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Colorado marijuana effort seeks older, budget-minded voters
JULY, 7 2011 KRISTEN WYATT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — A campaign to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use in Colorado is aimed at middle-aged, budget-conscious voters — not the pot smokers typically associated with such efforts.
Two marijuana legalization advocates started a signature drive Thursday to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that they say would regulate and tax recreational marijuana to raise money for schools without making make weed available to all.
The representatives of the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" wore suits and stood on a public lawn before the state Capitol and made their case that marijuana legalization would raise needed tax revenues and save money spent on arresting and prosecuting small-time pot users.
Again and again, they talked about how they would aim to limit the legalization effort — only for adults and only in small quantities.
"It'll be the strictest control and regulation of marijuana in history," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, a pot-legalization group that helped put forward the proposed ballot measure.
Another of the organizers, Mason Tvert, said the campaign wants to appeal to Republicans and older voters, not just young people who typically turn up at smoke-filled pot rallies. A 2006 measure to legalize marijuana in Colorado was soundly defeated, as was a legalization measure last year in California.
"We think this is going to appeal to a lot more people," Tvert said.
If approved, the measure would make small amounts of pot legal starting in 2013. Marijuana could be sold at newly designated stores and subject to state licensing. Adults would be allowed to have up to six plants. And pot would be subject to sales taxes and an additional state excise tax of 15 percent, with the money designated for public schools. The proposal allows local governments to prohibit commercial pot sales.
"This is shifting from a prohibition paradigm to a regulation paradigm," Tvert said.
Tvert and Vicente brushed aside concerns that the amendment would set up a federal showdown over marijuana. They point out that medical marijuana is also illegal under federal law, but 16 states allow its use.
"It's time for states to step up and take the lead on recreational marijuana the way they did on medical marijuana," Vicente said.
But the suggestion to heavily regulate pot has miffed some marijuana activists, who are working on a rival proposal with fewer restrictions on marijuana. Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute said in a statement to reporters the existing petition shouldn't be considered full legalization.
"It is merely sentencing reform, nothing more," the statement to reporters said.
A ballot measure needs about 86,000 valid signatures to make ballots next year.
Take a Guided Tour With the World’s First Professional Pot Critic
By Alex Moore Wednesday, July 06, 2011 deathandtaxesmag.org
A. Definitely not the world's first and I will arm wrestle anyone that thinks otherwise. B. My job is still cooler. -UA
While one newspaper in California has made so much money selling ads to medical marijuana pharmacies that they’ve expanded circulation into new regions and hired three new full time staff, it’s a newspaper in Denver that has hired the world’s first full-time pot critic.
The critic, who works for the Denver “Westward,” remains anonymous—not because what he’s doing is illegal, but because, like any good restaurant critic, his ability to offer objective criticism on marijuana depends on pot pharmacies not giving him any special treatment. The good stuff, so to speak.
And by all means, the pot critic does seem to take his job seriously. “Yeah, I smoke weed,” he says, “but it’s still a job. I still have to write, and I still have to make deadlines.”
Aside from describing the actual pot and its high, part of the man’s mission is to guide readers to the best pharmacy experiences. Praise for the “sticky sweet of Tangerine Haze” is interspersed with ruminations like, “If I feel icky in a place, my Grandma is probably going to feel icky there. You know?”
He then quickly adds, “Not that my grandma smokes herb.”
We hear complex arguments about how legalizing marijuana will boost the economy. Boring statistics and law enforcement metrics aside, this guy is evidence that even marginal legalization has just created at least one brand new job. Never before have high schoolers been able to say, “I want to be a pot critic when I grow up.”
Check out the guided tour below, from The Daily
Colorado medical-marijuana bill draws U.S. attorney's warning
As long as you don't think about it at all, their stance seems to make sense. -UA
By Felisa Cardona
The Denver Post
U.S. Attorney John Walsh's letter was sent to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in response to his request for clarification on how federal treatment of medical marijuana use may conflict with pending legislation now under consideration in House Bill 1043.
"The Department of Justice remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal law and the Controlled Substances Act in all states," Walsh wrote. "Thus, if the provisions of H.B. 1043 are enacted and become law, the Department will continue to carefully consider all appropriate civil and criminal legal remedies to prevent manufacture and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations."
Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, a sponsor of the bill, said that in his mind the letter only further muddies the federal Department of Justice's stance on medical marijuana rather than providing clarification.
"We have had mixed messages from the federal government on this," Steadman said. "I think this casts a big shadow upon this industry in Colorado. It does cause some uncertainty and trepidation."
Possession and sale of marijuana are illegal under federal law. But several states, including Colorado, allow the use of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.
Feds' two key concerns
Colorado's medical-marijuana industry has exploded in the past two years, partly because of the state constitutional amendment allowing marijuana for medical use, partly because of prior state court decisions allowing expanded use based on that amendment, and partly because of the Justice Department's previous declaration that targeting medical marijuana usage in states where it was legal would be a low priority for federal agents.
As the number of marijuana dispensaries, and users, has surged across the state, the legislature has tried to provide some rules for the burgeoning industry.
The intent of the current bill, by Steadman and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, was to close loopholes and fix portions of the state's medical-marijuana laws.
But as it has moved through the committee process, it has drawn the concern of Suthers and others in law enforcement.
Suthers sent his own letter to members of the Colorado General Assembly on Tuesday, including Walsh's guidance and similar letters sent by U.S. attorneys to stakeholders in other states.
The Walsh letter restates the federal position that the "Department of Justice will not focus its resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen."
But Walsh targets two portions of the proposed law — one that has been removed for now, and another that remains in the bill.
The first is an amendment to the bill that would have allowed the state to license a marijuana investment fund to help fund commercial marijuana operations, which struggle to get loans because of the nature of their business. It did not pass the House.
Walsh wrote that the Department of Justice would consider civil and criminal action for those who invest in or facilitate marijuana production.
But Steadman said he does not plan to reintroduce the notion of a state-authorized investment fund in the Senate.
Second, the bill as currently drafted would authorize state licensing of "medical-marijuana infused product" facilities with up to 500 marijuana plants, along with the possibility of granting waivers to license even larger facilities.
"The Department would consider civil actions and criminal prosecution regarding those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries, as well as property owners, as they will be acting in violation of federal law," Walsh wrote.
"Know our limitations"
But Massey said it may be wise to simply restrict the number of plants a growing facility can have, without providing a waiver procedure that would allow such a facility to get bigger.
"I think by limiting the size to a degree, it is not a bill-killer," Massey said.
"Prior to this, the federal government had been silent, which was even more confusing because we are trying to craft legislation on how the federal government would react," he said. "The fact that we are getting feedback probably lets us know our limitations and boundaries, and that is a good thing."
Read more:Colorado medical-marijuana bill draws U.S. attorney's warning - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_17936371#ixzz1KjPscdxc
DENVER | Tue Apr 5, 2011 10:19pm EDT
DENVER (Reuters) -A pot-growing trailer known as the "GrowBot" was stolen from a medical marijuana trade show in Denver over the weekend, and the owner on Tuesday offered a $5,000 reward for its return.
Greg Childre, who builds custom trailers for a variety of crops at his Georgia manufacturing plan, said the trailer was stolen from the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver late Sunday night.
The 28-foot long "GrowBot" trailer was driven out of the trade show parking lot in full view of security guards, Childre said.
Parking lot surveillance cameras captured the crime, but did not detect the license plates of the Dodge truck that hitched up the trailer and drove off, he said.
Childre told Reuters the trailer is computerized, and is stocked with grow lights and security devices.
"Anything you need to grow in a controlled environment," he said. "It has all the bells and whistles."
Childre said he builds the trailers for other crops, including mushrooms and blueberries, but most of his business is derived from the medical marijuana industry.
The trailer is valued at $50,000, and there was no marijuana inside the vehicle, he said.
A prominent medical-marijuana doctor whose license was suspended earlier this year has had the suspension lifted, at least for now.
Paul Bregman is back to having an active, unrestricted license after an inquiry panel of the Colorado Medical Board on Monday reversed its earlier action, according to a state filing. In its order undoing the suspension, the panel wrote that Bregman "complied with several terms and conditions" to get his license back. The order does not specify what those requirements were. Bregman's attorney, Sheila Meer, declined to provide details.
Chris Lines, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, wrote in an e-mail that the case remains open and a final disposition has yet to be reached.
Bregman's license was suspended in February, with the inquiry panel writing that he had an unspecified condition that harmed his ability to serve patients.
Bregman is one of the state's most prominent medical-marijuana doctors. He also is a member of a state Revenue Department advisory panel that helps craft regulations for the medical-marijuana industry. John Ingold, The Denver Post
Denver Post staff and wire reports
The Denver Post
Loveland City Attorney John Duval said he has not received notice of a hearing to consider the lawsuit's claim that the city's ban on dispensaries is unconstitutional.
Attorney Robert Corry Jr. filed a complaint in Larimer County District Court late Monday, seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow the dispensaries to remain open. Corry claimed the city's ban on dispensaries "is unconstitutional, because it unduly burdens patients and caregivers."
Meanwhile, Loveland police said all the dispensaries in the city were shuttered, which means the owners avoided jail time or heavy fines.
Voters in November passed a marijuana-dispensary ban by an overwhelming majority. The vote gave the dispensaries until Tuesday to close their doors.