rides. The trivia questions will be related to marijuana laws in Colorado, with each correct answer worth ride credit. CDOT has also joined forces with Lyft to offer free rides to first time users of the service with the code “CDOTRIDESAFE.” Further discounts for rides from Uber and Yellow Cab can be found at

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Publisher defends Gazette's marijuana opinion dump

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 10:34 AM


Last night, the Columbia Journalism Review ran an interview with Gazette publisher Dan Steever, closing this fraught chapter in the publisher's tenure. (Steever ignored multiple Indy requests for an interview, including an email from our editor-in-chief.)

The opinion series "reads like a fact-dumping, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to proving the argument that pot legalization in Colorado was a bad idea," writes CJR reporter Corey Hutchins, who's based in Colorado Springs.

Hutchins also spoke with several Gazette staffers, including capital reporter Megan Schrader who admirably asked for permission to speak on the record to deliver a rebuttal. "I wish that it had been labeled more clearly than what it was, especially online ..." she was quoted as saying. "I thought that there was a lack of transparency with that element.”

One anonymous Gazette writer said, "Everyone in the community thinks it’s a news piece and that we wrote it — and we’re not responsible for it at all.” Another confirmed the paper's order not to discuss the series on social media, saying, "Being told to not do that is different and new and unusual."

As for Steever, he defended the newspaper's actions at every turn. The full Q-and-A is worth the read, but here are some highlights:

• Asked if the Gazette did all the disclosure possible when it came to writer Christine Tatum's relationship to anti-marijuana forces: "I guess that’s for the reader to decide."

• Steever says he has received "two to three times more emails than any story we’ve ever done," which presumably includes last year's Pulitzer Prize-winning series. 95 percent of the emails have been positive, he says.

• Asked the paper's intention in running the series, Steever doubles down on the paper's slanted take: "To try to tie some of those facts and data so that readers say, 'Huh, maybe this isn’t going as swimmingly as everybody has said.'"

• Steever doesn't understand how fact-checking works:


• Steever might not understand how news-gathering works:


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

UPDATED: Gazette employees reportedly could be fired for commenting on marijuana stories

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 11:19 AM

  • screenshot

Update: This really is a disaster for the Gazette.

As Westword's Michael Roberts points out in his post, multiple former Gazette staffers have taken to Facebook to criticize the series, including former editor Jeff Thomas.

Former reporter R. Scott Rappold started it off: "I have held my tongue as long as I can. Shame on my former employer for passing off as 'news' what is clearly a 4-part editorial rant against voter-approved legalization of cannabis."

Former city hall reporter Daniel Chacón, who left the Gazette for Santa Fe in 2013 under a cloud of suspicion that Mayor Steve Bach influenced the move, wrote, "I'm not one to say, 'I told you so.' But I told you so!"

In a separate post, former reporter John Schroyer eloquently and thoroughly ripped the report: "I’ve contemplated this for several days, and in the end, I realized I just can’t think of enough negative adjectives to describe this journalistic farce," he writes. "... And incidentally, Gazette publisher Dan Steever has been completely mum when it comes to inquiries from other news outlets. ... Steever hasn’t uttered a word in defense of the series. Which is strange, because he was so vocal last year when the Gazette won a Pulitzer."

And here's former editor Thomas with a high-level take:

Update: Editorial-page editor Wayne Laugesen writes on Twitter that Gazette website comments were "disabled to protect kid, per policy" on that particular story.

——— Original post: Tuesday, March 24, 3:15 p.m. ———

According to
 national media reporter Jim Romenesko, employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette are being told to sit down and shut up when it comes to its recent marijuana series, "Clearing the Haze," which, as we reported, is plagued with ethical problems.

Gazette employees have been strongly discouraged from commenting on or sharing opinions about the series," Romenesko quotes a source anonymous to readers. "Privately editors have mentioned that public criticism could jeopardize reporters’ jobs.”

An unnamed Indy source with knowledge of the Gazette's operations says, "From what I understand, it's dead silence in the newsroom on the subject of the Potgate." Which would help explain why the Indy has received no responses to inquiries made both yesterday and today about the series.

The problems stem from who wrote the pieces: editorial-board members Wayne Laugesen and Pula Davis, and anti-marijuana activist and former business reporter Christie Tatum. (She's pictured above debating the con side of Amendment 64 on Rocky Mountain PBS. We can't seem to embed the video, so click here if interested.) Her husband, an anti-pot activist himself, is even used as a source in today's piece.

In our initial post, we asked if the four-day series had gone through the traditional news process. Tatum writes on her Facebook page that it did not. The Gazette stories, released to the public to look like news features, stayed mainly within the paper's opinion department.


Lastly, we'll just note that Dennis Huspeni, a former reporter for the Denver Business Journal and former head of the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, tried to post to the Gazette's Facebook page website that in his opinion their stories violate SPJ's Code of Ethics. His posts, he says, were removed.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Is the Gazette's new marijuana series a joke?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 12:19 PM

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Update: Gazette employees are at risk of being fired if they discuss the series. Our latest post here.

Well, this is embarrassing. It looks like the Gazette accidentally published a bloated anti-marijuana opinion column as news.

To its credit, "Clearing the Haze" does have a vaguely menacing presentation — and, ooh, parallax — but if the organization had any sense of journalistic ethics, the four-day series would never have hit the page.

Let's start with the way news is supposed to work. The Society of Professional Journalists says reporters should "avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts." For reference here's the Los Angeles Times' policy: "A fair-minded reader of Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the organization is promoting any agenda."

It's probably not fair to hold the Gazette to such a standard, because it publicly espouses no such intention, but let's just do it anyway. Let's clear the haze.

The four-day series was written by three people: Wayne Laugesen, Pula Davis and Christie Tatum.

None of these people work for the news division of a newspaper. Laugesen and Davis are members of the Gazette's editorial board, which has written so many diatribes against cannabis, all compositions led by Laugesen, ownership is practically screaming in the woods.

As for Tatum, a former business reporter at the Denver Post, she reminds me of a quote by former New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal, on the subject of journalistic ethics: “I don’t care if you [screw] an elephant, just so long as you don’t cover the circus.” As the wife of Chris Thurstone, a doctor making his living on addiction treatment and leading anti-marijuana crusader, Tatum is screwing the elephant while covering the circus.

(Among other savvy moves, Thurstone thought he might capitalize on the death of Michael Brown by attributing being killed by a police officer, somehow, to marijuana, a post that led to charges of racism. It has since been removed. The good doctor has also said he fears teens will start injecting THC into each other.)

The website for the family business even states that Tatum "frequently collaborates with her husband to produce communications designed to educate and inform the public about substance abuse and addiction." Naturally, Thurstone shows up in the newspaper's comments cheerleading the piece.

But the best source of Tatum's bias is herself. Of the pieces she authored for the Gazette, Tatum yesterday wrote on Facebook how she thought of "you prevention folks out there" while she "looked at the sorry state of prevention in Colorado."


On Twitter, Tatum refused to answer how she became involved with the project. We emailed Laugesen and editor Joanna Bean asking why no news staff are bylined on the story, and if it went through the traditional news process. We also asked about the conflicts of interest. Bean said she forwarded our email to publisher Dan Steever, and then ignored a follow-up. Laugesen never responded.

It's entirely possible there's useful information in the paper's stories. There are two more days to find out. But the Gazette's disregard for ethics here is disturbing. The first thing you're taught in journalism is to consider the source.

We have.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

DEA agent cites stoned rabbits as concern for Utah’s medical marijuana bill

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 5:00 PM

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As our neighbors in Utah consider a bill to allow medical marijuana to be used in edible form, the Senate panel heard a pretty curious testimony from DEA special agent Matt Fairbanks.

“I come to represent the actual science,” Fairbanks says at the beginning of his testimony, posted online by The Washington Post, “I stand behind the information that is presented by our researchers and scientists that look out for the public’s good.”

He names several anti-marijuana associations before reiterating that he “deal[s] in facts” and before citing his concern about the bill’s language regarding growing the marijuana. That’s when the testimony gets interesting.

“The deforestation has left marijuana grows with even rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana,” Fairbanks says (3:42). ”One of ‘em refused to leave us and we took all the marijuana around him but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone.”

That’s right, even rabbits.

As if that’s a statement not worth elaborating on, Fairbanks doesn’t offer anymore more details on the stoned rabbit problem, continuing on to the possibly unforeseen costs of enforcement and land protection if the bill passes. His concerns come after 10 years of working in the state, and as a part of Utah’s Marijuana Eradication Team.

“I spend time up on those mountains protecting our environment,” Fairbanks says. “Personally, I’ve seen entire mountainsides subjected to pesticides, harmful chemicals and deforestation.”

In fairness, Fairbanks doesn’t take a stand against the bill, saying only that it should be “looked at” by a state interim committee. Surely then they’ll recognize that licensed medical marijuana grows don’t result in anymore deforestation than any other form of development, and that a couple stoned rabbits shouldn’t keep patients from some relief.

Just ask Sugar Bob, a Colorado Oregon MMJ farm deer.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

New federal lawsuits seek to halt Colorado cannabis sales

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 3:07 PM


Today, two federal lawsuits were filed by Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington, D.C. group with Colorado members, seeking to end the regulation of Colorado's marijuana industry. One of them focuses on land in Pueblo County. Here's the Denver Post:
In one lawsuit, plaintiffs Hope and Michael Reilly claim the construction of Rocky Mountain Organics' recreational marijuana cultivation facility at 6480 Pickney Road in Rye "interferes" with their views and plans to build a home and work space on their 105 acres of Pueblo County land. ...

In the other lawsuit, the owner of the Holiday Inn in Frisco claims its business is already suffering because of a recreational marijuana shop they say is planning on opening 75 yards from the hotel's front door.
The Post quotes University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin as saying that a lawsuit based on RICO charges, like the two here, "have to show that your business or property interest were harmed by a corrupt organization," he says. "Displeasure is not good enough."

For its part, the Marijuana Policy Project concurred with the likely success of the suit, and objected to it being brought in the first place.

“This lawsuit is misguided, and we’re doubtful it will succeed," says communications director Mason Tvert in a press release. "Colorado has no obligation to punish adults for using marijuana and every right to take steps to control it. ...

"We fail to see how our streets will be safer if we go back to having unregulated marijuana sold in homes and back alleys. Ironically, Colorado’s streets will be less safe if the Safe Streets Alliance gets its way.”

Colorado marijuana legalization lawsuit: Civil Action No. 15-349 Safe Streets Alliance lawsuit 1 by The Denver post

Colorado marijuana legalization lawsuit: Civil Action No. 15-350, Safe Streets Alliance lawsuit 2 by The Denver post

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