Releaf Magazine
17Nov/150

State of Colorado is hiring: Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination

The state of Colorado is looking to hire someone with 'optimism that Colorado’s social experiment with marijuana can be effectively and efficiently implemented in a way that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.

By Ricardo Baca
The Cannabist Staff

The state of Colorado is looking to fill a major marijuana policy position — perhaps you’re the right fit for the job?

The position: Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination.

The application deadline: Wednesday, a.k.a. Nov. 18 — so hurry.

The job description: “To aid the director, however needed, in ensuring the efficient and effective implementation of Colorado’s recreational and medical marijuana laws — and the state’s education, prevention and treatment efforts.”

The person who will become the new Deputy Director — replacing outgoing Deputy Skyler McKinley, who is moving into a more senior role with Governor John Hickenlooper’s team — will report to the state’s director of marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman. The new hire will be responsible for organizing and staffing the state’s Office of Marijuana Coordination. The individual will also write memos, meet with concerned stakeholders, monitor cannabis legislation, coordinate marijuana communications across state agencies and more, according to the job posting.

“Skyler did an amazing job as Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination, and now I am looking for who will follow,” Director Freedman wrote on his Facebook page. “Interested in being at the forefront of one of the most interesting topics in state government? Care a lot about good government, and how to do things right?”

Applicant requirements include “top-notch organizational skills,” “proven ability to treat diverse issues with a professional neutrality and distance” and “proactive engagement on difficult and/or time-sensitive issues.”

One of the position’s “critical competencies” stands out from the job posting, especially for a state gig: “Enthusiasm — optimism that Colorado’s social experiment with marijuana can be effectively and efficiently implemented in a way that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.”

The full job posting is below — but interested parties can send a cover letter and resume to outgoing Deputy Director McKinley at John.McKinley@state.co.us by Nov. 18 with the subject line, “Deputy Director Application Materials.”

[Read the official job posting here.]

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VIA The Cannabist

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16Sep/150

Colorado Just Became the First State Ever to Generate More Taxes from Marijuana than Alcohol

In the past year, it has become obvious that marijuana is set to become a booming industry on the legal market and recent news from Colorado gives us more evidence of this taking place.

As one of the first states to go legal, the Colorado government has collected more taxes for marijuana than they have for alcohol in the past year. This is the first time that this has ever happened in history and it shows that the market for marijuana may be larger than the market for alcohol.

According to The Colorado Department of Revenue, the state government was able to rob marijuana sellers and users blind, collecting over $70 million in taxes from cannabis sales. Meanwhile, alcohol companies were fleeced for roughly $42 million for alcohol taxes, over the course of a year.

While businesses getting looted by government tax collectors is never anything to celebrate, it is interesting to see how quickly the marijuana market is growing.

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project recently said that the state was able to collect so much money in taxes that they are getting a break for one day.

“Marijuana taxes have been incredibly productive over the past year, so this tax holiday is a much-deserved day off. This will be the one day out of the year when the state won’t generate significant revenue. Over the other 364 days, it will bring in tens of millions of dollars that will be reinvested in our state,” Tvert said.

According to the figures released this week, the state of Colorado collected $69,898,059 in tax revenue from the marijuana industry this past year.

A study recently published by researchers at the University of Michigan has shown that cannabis use among teens and college students is increasing while alcohol and tobacco use is declining. In fact, for the first time ever, the rate of daily cannabis use has now surpassed the rate of daily cigarette use.

This is a great discovery considering the fact that cigarettes and alcohol kill tens of thousands a year while marijuana kills no one.

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VIA The Free Thought Project

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15Sep/150

Since Colorado legalized marijuana, highway fatalities are way down

One of the boogiemen of legalizing a previously banned substance is that fear that our streets will become populated by drug-addled drivers, plowing into family station wagons and school buses. Opponents to legalizing marijuana point to studies that show increases in drivers testing positive for marijuana while driving. Proponents of ending the prohibition on marijuana point to similar studies showing that these people testing positive for marijuana are usually in trouble because they are also drunk-driving. Radley Balko, over at the Washington Post has put together some interesting findings concerning driving fatalities in Colorado, since they legalized pot in 2012:

As you can see, roadway fatalities this year are down from last year, and down from the 13-year average. Of the seven months so far this year, five months saw a lower fatality figure this year than last, two months saw a slightly higher figure this year, and in one month the two figures were equal. If we add up the total fatalities from January through July, it looks like this:

Here, the “high” bar (pardon the pun) is what you get when you add the worst January since 2002 to the worst February, to the worst March, and so on. The “low” bar is the sum total of the safest January, February, etc., since 2002. What’s notable here is that the totals so far in 2014 are closer to the safest composite year since 2002 than to the average year since 2002. I should also add here that these are total fatalities. If we were to calculate these figures as a rate — say, miles driven per fatality — the drop would be starker, both for this year and since Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2001. While the number of miles Americans drive annually has leveled off nationally since the mid-2000s, the number of total miles traveled continues to go up in Colorado. If we were to measure by rate, then, the state would be at lows unseen in decades.

That's good news. Even for people against the legaliztion of marijuana, they should be happy that fewer people are dying on the highways—even if this correlation is not a causation. Some people believe that there is a causation in these numbers as (proponents argue) the legal option of getting high on marijuana can replace, in some cases, getting high on alcohol, and driving while high is probably less dangerous than driving while intoxicated on alcohol.

No doubt there are myriad other reasons for the decrease in road fatalities—better cars with better safety features. The important point is that the numbers are down, and while these numbers may have nothing at all to do with the legalization of marijuana, the belief that marijuana legalization might lead to tons of terrible driving accidents, so far, is unwarranted.

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VIA Daily KOS

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13Jul/150

COLORADO APPROVES MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE IN SCHOOLS

Among the first states in the nation to legalize the use and possession of marijuana, Colorado is also blazing trails when it comes to marijuana legislation in schools.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer sponsored a bill known as “Jack’s Amendment,” which would allow medical marijuana to be used in schools along with other permitted medications.

“Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine”

said Singer.

Jack Splitt, 14-year-old Colorado student, inspired the amendment after Splitt’s personal nurse was reprimanded for his use of a medical marijuana patch at his middle school. Doctors prescribed the patch to help control his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia.

jack-splitt-medical-marijuana

This policy change is intended to benefit school-age students in Colorado who, like Jack, rely on medical marijuana patches to help manage conditions like cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures. Under the new bill, caregivers or parents would be allowed to administer marijuana patches in school, as long as a doctor’s note is provided.

Singer continued, “We allow children to take all sort of psychotropic medications, whether it’s Ritalin or opiate painkillers, under supervised circumstances. We should do the same here.”

The bill was met with overwhelming support in the Colorado House and passed unanimously. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has to reject or sign the bill in 30 days to give Colorado the opportunity to become the nation’s first state to permit medical marijuana usage in schools. According to one of the governor’s spokespersons, Hickenlooper intends to sign the bill.

Though the new legislation has been widely supported, voices of concern can still be heard. The former adviser on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Robert O’Brien, has openly voiced his opposition to marijuana in schools.

O’Brien recently spoke with FoxNews.com, stating, “Even in a tightly regulated regime, I don’t think more marijuana in the schools is a better idea.” He also commented, “Kids need to get the treatment they deserve … but I don’t want that in the schools.”

Penalties have yet to be defined for those who violate new rules, though laws of drug-free zones are known for inflicting harsh penalties. In the meantime, Jack’s mother, Stacey Linn, told FoxNews.com that she is relieved her son can soon attend school with the medication he needs.

Photo Credit: Marijuana Industry Group

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VIA Whaxy

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22Jun/150

This Survey Says That Marijuana Prices Are Crashing in Colorado

People are flocking to buy weed, but they're not paying as much for it.

Special delivery for CannaRabbit. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Corey Young

It's been a little over a year since Colorado began allowing stores to sell marijuana for recreational use and the market continues to grow rapidly. But there are clouds (ahem) on the horizon.

Nicholas Colas and his team at Convergex, a global brokerage company based in New York, surveyed a number of marijuana stores in Colorado last week to get a better picture of the state of the nascent market.

What they found was that prices are declining faster than some had expected, while the number of people visiting the stores has increased.

Here's more from the note:
Since last June, the average price of an 1/8th ounce of recreational cannabis has dropped from $50-$70 to $30-$45 currently; an ounce now sells for between $250 and $300 on average compared to $300-$400 last year. More competition and expansion of grow facilities contributed to this price decline, but it is also a natural result for any maturing industry as dispensaries try to find the market’s equilibrium price.

Even with the declining prices, sales are still exceeding those of last year for recreational marijuana.

According to the note, sales increased by 98 percent year-over-year in April. Taking that into account, Colas expects stores to gross up to $480 million this year, which would be a 50 percent increase over 2014.

One thing his team will be keeping an eye on is the average size of each transaction, as it appears to be decreasing -- perhaps as the novelty value of legally purchasing pot wears off -- as well as a key upcoming date:

Our contacts still report between 100 to 300 customers entering their stores each day, but they only spend about $50 per visit compared to $100 last June. About half of these customers are tourists in most stores we interviewed. ... The 10% sales tax on recreational cannabis will be repealed only on that day (September 16) due to a provision included in a bill Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law earlier this month. The bill also permanently cuts the 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana to 8% in 2017 in an effort to squeeze out the black market.

Meanwhile, the popularity of legal weed has sparked a fast-growing industry that Colas compares to Silicon Valley. The note talks about a camp called "CannaCamp Mountain Resort," where guests can "hike, zip line, and roast marshmallows, all the while smoking cannabis" (though they have to bring their own. Due to state laws, the camp can't sell to campers directly). The owners of CannaCamp also run two "Bud and Breakfasts."

Here's a look at the story count for "marijuana" going back to 2000 on the Bloomberg Terminal:


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VIA Bloomberg.com

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16Jun/150

Workers Can Be Fired for Marijuana Use, Colorado Court Rules

by JACK HEALY

Brandon Coats, a registered medical marijuana user in Colorado, brought a lawsuit against Dish Network after the company fired him for failing a drug test in 2010. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times


DENVER
— Even in one of the country’s most marijuana-friendly states, smoking pot off the job and away from work can still get an employee fired.

That was the unanimous conclusion of the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday, in a closely watched workplace lawsuit involving a customer service worker who uses medical marijuana to help soothe the painful spasms he has suffered since a car accident left him paralyzed. The worker, Brandon Coats, was fired from Dish Network in 2010 after testing positive for marijuana in a random drug test.

The court’s decision was a blow to marijuana advocates, who have consistently seen court rulings go against them, with judges in Colorado and elsewhere saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies. The loss by Mr. Coats highlights the limits of marijuana legalization at a time when more states are approving medical or recreational uses of a drug that is still outlawed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government.

“The federal government has in many ways the last say,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who studies legal issues swirling around marijuana’s growing place in society. “As long as that federal prohibition is in place, the states can only do so much.”

Twenty-three states allow medical marijuana, and Colorado is one of four that have legalized the drug’s recreational use for adults. But Colorado is now confronting a backlash from two neighboring states, sheriffs, rural property owners and a hotel company who argue in separate lawsuits that Colorado’s network of state-licensed marijuana retailers and dispensaries is illegal, bad for property values and public safety, and should be dismantled.

In another backlash, dozens of cities in Colorado and Washington State have banned marijuana dispensaries from their limits.

Despite those conflicts, the regulated marijuana industry has become a presence here. There are marijuana-themed yoga classes, cooking seminars and gallery events, and the state is taking in millions in tax dollars from marijuana sellers. Federal law enforcement officials have largely allowed states to proceed with their efforts to regulate medical and recreational marijuana.

But the federal prohibitions on the drug have made it difficult for dispensaries and regulated growers to get bank accounts or lines of credit, and have forced marijuana businesses to pay abnormally high tax bills. Marijuana advocates said the court’s ruling on Monday highlighted the legal gray areas where marijuana intersects with employment law and other matters, such as custody disputes and housing cases.

Lawyers for Mr. Coats argued that his medical marijuana use should have been covered by a Colorado law aimed largely at protecting smokers from being fired. It says that employers may not fire workers for “any lawful activity” outside the workplace.

Mr. Coats, who said that marijuana had worked “like a miracle,” had a medical marijuana card from the state, and said he smoked only at home, away from work, and that his use did not affect his job performance answering calls from cable-service customers.

But though marijuana may be legally grown in basements here and sold in downtown Denver dispensaries, the state’s high court ruled that the clash in state and federal laws meant that Mr. Coats’s use was not “lawful.”

“Employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute,” Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the court’s 6-to-0 decision.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling upheld two lower-court decisions. In a statement, Mr. Coats’s lawyer, Michael Evans, said that the decision was “devastating,” but that it at least clarified the boundaries of marijuana use for employees.

Lawyers said the ruling could have wide ripples in Colorado. Cathy Klein, a lawyer in the Denver area, represents a nurse who was fired after testing positive for marijuana. Ms. Klein said that the state nursing board has been trying to order her client into a drug treatment program, and that Monday’s decision would reinforce societal images of marijuana users as low-level criminals.

“The fact that it is a crime under federal law, that part of the decision is going to be persuasive,” she said.

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VIA NY Times

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10Jun/150

Colorado Cuts Marijuana Tax, Targets Black Market, While Oregon Eyes 20% Tax

by Robert W. Wood

Colorado is leading again, this time with a permanent tax break on recreational marijuana. The state is lowering the tax from 10% to 8% effective in July 2017, a move that could cut into Colorado’s black market. Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and now it’s passed a marijuana tax relief. There is even a one-time tax holiday on September 16, 2015, from the 10% state sales tax.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the provisions into law, noting that this should lower the price of legal cannabis. A voter initiative is set too. The question for voters is whether Colorado can keep the estimated $58 million in pot taxes collected this fiscal year. Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights—TABOR—requires the state to issue refunds to taxpayers if the state’s spending or revenue collections exceed the previous projections. To try to avoid the refund requirement, legislators introduced HB 15-1367, creating a ballot initiative to allow Colorado voters to approve of the state keeping the $58 million in marijuana revenue.

An unidentified pot reveler carries a modified version of the state flag of Colorado during activities on the unofficial marijuana holiday Monday, April 20, 2015, in Denver. A mass lighting marked the end of multiple days of festivities in Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Regardless of whether the ballot initiative passes, Colorado did lower the sales tax on marijuana from 10% to 8% beginning July 2017. Eliminating the sales tax for just September 16, 2015 meets constitutional obligations. But even that one day tax hiatus has a price. The tax holiday is expected to cost about $100,000, plus $3.6 million for a one-day elimination of the 15% excise tax.

If voters agree to let Colorado spend the tax money, the earmarks are pretty clear. Colorado has already approved Proposition AA, which outlines how marijuana taxes would be spent. If the ballot initiative passes, the revenues will be used for the voter-approved projects: $40 million to the construction and repair of public schools, $12 million to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund (funding to oversee enforcement, prevention programs, public health initiatives, and costs of legalization), and the remaining $6 million to the state’s general fund.

If voters vote no, Colorado will have to issue refunds to growers and users to the tune of about $33 million. The remaining $25 million would go to all Colorado taxpayers, whether they bought marijuana or not. This $25 million would go via the state’s tiered refund system, with $19.7 million returned to cultivators who pay the 15% wholesale excise tax rate. Plus, on January 1, 2016, the government will reduce the sales tax rate on marijuana from 10% to 0.1% until the reduction in collections equals $13.3 million or June 30, whichever occurs first.

With all this complexity, why the September 16, 2015 tax holiday? The one day tax break is due to what Gov. Hickenlooper called a “fiscal glitch” with the state constitution. September 16, 2015 was picked because an end-of-year fiscal report is due to be certified the previous day. And the revenue figures are looking better. According to state figures, $700 million worth of legal cannabis was sold in Colorado in 2014. The tax tally was $76 million.

In Oregon, a 20% tax is being considered but has not yet been passed. It may be learning from Colorado, which is proving to be flexible and innovative with its marijuana taxes. Even so, time will tell whether the still healthy illegal market will slow down.

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VIA Forbes

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6Jun/150

Colorado to offer one-day tax holiday on marijuana

A caregiver picks out a marijuana bud for a patient at a marijuana dispensary in Denver. (Ed Andrieski, Associated Press file)

Colorado will repeal sales taxes on marijuana Sept. 16, thanks to a quirk in its constitution.

The one-time-only holiday from the 10 percent state sales tax on recreational pot is likely to generate buzz in the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana.

The little-noticed provision is part of a larger bill that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Thursday that includes a ballot initiative in November and a permanent tax cut on recreational pot sales in 2017.

"This fiscal glitch that we have with the constitution ... that's part of the magic of living in Colorado," the Democratic governor said.

The impetus is the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, a measure championed by conservatives. The constitutional provision requires voters to approve new taxes based on estimates of collections and state spending. If the actual amount exceeds the estimates, refunds are necessary.

Colorado isn't collecting more pot taxes than expected — actually, the amount is far less than projections — but total state spending exceeded initial estimates because of the improving economy.

"This is only a first-year problem," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who authored House Bill 1367. "We'll never have this problem again."

When triggered, TABOR also requires the tax rate to be cut to zero. State lawmakers agreed to eliminate the sales tax for one day to meet the constitutional obligations and then restore it. The tax holiday is expected to cost the state about $100,000 in revenue. The bigger price tag — $3.6 million — is what the state anticipates losing in revenue for a one-day elimination of the 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales from cultivators to retailers.

A permanent sales-tax break on recreational marijuana takes effect July 2017, lowering the rate from 10 percent to 8 percent.

"We still have a black market, and we want to moderate our taxes to make sure that the risk of someone selling illegally. ... We want to eliminate that," Hickenlooper said. "And one way is to make sure there is not as large a price differential."

The focus of the bill, however, is the ballot question this fall. The state will ask voters' permission to keep the estimated $58 million in pot taxes collected this fiscal year.

"This is one of those cases that we have to go back to voters and ask them if we can keep the money they already asked us to collect," Hickenlooper said.

Mike Elliott, the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a leading advocate, said in a recent interview that his group has not yet decided whether to take a stance on the ballot measure.

Unlike the initial ballot measures that legalized marijuana in Colorado, this November's referendum isn't expected to generate much attention. The governor said he would spread the word as he travels the state for town hall forums this fall and will rely on state lawmakers to help push the message.

The question is designed to give voters a stark choice about the money. If they agree to let the state spend it, the first $40 million will go toward school construction. The remainder is apportioned to a variety of marijuana programs for youth mentoring, agriculture, drug treatment and enforcement.

If voters reject the measure, the state will refund the bulk of the money — $33 million — to marijuana growers and users through tax breaks on production and sales. The remaining $25 million will go to all Colorado taxpayers through a sales tax refund.

The state already is planning a $70 million TABOR refund at next year's tax filing, but it is separate from the marijuana tax rebate.

"We constructed this in such a way so voters will understand what happens when they vote yes and what happens when they vote no," Steadman said. "The consequences of your yes or no vote are really clear."

The Sept. 16 date was selected for the tax holiday because the end-of-the-year fiscal report is certified the previous day.

The date is also Mexican Independence Day, which marks the start of the country's war against the Spanish colonial government. The word "marijuana" is considered offensive and racist to some Mexicans.

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VIA Denver Post

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28May/150

New Denver hotel allows marijuana use

DENVER — In LoDo, the Nativ Hotel is set to open. Thursday through Saturday there will be a series of functions to welcome the boutique hotel that allows marijuana use.

“We have something for everyone here at Nativ,” said owner Mike Alexander. “We have door bells on rooms, living plant walls on our outdoor patios where guests can consume marijuana on their stays, the Stereo Lounge in the basement, and original art work throughout the hotel. We even have a coffee bar specializing in CBD infused lattes.”

The rooms have all glass showers, the champagne suites have self-cleaning hot tubs and there is a lunch/happy hours lounge called Pourtions. The cannabis friendly hotel is the first of its kind in Denver. Some of the rooms even have the Monsieur Bartenders … meaning no more mini-bars. This pour system allows for customers to make up to 800 combinations without ever leaving their room.

Co-owner Richmond Meyer said, “We chose the name Nativ because we want everyone—no matter where they are from—to feel as if they are a native Coloradan while they are here. Our goal is to allow everyone to have an awesome time for however long they stay with us.”

The Nativ is staging three days of understanding between Thursday and Saturday. Grand Opening is Thursday night. Expect a big crowd as the new cannabis hotel is going to be the spot to be.
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VIA KDVR

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12May/150

COLORADO APPROVES MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE IN SCHOOLS

Among the first states in the nation to legalize the use and possession of marijuana, Colorado is also blazing trails when it comes to marijuana legislation in schools.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer sponsored a bill known as “Jack’s Amendment,” which would allow medical marijuana to be used in schools along with other permitted medications.

“Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine”

said Singer.

Jack Splitt, 14-year-old Colorado student, inspired the amendment after Splitt’s personal nurse was reprimanded for his use of a medical marijuana patch at his middle school. Doctors prescribed the patch to help control his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia.

jack-splitt-medical-marijuana

This policy change is intended to benefit school-age students in Colorado who, like Jack, rely on medical marijuana patches to help manage conditions like cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures. Under the new bill, caregivers or parents would be allowed to administer marijuana patches in school, as long as a doctor’s note is provided.

Singer continued, “We allow children to take all sort of psychotropic medications, whether it’s Ritalin or opiate painkillers, under supervised circumstances. We should do the same here.”

The bill was met with overwhelming support in the Colorado House and passed unanimously. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has to reject or sign the bill in 30 days to give Colorado the opportunity to become the nation’s first state to permit medical marijuana usage in schools. According to one of the governor’s spokespersons, Hickenlooper intends to sign the bill.

Though the new legislation has been widely supported, voices of concern can still be heard. The former adviser on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Robert O’Brien, has openly voiced his opposition to marijuana in schools.

O’Brien recently spoke with FoxNews.com, stating, “Even in a tightly regulated regime, I don’t think more marijuana in the schools is a better idea.” He also commented, “Kids need to get the treatment they deserve … but I don’t want that in the schools.”

Penalties have yet to be defined for those who violate new rules, though laws of drug-free zones are known for inflicting harsh penalties. In the meantime, Jack’s mother, Stacey Linn, told FoxNews.com that she is relieved her son can soon attend school with the medication he needs.

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VIA Whaxy

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