Category Archives: CO

Colorado

Denver to become first U.S. city to legalize social marijuana use


A man waves a Colorado flag with a marijuana leaf on it at Denver's annual 4/20 marijuana rally in front of the state capitol building in downtown Denver April 20, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A measure that would make Denver the first city in the United States to legalize the use of marijuana in such venues as clubs, bars and restaurants is expected to get enough votes to pass, backers and opponents of the initiative said on Tuesday.

The announcement comes amid a string of victories for proponents of medical and recreational marijuana use, with voters in California and Massachusetts approving ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use of the drug last week.

The Colorado measure will permit private businesses to allow marijuana use by adults in designated areas with certain exceptions. Backers of the initiative said it would make Denver the first city in the country where cannabis enthusiasts can enjoy the drug socially without fear of arrest.

“This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings,” Kayvan Khalatbari, a Denver businessman and lead proponent of the so-called I-300 measure, said in a statement on Tuesday.

While other states have authorized similar plans, Khalatbari said Denver would be the first to actually implement them. He said businesses in the city could start opening their doors to pot users as soon as late January.

Approval for Denver’s initiative was leading in preliminary vote totals from last week’s election. While the city’s elections agency said they would not certify results until next Tuesday, campaigns that supported and opposed the measure both agreed it had passed.

Rachel O’Bryan, the campaign manager for the opposition group Protect Denver’s Atmosphere, said by phone there did not appear to be enough outstanding ballots for the measure to fail.

“Back in 2012, marijuana legalization passed with a strong majority in Denver … and now about four years later, I-300 passed with a much smaller margin. We think many voters voted in favor of marijuana legalization, but didn’t want to see marijuana everywhere,” she said.

She said the bill’s opponents are concerned about public safety as well as issues of second-hand smoke indoors. O’Bryan said she hopes the city council and possibly the state’s Attorney General will closely examine the law to see if it runs afoul of provisions in state law barring public pot use.

Recreational marijuana was first approved in 2012 by the states of Washington and Colorado, and later by voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. California, Massachusetts and Nevada all approved recreational use after voting last Tuesday.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, editing by G Crosse)

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ADVOCACY ALERT! (Colorado) WE’RE CHANGING THE CHILD WELFARE CODE!


Teri Robnett

21 hrs ·

ADVOCACY ALERT! WE’RE CHANGING THE CHILD WELFARE CODE!

I’m excited to announce the introduction of HB16-1385. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Linda Newell, updates and modernizes the language of the definition of “abuse” or “child abuse or neglect” in the “Colorado Children’s Code” to reflect the ways a child’s welfare can be threatened or harmed by adults through the use of or exposure to substances. It allows for prescription or recommendation of substances for medical purposes during pregnancy under the care and monitoring of a healthcare provider who is aware of the pregnancy. It is meant to give clear guidance as to appropriate child welfare intervention in families when substance use, possession, cultivation, manufacturing, or distribution is a factor. This does not change the criminal code.

This is the most important and challenging piece of legislation I’ve worked on. In 2013 and 2014, we fought legislation that would have changed the Children’s Code, but in a way we were concerned could be poorly interpreted and put cannabis-consuming parents in further jeopardy. Many might remember the dramatic rally and hearing on April 9, 2014, when we defeated that bill.

After 2 years of working together, starting with an educational campaign on keeping kids safe from substances called Smart Choices Safe Kids, we’ve finally managed to come to a place that both sides can support. http://smartchoicessafekids.org/

We won’t be without opposition, however, so it’s important that we come ready with facts and show strong support.

This bill will have its first hearing by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, April 5, at 1:30pm in House Committee Room 0107. Mark your calendar and plan to be there to show your support!

http://www.leg.state.co.us/…/8CBD4ED6CD3F82C587257F2400659B…

http://statebillinfo.com/bills/bills/16/1385_01.pdf

Remove Marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act & End Cannabis Prohibition


marijuana-pixabay8_large

Petition by Deschedule 2016

To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama

Issue an Executive Order directing the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to cease enforcing codes under the Controlled Substances Act relating to marijuana and its cannabinoids.
Pass legislation to:
• Amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana and its cannabinoids from the schedule of controlled substances;
• Remove restrictions for import and export of marijuana, including viable seed;
• Transfer authority for cannabis regulation and licensing to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), designating it as an agricultural crop;
• Amend Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 to remove the “for research purposes only” provision to permit for legal personal and commercial hemp cultivation nationwide.
Join Canada, Mexico and other countries to call for the end of global marijuana prohibition during the United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, April 19-21, 2016 in New York.

CONTINUE READING…..

SIGN PETITITION HERE…

Virginia’s Cannabis Arrest Rates Skyrocket: The Leafly Legalization Roundup


U.S. Cannabis Updates

CALIFORNIA

The Newport Beach City Council approved an ordinance banning dispensaries and delivery services in the area amid protests from the community. This ordinance prohibits the cultivation, processing, distribution, and delivery of medical marijuana in Newport Beach, and comes as a response to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 9th.

Although the law will not go into effect until January 1st, 2016, one of the stipulations of the law is that local jurisdictions must take action now if they want to impose bans or moratoriums on medical marijuana; otherwise, the state will become the sole regulator for medical cannabis in the state of California.

COLORADO

A troubling report from CNN confirmed that high levels of banned pesticides have been turning up in medical and recreational marijuana products that are sold to the general public. Various samples tested positive for a neurotoxin known as imidacloprid, which was banned for use on marijuana crops. Even brief exposure to the chemical can have serious side effects, such as irritation, dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, and vomiting. The tests found that products contained more than 100 times the legal amount and resulted in 2,362 products being pulled from the shelves, having been deemed unfit for public consumption.

The report comes directly after an executive order from Governor John Hickenlooper was issued urging local agencies to destroy products that contain high levels of pesticides and contaminants.

ILLINOIS

Cultivators in Southern Illinois, Murphysboro, and Anna have been given the green light to begin cultivating strains for Illinois’ medical cannabis program. Two companies, Ieso and Wellness Group Pharms, have begun the process of cultivation, although it will be several months before any product will hit dispensary shelves. Ieso will be using a 23,000 square-foot greenhouse at the cultivation center in Southern Illinois Airport, and Wellness Group Pharms has a 27,000 square-foot facility in Anna that has started production.

Tom Jennings, co-manager of Ieso, said that they’re starting with a staff of 14, hiring for another six positions, and will likely expand in the future (check out Ieso’s careers page if you’re interested in applying for an open position). Paul Montes, managing partner of Wellness Group Pharms, said that they have a team of eight and will be hiring more employees as they grow their team and security for the facility. If you’d like to join the Wellness Group "Phamily," you can download their job application.

VIRGINIA

In the ultra-conservative state of Virginia, a report released by the Drug Policy Alliance highlights a disconcerting pattern that has emerged in the state’s arrest records for marijuana. Despite a nationwide drop of 6.5 percent in arrests for marijuana possession between 2003 and 2014, arrests in Virginia for marijuana possession skyrocketed by 76 percent during the same time period. Not only that, but there was a clear racial disparity in marijuana arrests – the state saw an increase of 106 percent in arrests of black people between 2003 and 2014, accounting for 47 percent of Virginia’s arrests even though its population is only 20 percent black.

In the meantime, just across the river in Washington, D.C., as of November 6th, the District’s marijuana arrests dropped a whopping 99.2 percent. In an area once rife with arrests for marijuana possession (and once home to a clear racial disparity in arrests as well), so far this year there have been a total of exactly seven people arrested for marijuana in D.C.

WISCONSIN

A bill is under consideration by the Wisconsin legislature that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabidiol oil for those with severe seizure disorders who qualify. Senate Bill 221 would amend the Wisconsin Constitution to distinguish between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so as to allow physicians to recommend the use of the oil to be dispensed by an approved pharmacy or doctor.

Families with children who suffer from seizure disorders tearfully petitioned legislators to pass the bill at a hearing for the bill last week, but unfortunately the Wisconsin Medical Society has already come out against the legislation, citing a lack of research.

International Cannabis Updates

AUSTRALIA

A cannabis crop bigger than the Sydney Football Stadium was discovered on a secluded walking trail in New South Wales at the Bundjalung National Park. More than 8,500 plants, worth an estimated $6.2 million, were surreptitiously planted in a patch of juvenile plants surrounded by a fence 150 meters by 50 meters (164 yards by 54.6 yards). The entire crop was seized by the NSW’s Cannabis Eradication Program and incinerated in a massive bonfire, the likes of which we can only imagine.

ISRAEL

A recent poll showed that the vast majority of Israeli college students believe that Israeli drug policy should differentiate between cannabis and much harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. The National Union of Israeli Students found that 89 percent of students would like to see a change in drug policy to reflect the difference between the types of drugs. Additionally, 43 percent said that cannabis should be legalized and sold under government regulation, while 2 percent favored a free-for-all system in which anyone could buy or sell drugs. The percentage of respondents who favored total prohibition on cannabis also dropped from 14 percent last year to 11 percent in 2015.

Catch up on last week’s roundup, or check out our other legalization news articles!

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Renter finds federal aid, marijuana don’t mix


 

 

Elderly resident loses subsidized apartment

By Jim Mimiaga
Cortez Journal

Lea Olivier, 87, is being evicted from federal housing based on a claim she was smoking marijuana. “A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” Olivier says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

Lea Olivier, 87, is being evicted from federal housing based on a claim she was smoking marijuana. “A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” Olivier says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

DOLORES – Smoking cannabis? Not a good idea while living in federally subsidized housing, even if the drug has been prescribed by a doctor.

Some residents are finding out the hard way that there is a glaring discrepancy between Colorado’s liberal marijuana laws and the federal government’s outright ban on the substance.

Lea Olivier, an 87-year-old low-income resident living in Dolores, is the latest casualty. She has lived there for five years but says she has been ordered to vacate her rent-subsidized apartment on Central Avenue for allegedly violating the illegal-substances policy.

“A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” she says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

Olivier, who lives alone, is now faced with finding alternative housing but is concerned she cannot afford it on her fixed Social Security income.

“I’ll live in a tent or my car if I have to,” she said. “I’ve got 10 days to move, but when I get knocked down, I get back up.”

Terri Wheeler, executive director of Housing Authority of Montezuma County, said conflicting laws on marijuana have become a problem for federal housing operations.

She could not discuss Olivier’s file because of confidentiality regulations but explained there is a “zero tolerance” policy for use or possession of drugs considered illegal by the federal government.

“It has become a problem, and is confusing because marijuana is legal in the state,” Wheeler said. “Residents sign an agreement that they know it is not allowed on the property.”

For Olivier, the rule is too onerous and not practical.

“I’m tired of their petty demands,” she said. “Now, I have to use pain pills, which I don’t like to do.”

Olivier worked in the restaurant business all her life in California. She said a concerned friend guided her to marijuana as an alternative to alcohol.

“It helped me recover from that destructive lifestyle,” Olivier said.

She has medical marijuana card prescribed to control pain but wonders why. Since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado, adults are allowed to purchase and possess marijuana.

“Why should I grease a doctor’s palm to have a medical card?” she asks, referring to annual renewal fees.

Wheeler said since Amendment 64 passed, six residents were required to vacate federal housing for violating the ban on marijuana use. The authority oversees 393 low-income apartments with federal subsidies.

“It was an issue before as well, but state legalization has not helped,” she said.

There is an appeal process for residents who are found to be violating drug laws. While regulations are strictly enforced, they are administered with a practical approach based on circumstances.

“We’re not cold about it; warnings have been given for marijuana. For meth, there is no going back,” Wheeler said. “We know there are valid medical uses for marijuana, but we have to comply with HUD regulations, or we lose our subsidies for people who need housing assistance.”

More education is needed regarding legal use of marijuana in Colorado. Besides being banned within federal housing, it is also illegal to use or possess at federally owned or regulated facilities, including airports, national forest lands, national parks and national monuments.

“We’re doing a lot of re-explaining. You cannot grow marijuana, possess it or use it in our housing units even though the state legalized it,” Wheeler said. “Habitual users usually move out because of the rules.”

Olivier said property managers instruct residents to leave the boundaries of the apartment complex if they want to consume marijuana. Annual inspections of apartments are a part of living in subsidized housing. If illegal drugs turn up, leases are not renewed or notices to vacate are issued.

“They told us to go beyond a certain gate or leave in our car and go somewhere else, but we cannot keep anything in our car if it is parked on their property,” Olivier said. “It is ridiculous; I don’t want to live here anymore anyway.”

One jurisdiction’s solution is another one’s problem. Smoking marijuana in public spaces, including in parks or on trails, is also not allowed under Colorado marijuana laws.

jmimiaga@cortezjournal.com

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COLORADO IS GOING AFTER PATIENTS AND CAREGIVERS–PLEASE READ…


Photo

 

Bob Doler

Brothers AND Sisters

CALL FOR HELP

DA’S OFFICE IN COLORADO will bring an MMJ Caregiver to Trial

Phone: 720-874-8500 call now
Phone: 720-733-4500
Phone: 303-621-2875
Phone: 719-743-2223

Colorado Jury Nullification and Mmj WobbleMe

As a concerned American I would like to comment on the wasteful spending of taxes, the the DA’s office not following the constitutions,

and nor following their conduct under the bar association. I will like to inform the DA’s office and especially George Brauchler of a few

U.S supreme court ruling Bradford v. Bell US Supreme Court No. 07-1114: "In order to promote the administration of justice, prosecutors must perform

their official responsibilities in strict conformance with applicable standards of conduct and fairness, including their overarching duty

“to seek justice, not merely to convict.”

ABA Standards for Criminal Justice 3-1.2(c), at 4 (3d ed. 1993) (ABA Crim. Justice Stds.). As this Court has explained,

the prosecutor is “the representative . . . of a sovereignty . . . whose interest . . . in a criminal prosecution is not that it

shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935). Thank You.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/07-1114.pdf

 

http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/preview/publiced_preview_briefs_pdfs_07_08_07_1114_Respondent.authcheckdam.pdf

Law, Science, and the Coming Brawl Over Marijuana


The federal government is on the wrong side of science over medical marijuana. Until that changes, there’s no chance for legalization.

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Colorado’s newly-passed Amendment 64 contemplates a brave new world in which adults in the state will be able to lawfully smoke small amounts of marijuana purchased from licensed (and heavily taxed) local retailers. But that world isn’t even scheduled to begin until 2014, and only then if there are significant changes in the many assorted ways in which federal law criminalizes recreational marijuana possession and use. There is the legal component to the issue. There is the political component to it. And of all the paths forward there is one that is clearest and the most fair. What are the odds that it is the one Washington now chooses?
Since Colorado (and Washington state) legalized the use of recreational marijuana last week, the national conversation about what comes next has focused primarily on the obvious conflict between federal and state authority. On the one hand, we have the Controlled Substances Act, the venerable federal statute that for the past four decades has labelled marijuana as a "Schedule 1" substance on par with heroin. And on the other hand we have a clear policy choice made by voters in the election of 2012 that marijuana should be treated like alcohol. There’s been a rebellion out west, in other words, which the feds are destined to win.
But there is another conflict here that’s been splayed open by the ballot initiatives, one which is more fundamental to the future of lawful marijuana use than any argument the feds will now use to stop the state initiatives. It’s the ongoing conflict over the science of marijuana, over the quality of proof of its medicinal values, which is central to the coming court fights. Until the Drug Enforcement Administration changes its marijuana classification, until lawmakers recognize its therapeutic uses, reformers like those in Colorado and Washington will be crushed in court.
The federal policy choice on marijuana’s classification is the horse. The Justice Department’s coming use of that policy against the states is the cart. And that’s why the timing of the state initiatives is so compelling. Just last month, a few weeks before the election, a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in a case on this very point called Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. The feds say that studies of the virtues of medical marijuana are not rigorous enough to warrant a change in DEA policy. The reformers say there is enough proof, and testimony, to justify the change.
So far, the case hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as it should have, and as it would have had the hearing been held this week (last Tuesday, Massachusetts also became the 18th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana). But here’s all you need to know about the institutional forces of the law which are working against the reformers. Referring to the DEA, Judge Merrick Garland asked a question a million judges before him have asked when evaluating whether to push a federal agency to do something it hasn’t before wanted to do: "Don’t we have to defer to their judgment?"
Their judgment. The Colorado and Washington initiatives are the most forceful and populist responses yet to the antiquated judgment of DEA policy makers. The state measures also are a repudiation of Congress’ discriminatory marijuana laws and the law-and-order lobby’s priorities. And even if the new state laws stand today on poor legal ground–let’s face it, they do–the success of the initiatives out West already has sent a strong political message to Washington on marijuana policy: You can’t go back. You can no longer stay still. The only choice left is to figure out the smartest way to go forward.
Something’s gotta give. Right now, a White House that prides itself on being on the right side of science when it comes to global warming is on the wrong side of science when it comes to medical marijuana. Right now, a Congress that praises states’ rights is hampering the ability of states to experiment with new sources of revenue. Right now, the federal government in all its forms is taking a position which may have made sense in the early 1970s but which is now directly at odds with the testimony of thousands of military veterans who say marijuana helps ease their pain.
The faces of the movement aren’t just the young voters out West who think it’s absurd that they can drink alcohol but can’t get high. They aren’t just the entrepreneurs in Colorado who are making the marijuana industry a burgeoning, tax-revenue-generating retail industry. They aren’t the conservative figures who want to stop paying the prison costs of incarceration for marijuana offenses. They are also American war veterans like Michael Krawitz. He’s a disabled plaintiff in the ongoing DEA lawsuit in Washington. Here’s how The Guardian explains why:

Krawitz had been receiving opiate-based pain relief from the VA until they discovered a prescription for medical marijuana he had received while abroad. They asked him to take a drug test and when he refused, they stopped his treatment. "It said right there in the contract that if they find illegal drugs in your system they they will not give you any pain treatment," he said. "I found that offensive. I’ve been getting this pain treatment for years."

The Colorado and Washington measures aren’t likely a tipping point for marijuana legalization. But they may be a tipping point toward a federal drug policy that recognizes that marijuana is different from heroin–and even that would be a long-overdue step in the right direction. The Justice Department soon will challenge the state initiatives in court and the feds almost certainly will win. No federal judge wants to be the one to declare marijuana "legal" before Congress or the DEA does. What the White House ought to do in the meantime, however, is demand a broad new review of the federal government’s marijuana policies.
At a minimum, such a review ought to embrace the following truths, which appear to millions of Americans, including millions of young people who came out to vote for President Obama, to be self-evident. The Controlled Substances Act didn’t come down from the mountaintop. Marijuana’s "Schedule 1" classification isn’t engraved in stone. And the DEA and its policy experts are hardly the Sanhedrin. Whatever else they mean, the Colorado and Washington laws mean the time has come for the feds to better justify a drug policy that has lost key pillars of its factual and political support.
If the administration undertakes this sort of review–"hopefully, the historic in in Colorado will help pressure the federal government to bring a more science-based approach to drug laws," coyly says Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys behind Amendment 64–it will help insulate the White House from progressive complaints about the coming federal litigation to block the two legalization measures. And it will hardly outrage conservatives, many of whom, like the Koch brothers, support legalization efforts. Such a review, you could say, is the very least the President could do for all those people who came out to vote for him these past two cycles.
That, anyway, is the larger view. For a closer look, I asked Professor Sam Kamin, who teaches at the University of Denver Law School, to share his thoughts on what’s likely to happen next in Colorado. Kamin has closely followed Colorado’s successful embrace of medical marijuana as well as its new dance with outright legalization. Here is a (slightly) edited transcript of our email interview:
COHEN: The voters have spoken. Colorado’s Constitution is changed. But isn’t the next step legislation and regulation within the state to determine how it is all going to work? I’m sure you’ve thought about happens now within the state government. As specifically as you can, please walk me through the next few weeks and months.

KAMIN: Everything now depends on what the federal government does next. We know that our governor has been in conversations with the Attorney General Holder about what the Justice Department will do next, but so far he has not been particularly forthcoming about what he has learned. If the federal government indicates a willingness to permit Washington and Colorado to proceed with legalization- and I very much doubt that it will–then the legislature and administrative agencies in these states will begin work on how the industry will be taxed and regulated. This should not be a particularly complicated task; Colorado has regulated and taxed medical marijuana since 2010. Little would need to change about this regulation except removing the requirement that those seeking to buy marijuana from a licensed retailer obtain a doctor’s recommendation first.

COHEN: The average citizen in Colorado who voted for this Amendment is wondering when she’ll be able to buy marijuana and smoke it legally without a medical certification. Is that completely dependent upon how the coming legal fight plays out? And is the expectation that the feds will challenge the initiative at the point of sale? 

KAMIN: I think this is the crucial question. The federal government has always had the power to shut down state experimentation with marijuana legalization. Marijuana remains a controlled substance whose sale and manufacture are prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, every sale of marijuana in every state–whether it has legalized marijuana for medical purposes or otherwise–remains a federal crime. The federal government could thus arrest every person who sells marijuana in these states or at least arrest enough of them to make the others reconsider their choices.

A less confrontational approach would be to file suit–as the federal government did in Arizona to enjoin the enforcement of SB 1070–to prevent the implementation of Amendment 64.  Interestingly, there is little the federal government could do about Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana–the federal government lacks the power to force the states to criminalize any particular conduct. The states are under no obligation to mirror the CSA or to help the federal government enforce it. Thus, the states may presumably repeal their marijuana prohibitions without running afoul of federal law.

However, the second part of Amendment 64–requiring the state to set up procedures for the licensing of recreational marijuana dispensaries–is more problematic. The federal government could allege that such state-level sanctioning of marijuana businesses would constitute an impermissible obstacle to the enforcement of the CSA. Where state and federal law conflict, the federal law is supreme.

COHEN: The Justice Department has said since the election that Amendment 64 doesn’t change federal law and of course it doesn’t. Is there any way for the initiative to survive without a change to the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance on par with heroin? How can Colorado and Washington (state) move Washington to reevaluate that classification?

KAMIN: A little-understood aspect of the marijuana legalization movement is that the reclassification of marijuana would likely prove fatal to the legalization movement. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, a drug whose manufacture and sale are strictly prohibited. If it were re-classified to a less serious category it would then be available as medicine, likely subject to a doctor’s prescription. Of course, such a rule, which the federal government would likely enforce more strictly than it has the current prohibition, would forbid the licensing of recreational dispensaries in the states. Marijuana law reform has been proceeding along parallel tracks–in the courts, Congress and in the states–and those different tracks are beginning to create tensions.

COHEN: Look into your crystal ball. What’s the most likely outcome here? If there is to be a surprise, legally or politically, what do you figure it will be?

KAMIN: I imagine we will see something less than the dramatic federal response described above. I imagine the federal government will offer the states a return to the status quo prior to November 6. That is, I can imagine the Justice Department telling the states that it will continue to grudgingly permit the states to continue with medical marijuana but that full legalization is a bridge too far. This was essentially the message that Attorney General Holder sent to the California voters who ultimately rejected Proposition 19 in 2010. It was a difficult message for the Obama administration to send in a presidential election year in a swing state, however. With the election now passed, we may see a repeat of 2010. Like everyone else, though, I’m simply guessing.

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States Legalizing Marijuana Will Violate Federal Law, Trigger Constitutional Showdown: DEA, Drug Czars


The Huffington Post | By Matt Ferner Posted: 10/15/2012 3:13 pm EDT

 

On a Monday teleconference call, former Drug Enforcement Agency administrators and directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy voiced a strong reminder to the U.S. Department of Justice that even if voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington pass ballot measures to legalize marijuana use for adults and tax its sale, the legalization of marijuana still violates federal law and the passage of these measures could trigger a "Constitutional showdown."

The goal of the call was clearly to put more pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to make a public statement in opposition to these measures. With less than 30 days before Election Day, the DOJ has yet to announce its enforcement intentions regarding the ballot measures that, if passed, could end marijuana prohibition in each state.

"Next month in Colorado, Oregon and Washington states, voters will vote on legalizing marijuana," Peter Bensinger, the moderator of the call and former administrator of the DEA during President Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations, began the call. "Federal law, the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law."

Bensinger added: "And there is a bigger danger that touches every one of us — legalizing marijuana threatens public health and safety. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, drug driving arrests, accidents, and drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Drug treatment admissions are up and the number of teens using this gateway drug is up dramatically."

Bensinger was joined by a host of speakers including Bill Bennet and John Walters, former directors of the While House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Chief Richard Beary of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); Dr. Robert L. DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and who was also representing the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and several others.

In response to the drug warriors calling out Holder again to take a strong public stance against these marijuana legalization measures, Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Colorado’s Amendment 64 said to The Huffington Post:

We believe anything claimed by participants on the call today needs to be taken with many grains of salt. These people have made a living off marijuana prohibition and the laws that keep this relatively benign substance illegal. The nation wastes billions of taxpayer dollars annually on the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and people like Bill Bennett and John Walters are among the biggest cheerleaders for wasting billions more. The call today should be taken as seriously as an event by former coal industry CEOs opposing legislation curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. They are stuck in a certain mindset and no level of evidence demonstrating the weakness of their position will change their views.

This is an election about Colorado law and whether the people of Colorado believe that we should continue wasting law enforcement resources to maintain the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. Our nation was founded upon the idea that states would be free to determine their own policies on matters not delegated to the federal government. The Controlled Substance Act itself acknowledges that Congress never intended to have the federal government fully ‘occupy the field’ of marijuana policy. We hope the Obama administration respects these state-based policy debates. If Amendment 64 is adopted by the people of Colorado, there will be sufficient time before any new businesses are established for state and federal officials to discuss the implications.

Today’s call elaborated on a September letter that nine former DEA heads sent to Holder strongly urging him to oppose Amendment 64 in Colorado, Initiative 502 in Washington and Measure 80 in Oregon. "To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," the nine said in the letter to holder obtained by Reuters.

A month before the 2010 election in California, Holder vowed to "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana laws and warned that the government would not look the other way and allow a state marijuana market to emerge. California’s Proposition 19 was narrowly defeated in 2010 and the pressure is on Holder again to voice opposition to these 2012 measures.

When pressed by a reporter during a Q & A following the call if the group was at all surprised that Holder had not yet made a statement about the measures, former drug czar John Walters replied, "I think it’s shocking. All you have to do is say things that this administration has already said. It would help enormously and I think it would defeat these measures."

Both Colorado and Washington’s pot ballot measures are quite popular with voters, according to recent polling and have been backed by an increasingly diverse group across a range of ideological perspectives.

In Colorado, if marijuana is legalized it would be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.

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Pot could be tax windfall, but skeptics abound


By JONATHAN J. COOPER and KRISTEN WYATT
Associated Press

DENVER (AP) – A catchy pro-marijuana jingle for Colorado voters considering legalizing the drug goes like this: “Jobs for our people. Money for schools. Who could ask for more?”

It’s a bit more complicated than that in the three states – Colorado, Oregon and Washington – that could become the first to legalize marijuana this fall.

The debate over how much tax money recreational marijuana laws could produce is playing an outsize role in the campaigns for and against legalization – and both sides concede they’re not really sure what would happen.

At one extreme, pro-pot campaigners say it could prove a windfall for cash-strapped states with new taxes on pot and reduced criminal justice costs.

At the other, state government skeptics warn legalization would lead to costly legal battles and expensive new bureaucracies to regulate marijuana.

In all three states asking voters to decide whether residents can smoke pot, the proponents promise big rewards, though estimates of tax revenue vary widely:

– Colorado’s campaign touts money for school construction. Ads promote the measure with the tag line, “Strict Regulation. Fund Education.” State analysts project somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects a $60 million boost by 2017.

– Washington’s campaign promises to devote more than half of marijuana taxes to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care. Washington state analysts have produced the most generous estimate of how much tax revenue legal pot could produce, at nearly $2 billion over five years.

– Oregon’s measure, known as the Cannabis Tax Act, would devote 90 percent of recreational marijuana profits to the state’s general fund. Oregon’s fiscal analysts haven’t even guessed at the total revenue, citing the many uncertainties inherent in a new marijuana market. They have projected prison savings between $1.4 million and $2.4 million a year if marijuana use was legal without a doctor’s recommendation.

“We all know there’s a market for marijuana, but right now the profits are all going to drug cartels or underground,” said Brian Vicente, a lawyer working for Colorado’s Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

But there are numerous questions about the projections, and since no state has legalized marijuana for anything but medical purposes, the actual result is anyone’s guess.

Among the problems: No one knows for certain how many people are buying black-market weed. No one knows how demand would change if marijuana were legal. No one knows how much prices would drop, or even what black-market pot smokers are paying now, though economists generally use a national estimate of $225 an ounce based on self-reported prices compiled online.

“It’s difficult to size up a market even if it’s legal, certainly if it’s illegal,” said Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist who has studied the national tax implications of the legalization of several drugs.

In Colorado, the $60 million figure comes from Christopher Stiffler, an economist for the nonpartisan Colorado Center on Law & Policy. He looked at the state’s potential marijuana market in a study funded by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance. The figure comes from a combination of state and local taxes and projected savings to law enforcement.

Marijuana smokers and dealers, he argued, pay a premium now because the drug is illegal, and if government can find a way to capture that excess, tax collections should rise.

“You can basically take advantage of economies of scale, and the price of marijuana will go down and government can come in and capture the difference,” Stiffler said.

The biggest unknown: Would the federal government allow marijuana markets to materialize?

When California voters considered marijuana legalization in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the federal government would not look the other way and allow a state marijuana market in defiance of federal drug law. Holder vowed a month before the election to “vigorously enforce” federal marijuana prohibition. Voters rejected the measure.

Holder hasn’t been as vocal this year, but that could change. In early September, nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called on Holder to issue similar warnings to Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

That political uncertainty could translate into states spending thousands of dollars to defend the laws, critics say.

“I think it’s important that this ballot lay out for the voters how much litigation is going to result from this,” said Colorado deputy Attorney General Michael Dougherty, a critic of the legislation.

Legalization proponents counter that some of the 17 medical-marijuana states already collect pot taxes in violation of federal law, which does not condone medical use of the drug. Colorado collects several million dollars a year in pot-related taxes, including sales taxes, licensing fees and fees paid by patients to acquire the drug. Oregon last year doubled the cost of a medical marijuana card to raise money for things like clean water and school health programs.

“Marijuana can be regulated, can be taxed, can be sold. We’re doing it now, just currently to sick people,” said Vicente, the lawyer working on the Colorado legalization campaign.

Backers concede there are big questions about how marijuana would be taxed and regulated, but they are hoping to sell voters on taking the chance.

“We’re like Star Trek. We’re heading into a new world,” said Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance, answering tax questions recently posed by law students gathered at the University of Denver to learn about Colorado’s initiative.

In the end, voters deciding the marijuana questions won’t be making up their minds based on the impact on taxes, said Miron, the Harvard economist.

“It’s small potatoes,” Miron said of marijuana’s tax implications. “I’m as firmly in the pro-legalization camp as anybody in the world, but it’s because I think smoking marijuana is not the government’s business.

“That is the question – not whether it will produce revenue, but whether these drugs should be legal.”

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Cooper reported from Salem, Ore.

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