Who inhaled... or not? 

City Sage

On Nov. 10, the Colorado Springs City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on "the processing of any new land use or licensing approvals for any new medical marijuana facility or the change of location of an existing medical marijuana facility within the city limits."

Council then appointed a task force "to review, study, develop, evaluate and review laws and regulations pertaining to marijuana businesses."

As eventually constituted, the task force included seven city employees, one councilmember, four city residents, and two marijuana industry representatives. The seven city employees served to advise and guide the seven voting members: Councilor Larry Bagley; longtime civic volunteer Jan Doran; real estate broker John Harding; attorney Charles Houghton, who has a specialty in marijuana law; Lynnette Crow-Iverson, CEO of private drug-testing company Conspire! and industry representatives Dale Hecht and Tom Scudder.

Was the deck stacked? It seems clear that the concerns of city staff (including the city attorney, deputy chief of staff, fire marshal, Utilities' energy distribution manager, the city clerk and a police commander) influenced the decision-making process. The task force recommended more stringent, restrictive laws and regulations.

It's interesting to contrast the composition of the marijuana task force with that of a Council-appointed body charged with regulating the sales of another popular recreational/purportedly medicinal drug — alcohol.

Council appoints the seven-member Liquor and Beer Licensing Board, but its decisions can only be appealed to District Court. No city employees or councilmembers sit on the board, whose members must be city residents. Retired college professor Randall Kouba chairs the current board, which includes at least three bar/restaurant owners or managers.

Past members have included liquor store owners and bartenders, but probably not liquor prohibitionists. Yet, despite decisions by Colorado — including Colorado Springs — voters to end marijuana prohibition, marijuana prohibitionists are very much in charge at the city. Surprising? Nope.

Our beliefs about marijuana often correlate with age, fear and employment. Career military and government employees spend their lives in drug-free workplace environments, where marijuana use can get you fired. Older folks can be influenced by drug war propaganda, by marijuana's characterization as a "gateway drug" or by the notion that today's dope, unlike the mellow ditchweed of the 1960s, is a powerful and dangerous drug.

Those who make laws and regulations ought to start with knowledge. If you've never driven a car or ridden a bike, don't write traffic laws. If you've never owned or handled a firearm, you may not understand why so many Americans treasure the Second Amendment. And if you don't use marijuana, never have and think that it ought to remain a Schedule I controlled substance, just shut up — you don't know what you're talking about.

As Bob Dylan wrote, "Don't criticize what you can't understand." In that kindly spirit, I've sent this brief email to all Council members:

"Hey guys: Some quick questions. Have you ever smoked or otherwise used marijuana? If so, do you continue to do so? And if so, would you describe yourself as an occasional, frequent or heavy user? And finally, medical or retail?"

We'll publish the responses next week. They'll be interesting, particularly if they don't conform to our expectations. Will Keith King, Andy Pico, Don Knight and Merv Bennett admit to being users? Before his latest confinement, did Helen Collins fire up occasionally with the Dougster [Bruce]? Does Bagley have a basement grow? Is there an official Council caregiver? And what about Mayor John Suthers? He's a pretty cool guy, never visibly angry or upset. Could it be... ?

Joking aside, marijuana intoxication is real and can have serious effects. Like alcohol, it's legal — so our City Council ought to have first-hand knowledge of its effects. You don't want your constituents to know? As a former pol, I understand, so here's a recommendation.

Call a closed executive session, kick out the press, cops, city attorney and everyone else, lock the doors and mellow out in Council Chambers.

Believe me, you'll have fun.

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