Legal Weed Draws Tourists To Colorado, Washington, For 4/20 Marijuana Holiday
DENVER -- Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.
More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.
Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.
One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.
The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking – tobacco or reefer – is permitted on room patios.
Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.
Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado – meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries.
Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well.
"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."
The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities. The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend.
"4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."
The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago.
A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 .
After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday.
Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.
The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" – an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies.
"It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it."
Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup.
"It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."
Rep. Jared Polis Hosts Reddit AMA Thread, Talks Federal Marijuana Legalization: 'The Drug War Has Failed, Time To Try A New Approach'
The Huffington Post
Just before President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis started an "Ask Me Anything" Reddit thread and discussed, among many things, his bill (HR-499) that would end the federal ban on marijuana and would allow states to decide for themselves if they want pot legal or not, as Colorado and Washington did in November.
Polis opened the thread with:
Hi! I'm holding my seat on the House floor getting ready for the State of the Union address which starts at 9 pm eastern. I will be around until then, then you can look for me on tv greeting the President (I got a good seat), then I'll be back when it's done to answer some more of the top questions. Let's have some fun!
The Colorado lawmaker took a break during the SOTU address and then resumed the AMA around 10:30 and had a very candid, often funny, conversation with hundreds of eager Redditors.
Polis discussed his thoughts on marijuana legalization federally and in Colorado as well as brief, but revealing bits about his homosexuality, life in Boulder, Colorado and much more.
Below are some of the best segments of his lengthy Reddit thread.
Redditor Salacious asked: What moneyed interests are blocking real progress on marijuana legalization? What are the non-monetary political concerns?
JP: The law enforcement industrial complex. All those on the gravy train of the drug war which means parts of law enforcement and their private sector vendors.
hubert1504 asked: Certain municipalities in Colorado are attempting to keep marijuana illegal in their jurisdictions. Some still write tickets for marijuana paraphernalia, accessories explicitly legalized in the state constitution. What can be done to see that these municipalities respect the will of the voters of Colorado?
JP: The will of the voters (Amendment 64) leaves it up to counties and cities how to regulate marijuana. I fully expect that many counties and cities will retain or enact bans. That is entirely their choice. The answer is to elect a different city council if you don't like their decisions.
Just as when federal prohibition ended for alcohol, many counties remaind "dry" and there are dry counties to this day.
iamaredditer asked: Why do you think the current administration has been so harsh on medical marijuana dispensaries?
JP: I reject the premise of the question.
Wow, that sounds legalistic. I always wanted to reject the premise of a question. THis is my first time I've said that!
AnyWho, the administration has been very clear through the Ogden memo that medical marijuana dispenseries that are clearly following state law are the lowest enforcement priority. This means that largely the feds have left medical marijuana dispenseries alone. In my state of Colorado that has been the case. I understand that in California there have been several raids, but these are of dispenseries that are operating in a gray area or a outright illegal manner under California laws. California state needs to tighten its laws to have less ambiguity so the feds don't have a pretense to come in.
powderitis asked: What can congress do to help the DEA reschedule marijuana from a class 1 drug up to lets say a class 3 or 4 or completely unschedule the drug? As a doctor I can prescribe Cocaine for my patient legally but if I have a patient on marijuana they are still breaking the federal law.
JP: Thank you for highlighting the absurdity of current law.
BlackbeltJones asked: To what extent can law enforcement realistically prevent diversion of marijuana to minors? And on THC DUI bill....
I believe law enforcement is in a better position to prevent distribution to minors if it is legal and regulated vs. banned because the corner drug dealer doesn't care about selling to a kid.
I think having a THC DUI is a good idea. We need to strongly discourage people from using marijuana and driving.
Thanks for the invite from Denver maybe some time I'll drop by if I'm Denver
DersTheChamp asked: What is your main arguement for legalizing marijuana, I have always wanted to know a politicians take on this.
The drug war has failed and it's time to try a new approach.
stealthisbook asked: Since you represent one of the largest brewing constituencies in the US and also are a proponent of marijuana reform, how do you feel about the common comparison of marijuana being safer than alcohol?
I don't think either is healthy, but clearly marijuana in moderation is not as harmful as being an alcoholic or drinking too much.
Sam_Coleridge asked: Congressman Polis, as I understand it, you represent the great state of Colorado. My question is how has cannabis legalization affected your state and would you recommend the legal parameters your state has set in place for cannabis to be applied to other states or even for federal law?
I would definitely recommend what our state has done for medical marijuana.
We have a great regulatory system that keeps people safe, prevents kids from getting access, keeps the criminal element out, etc. Nothing is perfect but I give CO an A.
It's too early to tell for full legalization, it just started but I do think they have a great process to determine the rules that will hopefully result in a good system.
Throughout the AMA, Polis would occasionally go off on tangents with Redditors and talk about his personal life, after one Redditor named "bizzle6" asked, "Do you get tired of hearing how rich you are?" Rep. Polis had a funny and smart response:
JP: How rich I am, how gay I am, how Jewish I am, how handsome I am (well, maybe not so much that last one). I am fine with my identities of course (one has to get used to things). I always try not to judge people or assume things because of their identities. Someone's wealth, sexual orientation, etc says nothing about whether they are a good person or not.
Polis also briefly discussed his personal life in Boulder when a Redditor from Boulder wrote about some of their favorite spots in the college town:
JP: We live near Pearl Street mall so usually hang out downtown, you'll typically see me walking with our little dog Gia and/or our son (1.5 years old).
Redditor "interstate73" asked Rep. Polis about the record numbers of LGBT lawmakers in Congress and Colorado's openly-gay House speaker Mark Ferrandino: What do you think of the record numbers of LGBT members of this congress (of which you are a member)? Will Steve King and Michelle Bachmann willingly go within 15 feet of you? Do you think the Supreme Court will strike down DOMA and Prop 8? And what do you think the prospects are for legal gay marriage are in Colorado at the state level? The Colorado House speaker IS openly gay, after all.
JP: Yeah it's really exciting. We have six out LGBT House members now and one in the Senate. I think there will be more and more. I get along fine with Bachmann and King. I mean I haven't made out with them or anything, but we get along just fine.
Our Speaker Mark Ferrandino is great and CO will soon be signing civil unions into law. I think if legal gay marriage was brought before the voters it would probably pass.
County's first discussion over legal marijuana scheduled
Three Colorado counties are already progressing toward banning recreational marijuana businesses, and Larimer County commissioners will meet Jan. 14 to begin shaping the local course for managing them.
Colorado voters last month approved Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana and the possession and distribution of up to 1 ounce or six plants for people 21 and older. But many facets of marijuana’s transition from taboo to commercial remain to be reconciled by state lawmakers and regulators, ranging from its taxation to its growth and distribution.
“The rules are so wide open, I don’t think we even know which way is up right now,” said Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter.
Douglas County did not wait for the state to answer questions about the implementation of Amendment 64. Commissioners there have banned commercial marijuana businesses, and proposed bans are progressing in Weld and El Paso counties.
Larimer County commissioners said they are less inclined to take such a hard line, but they are willing to entertain slow-walking the establishment of marijuana enterprises until all of the state guidelines governing them are in place.
“The only thing that I might consider at this stage of the game is a temporary moratorium, not so that we can say, ‘No way, not in Larimer County,’ but so we can get our arms around the situation,” Gaiter said.
“That might be a wise thing until we have a level playing field and some certainty for people,” Commissioner Steve Johnson said.
All three Larimer County commissioners expressed their personal opposition to Amendment 64 before the election, but they now say that they accept the outcome and will honor it.
“Our job is to carry out the wishes of the voters in the best way for Larimer County,” Johnson said. “To ban the sale completely of something that according to state law people can legally possess and use is going to force them to obtain it illegally in the county, and that is not a good situation.”
Gaiter neither opposes marijuana businesses altogether nor supports a wide-open approach to them.
“There’s a lot of gray area around this that we need to define, but for me to say a hard, ‘No, no way, no matter what,’ I’m not there — or a hard yes under any circumstances, I’m not there either,” he said.
As they had with the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries, the commissioners will mull whether less-populated, rural portions of the county are suitable for marijuana business, or whether it makes better sense to shepherd them toward pockets of population, where resources such as utilities and law enforcement already are established.
“Really the only issue with the county probably is the land use issue,” said Commissioner Tom Donnelly. “The questions we’ll be dealing with will be whether we have adequate infrastructure to host large-scale commercial operations. That’s probably where our discussion will head. That’s probably a little more boring and a little less controversial than the details they’ll be working out in Denver.”
Nonetheless, everyone on the board expects that the spectrum of interests that collide at the intersection of legal marijuana and government will generate a lively discussion.
Obama Standing by the people of Colorado and Washington
President Barack Obama says the federal government won't go after recreational marijuana use in Washington state and Colorado, where voters have legalized it.
Obama was asked whether he supports making pot legal, in a Barbara Walters interview that aired Friday on ABC.
"I wouldn't go that far," Obama replied. "But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you've seen the voters speak on this issue."
But the president said he won't pursue the issue in the two states where voters legalized the use of marijuana in the November elections. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
"... as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions," Obama said. "It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law, that's legal."
Marijuana officially became legal in Washington state and Colorado this month.
The Justice Department hasn't targeted recreational marijuana users for decades. With limited resources, its focus has been to go after major drug traffickers instead.
Nonetheless, the Justice Department has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington state. The states have expressed concern that the federal government might sue over the issue. Department officials have said they are waiting to see what regulations the two states adopt to implement the initiatives.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the president believes there are "bigger fish to fry" in prioritizing law enforcement goals. Carney noted Obama's comments were similar to his remarks about the use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
"But the law is the law, and that is why he has directed the Department of Justice to review these ballot initiatives and make some assessments about how to proceed," Carney said.
In the department's most recent statement on the issue, the U.S. attorney for Colorado said Monday that the department's responsibility to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act "remains unchanged."
"Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said. "Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on Dec. 10 in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law."
Walsh added: "Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses."
Rachel Maddow Draws Parallels Between Marijuana Legalization In Colorado, Washington And End Of Alcohol Prohibition
The Huffington Post | By Matt Ferner
Leave it to Rachel Maddow to provide one of the most well-thought-out segments on the historic passage of ballot measures in Colorado and Washington that made marijuana for recreational use legal last week. She's not the first to do so, but unlike so many other media reactions there was no snickering or giggling or talk of Cheetos and Goldfish from Maddow on the subject. Instead, she took a careful look at booze laws in various states and the end of alcohol prohibition -- which she draws several parallels to regarding Colorado and Washington's ending of marijuana prohibition in their states and the unknown drug policy world the United States has just entered into.
There has been much discussion about the federal response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington: How do the feds intend to enforce marijuana laws? Will the federal government allow state marijuana markets to bloom? Will marijuana businesses be able to have bank accounts? And much, much more. But Maddow deftly points out that the same kind of questioning and general lack of sure-footing was also present when alcohol prohibition ended in 1933.
"When prohibition ended in 1933, Americans could legally buy and sell and drink booze for the first time in thirteen years," Maddow says. "And people were obviously psyched when prohibition ended, but there was a lot of policy to figure out in terms of how the country would sell and regulate alcohol. Would cities do it? Would states do it? The federal government? Should you have to apply for a license to sell alcohol? How old should you have to be in order to drink alcohol?"
Sound familiar? It's much of the same, if not entirely the same, questions that come up with marijuana legalization. Well, Maddow says that even the solution back in 1933 is similar to the solution that Colorado and Washington state voters approved last Tuesday.
"States came up with their own answers to those questions and the laws between the states -- even all these decades later -- are still really diverse."
Maddow goes on to describe the various ways that states continue to regulate alcohol sales differently from one another and how the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington compare in their relation to regulating marijuana sales.
After a thoughtful history lesson, Maddow then speaks with Neill Franklin, executive director of marijuana reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who offers even further detail on the states' roles in ending alcohol prohibition in 1933 and how similarities between then and now with marijuana.
And Maddow is right, the federal government's enforcement intent on marijuana law remains unclear, now a week since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado and Initiative 502 passed in Washington. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was a vocal opponent of California's legalization initiative in 2010 saying he would "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana prohibition, remained silent on the issue during the election cycle and has continued to remain silent now that Colorado and Washington have passed their measures.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 64 but has said that he intends to respect the wishes of the voters, did have a phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week to discuss Colorado's legalizing of marijuana and how the feds might respond, but the results of that call gave no clue as to whether or not the Department of Justice will sue to block the marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, according to The Associated Press.
If the Obama administration does decide to crackdown on legalized marijuana in Colorado -- where more people voted for marijuana legalization than for the president's reelection -- the administration could face some serious political fallout with much of the same population of the Centennial State that handed him Colorado on election night, namely: the left-leaning and youth voters who support pot's legalization.
However many proponents of legalization say they don't foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized cannabis, NBC News reported, citing the federal government's silence on the issue this election cycle.
There is also the July report from GQ which stated that President Obama wants to "pivot" on the war on drugs during his second term. Marc Ambinder writes:
Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.
Optimism about a second-term Obama administration that turns around its stance on marijuana might be difficult for some marijuana business owners who have seen the Department of Justice aggressively crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in states like California and Colorado where hundreds of pot shops have been shuttered just since the beginning of 2012.
- Happenens again... Surprise Suprise...
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour dismissed the case against Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman following a hearing Friday. Samour said Aquino-Villaman's actions were lawful under the Colorado Constitution, according to a court summary of the hearing. He also said the charges should be dropped because officials failed to preserve key evidence. Aquino-Villaman had been charged with felony conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in addition to forgery and attempt to influence a public servant.
It is rare for a judge to dismiss charges before trial, but this is the second time it has happened for a medical-marijuana doctor this year in Arapahoe County. In May, a different judge dismissed the case against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, also saying that the doctor's actions were protected by the Colorado constitution.
The Arapahoe County district attorney's office declined to comment on the most recent dismissal, saying it has not yet decided whether to appeal.
Attorney Lauren Davis, who represented Aquino-Villaman, said both cases show a hostility toward medical marijuana by prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County.
"Their bias against medical marijuana in Arapahoe and Douglas counties is an affront to the constitutional rights of patients and recommending physicians," Davis said.
Although the doctors — two of more than 1,000 physicians who have recommended medical marijuana in Colorado — are no longer facing criminal charges, neither is currently practicing medicine.
In March, Aquino-Villaman voluntarily surrendered his license in the midst of a state Medical Board investigation into a marijuana recommendation he wrote for a pregnant woman. Aquino-Villaman denied wrongdoing and said the woman never disclosed her pregnancy. But his attorney said Aquino-Villaman, now 71, could not afford to continue fighting for his license.
Last month, Mestas agreed to temporarily stop practicing while he is the subject of a Medical Board investigation. A public document about the investigation says only that a Medical Board inquiry panel "had significant concerns that (Mestas) provided substandard care to multiple patients."
In both Aquino-Villaman's and Mestas's criminal cases, undercover police officers posed as patients who complained of injuries or other aches in attempting to obtain a medical-marijuana recommendation. After brief exams, the doctors provided the recommendations.
Prosecutors argued that the exams were substandard and that the officers never complained of "severe pain" — the condition for which they were recommended marijuana. But the judges ruled the doctors' diagnoses were reasonable based on the officers' statements.
"The presumption is that doctors are entitled to rely on what patients tell them in the course of an examination," Davis said. "It's not the doctor's job to play policeman."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Medical-marijuana case against Aurora doctor dismissed - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_19542409#ixzz1gUpCPTtT