Colorado

Colorado: Lawmakers Discussing Repeal of Marijuana Legalization

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Behind the scenes, Colorado lawmakers are talking about introducing a measure that could repeal marijuana legalization in the state, according to advocacy groups on both sides of the issue.

State lawmakers are considering a bill to tax newly legal marijuana by more than 30 percent. Some of them want to add a caveat to the tax proposal -- that cannabis won't be legal anymore unless voters approve the taxes in November.

Legalization supporters called a Friday morning news conference to decry the effort, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. "Numerous" lawmakers are looking at putting a measure before voters that would repeal marijuana legalization in Colorado if voters don't agree to a measure on marijuana taxes this November, said Mason Tvert, one of the authors of Amendment 64, the initiative which legalized cannabis.

The tax measure, which was approved by one legislative committee on Thursday and another on Friday, would place state sales and excise taxes on marijuana that could reach 30 percent of the retail price.

So far, no lawmakers have publicly mentioned a proposal to repeal legalization.

Colorado: Appeals Court Says Legal Marijuana Users' Jobs Aren't Protected

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Coloradans who test positive for marijuana can be fired from their jobs, even if their marijuana use was legal under state law, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

The court in Thursday's split decision said marijuana use is still prohibited by the federal government, even though medical marijuana and adult cannabis use has been legalized by Colorado's voters, reports Steven K. Paulson at the Huffington Post.

"For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law," the appeals court ruled.

The decision stems from the case of Brandon Coats, a 33-year-old telephone operator for Dish Network, based in Englewood. Coats, a quadriplegic, has been a medical marijuana patient in Colorado since 2009; he was paralyzed in a car crash as a teen.

He was fired after failing a company drug test in 2010, even though his employer didn't claim Coats was ever impaired on the job. He sued to get his job back, but his claim was dismissed by a trial court in 2011. That judge agreed with Dish Network that medical marijuana isn't a "lawful activity."

U.S.: Study Says States Can Legalize Marijuana Despite Federal Ban

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With the tide of public opinion seemingly ready to sweep marijuana prohibition into the dustbin of history, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service, which works exclusively for Congress, has released a legal analysis aimed at helping legislators understand the ramifications of legalization.

The analysis found that there may be some wiggle room when it comes to interpreting the Controlled Substances Act, which makes marijuana illegal for any purpose under federal law, reports Bob Berwyn at the Summit County Voice.

One section of the CSA seems to indicate that "Congress did not intend to entirely occupy the regulatory field concerning controlled substances or wholly supplant traditional state authority in the area … States remain free to pass laws relating to marijuana, or other controlled substances, so long as they do not create a “positive conflict” with federal law, such that the two laws “cannot consistently stand together,” the analysis found.

The analysis gives Congress some solid legal footing to act, according to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado). The report finds that the federal government cannot force states to prohibit cannabis use, according to a statement on Polis's website.

Colorado: Two Shot At Denver 4/20 Rally

(Photo: The Denver Channel)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's first legal 4/20 ended badly on Saturday as two people were shot and wounded at a rally in Denver, disrupting the first celebration of marijuana's symbolic holiday since voters approved legalization last November.

A man and a woman, each between 20 and 30 years old, were each shot in the leg, reports Keith Coffman of Reuters, but those wounds weren't life threatening, Denver police said on Twitter. A third victim, a juvenile, was grazed by a bullet and walked into a nearby hospital, police tweeted.

Officers were looking for two suspects in the shootings, which happened as the Civic Center Park rally was drawing to a close, causing thousands of people to flee the area.

The investigation into the shootings during Saturday's rally is being turned over to the Denver Police Department's Gang Unit, according to a tweet the department posted on Sunday, reports Kim Nguyen at The Denver Channel.

Police described the first gunman as a light complexioned black man, about 6 feet tax and weighing about 180 pounds. He was wearing a gray hoodie, black pants and a Carolina blue baseball cap.

Colorado: Legislature Unveils Long-Awaited Marijuana Regulations

(Graphic: The Coloradoan)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado lawmakers late on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited bill containing proposed regulations for the state's newly legal recreational marijuana industry, moving the Rocky Mountain High state closer to a legal cannabis marketplace.

The bill runs 57 pages and includes most of the ideas endorsed by a legislative committee for how marijuana businesses should operate and be structured, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post. A second bill, also introduced on Thursday, details a proposed marijuana tax structure which voters would have to approve.

Both bills must pass both the House and Senate, requiring a minimum of six different votes, by May 8, the end of the legislative session. If that doesn't happen, it's likely that lawmakers would call a special session this spring, since this is the only chance they have to regulate marijuana before legal cannabis stores open around the beginning of next year.

House Bill 1317, the main marijuana regulation bill, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver), and details how marijuana stores are to operate and be governed. It requires that marijuana growers and sellers operate separately, opposite of the requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Only Colorado residents will be allowed to own or work in recreational marijuana stores. The stores will be allowed to sell only a quarter-ounce of cannabis to people from out of state.

U.S.: Obama's Drug Czar Condemns Marijuana Legalization

(Photo of Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske by LIFE Magazine)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Surprise, surprise -- Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske really hates marijuana legalization.

Kerlikowske, President Obama's drug czar, spoke out this week against recently passed state laws in Colorado and Washington which legalized the possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. As director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Kerlikowske is required by law to oppose cannabis legalization.

The Drug Czar said the Obama Administration doesn't plan on honoring the new state laws that allow adults in Colorado and Washington to legally use pot, reports RT.com. Last year, voters in both states passed separate laws allowing residents and visitors over 21 to legally have up to an ounce of marijuana.

But despite those laws, both of which overwhelmingly passed with about 55 percent of the vote, Kerlikowske said the Administration will continue to enforce the federal Uniform Controlled Substances Act, under which marijuana is listed as a Schedule I narcotic along with heroin and PCP. Even methamphetamine and cocaine are considered safer drugs than cannabis under the UCSA; both of those substances are classified as Schedule II, by definition safer than marijuana.

Colorado: Police Bust Art Gallery That Gave Free Marijuana For Donations

(Photo of Adam Zimmerli and Devon Hawk Hazard: CBS4)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police have arrested the owners of a marijuana club operating out of a Denver art gallery. Two men reportedly offered free cannabis in exchange for donations to the gallery.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana for adults, back in November, but there's no legal system for buying and selling it, so places like the 530 Gallery on Santa Fe Boulevard have come with with ways to get around that, reports Rick Sallinger at CBS4.

Adam Zimmerli and Devon Hawk Hazard are now facing felony charges for distribution of marijuana.

Investigative reporter Sallinger visited the 530 Gallery, on Santa Fe Avenue in Denver's Art District, back in February. The gallery had been running a Craigslist ad which offered "high grade marijuana, free with a donation to the gallery." Sallinger said he was offered marijuana if he joined the club.

"As a member of the Cannabis Club of Denver, you follow Amendment 64," the man at the gallery told Sallinger.

Sallinger said he also found many other places also offering free pot in exchange for donations.

U.S.: Conservatives Lead New Congressional Push To End War On Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new push in Congress to end the federal War On Marijuana is being led by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.

The "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," introduced in the House last week, would protect anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act, reports Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone. The legislation would cover both medical marijuana laws and overall legalization in states like Colorado and Washington, where voters last fall decided to make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older.

Poll data released last week from Pew Research found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should allow states to decide for themselves when it comes to the marijuana laws. The same poll found that 57 percent of Republicans also favor the same approach, "which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House," according to Rolling Stone.

The three conservative GOP cosponsors of the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" are:

Colorado: Legislature Looks To Regulate Legal Marijuana Use

(Graphic: Cannabis News)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana is legal now in Colorado; the voters decided that last November. Now the Legislature is busily regulating the newly legal substance with bills codifying the rules for recreational pot use, with bills expected to be introduced this week.

The bills -- at least three, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post -- are from a special committee of lawmakers which was assembled based on suggestions from a task force. The full Legislature has less than a month before the end of its session; it it approves the bills, they would be the first in the nation to create laws governing legal marijuana use by adults, and marijuana sales at retail stores.

One of the bills is expected to include relatively noncontroversial items such as educational campaigns about cannabis and rules that would ban marijuana-infused alcohol. Another bill would create 15 percent excise and special taxes on marijuana. Voters would have to approve those taxes.

The remaining bill would deal with controversial rules on which committee members never reached consensus. These include the business structure for recreational cannabis stores. The committee ultimately decided to allow growers and sellers to operate separately, but many argue that the marijuana industry should be "vertically integrated" with stores having to grow all they sell.

Colorado: Marijuana DUI Bill Wins Unanimous Approval In House

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It took four tries, but the long battle over marijuana and driving appears to be nearing an unhappy end in Colorado. The state House on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill setting pot blood limits under which drivers can be charged with DUI-cannabis.

The bipartisan proposal sets the limit at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng/ml), the same as that approved last November by Washington state voters as part of Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults in that state, reports Kristen Wyatt at The Associated Press.

Unfortunately, there is little to no scientific evidence correlating blood THC levels of 5 ng/ml with actual impairment; several studies have shown that experienced cannabis users, in particular, are relatively or completely unimpaired at that level.

We caught up with Paul Stanford, president of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, as he visited THCF Medical Clinics' Denver office. "The bad example of Washington's I-502 has set an unfair, arbitrary example for Colorado and elsewhere," explained Stanford, who also runs the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), owners of Hemp News.

Colorado: Medical Marijuana Driving Limits Up For Vote

(Illustration: The Denver Channel)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

For the fourth time, the Colorado Legislature is trying to set driving limits for marijuana users and pass a DUI law.

HB 1114, scheduled for debate on Tuesday would set Colorado's THC limit at five nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mg), the same limit passed in Washington state by voters who approved Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in that state.

The Legislature has already tried and failed three times to pass a driving-while-high blood standard, reports The Denver Channel.

This year's version differs from the others in that it would allow drivers accused of driving while high to argue they were unimpaired despite a blood test above the legal threshold. Frequent marijuana users, particularly medicinal cannabis patients, report that their blood limits exceed 5 nanograms even while sober, for instance, when the first wake up in the morning before using cannabis.

Driving-while-high bills have passed the Colorado House in previous years, but failed in the Senate.

(Illustration: The Denver Channel)

U.S.: NIDA To Spend $2 Million Trying To Find Negative Effects Of Marijuana Legalization

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The federal National Institutes for Health and the National Institute for Drug Abuse are waving around $2 million, hoping researchers will try to find negative impacts of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.

The NIDA has long been notorious for its well known practice of only funding studies which look for negative effects, rather than any positive effects of cannabis.

"In November 2012, voters passed ballot initiatives in the states of Washington and Colorado to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use," reads the so-called "funding opportunity" at NIH.gov, reports Mike Riggs at Reason.com.

"We know little about the impact this shifting marijuana policy environment has had or will have on epidemiology, prevention and treatment of substance use, misuse, and related health outcomes such as HIV and other risk behavior (i.e. drugged driving)," the "funding opportunity" reads.

The NIDA officially considers all marijuana use to be "abuse."

The NIH and NIDA will begin accepting applications on April 30.

Colorado: Nation's First Marijuana Tourism Company Launches

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

What's being called the very first marijuana tourism business in the United States has been started by two Denver entrepreneurs with ties to the medicinal cannabis industry.

My 420 Tours will meet visitors at the airport, connect them to 420-friendly lodging, set up tours of grow rooms, arrange hash-making demonstrations, and provide tickets to cannabis-themed events, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.

The company's first tour package is centered around April 20 -- 4-20 to marijuana enthusiasts everywhere -- and is being pitched as World Cannabis Week.

"If somebody flies out here, we take care of the whole adventure for them," said James Walker, one of the owners at My 420 Tours.

But there's still a catch. Marijuana sales to non-patients are still illegal in Colorado, and will continue to be prohibited for months. So Walker and business partner Matt Brown aren't allowed to actually give cannabis to tourists. But they say they'll help their clients gain access to events where marijuana "is like to be shared" freely, and, they claim, legally.

My 420 Tours appears to be the first to take advantage of Amendment 64, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for anybody over 21 in Colorado, both residents and non-residents.

Colorado: Prominent Marijuana Activist Damien LaGoy Dies At 53

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Prominent cannabis activist Damien LaGoy of Colorado, who was battling AIDS and hepatitis C, died at age 53 on Saturday, advocates from the group Sensible Colorado announced this week.

LaGoy became "the public face of medical-marijuana patients in Colorado," reports John Ingold of The Denver Post.

"Damien LaGoy was pound for pound the toughest individual I have ever known," said Dan Pope, a longtime friend and caregiver. "He was very genuine in his compassion and sense of fairness, yet he could be tenacious as hell when pushed."

LaGoy won court battles in 2007 and again in 2009, securing victories that laid the foundation for Colorado's earliest medical marijuana dispensaries.

He had, with both cases, challenged state Health Department rules that limited the number of patients a caregiver could serve. The limit had been set at five, but LaGoy said that would have leeft him without a provider, because he was Pope's sixth patient.

"If I lose my caregiver, I don't know what I'll do," LaGoy said in 2009. "I'll have to find someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get it off the street."

Colorado: Audit Says Medical Marijuana Has Inadequate Oversight

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division has neither adequately defined its mission nor determined what resources it needs, according to a state audit released on Tuesday.

The auditors found that Colorado's highly touted "seed-to-sale" oversight of 1,440 medical marijuana businesses doesn't actually exist, reports Eric Gorski of The Denver Post.

The audit -- which is quite critical of the MMED -- includes the following highlights:

• A review by auditors of 35 new cannabis business applications found "evidence of potentially disqualifying information" about criminal backgrounds and finances in 13 cases. In 10 of those cases, MMED issued licenses. Five of the 13 files were flagged by auditors for concerns about past felony arrests, financial assistance possibly coming from a "potentially unsuitable person," or involvement in drug and alcohol treatment classes.

• The processing of applications took too long, and the division tried to get those with "problem applications" to just withdraw them instead of persevering through the process. Auditors called this practice "concerning," in part because the law requires the MMED to deny applications that don't meet the requirements.

Colorado: Congressman Says Marijuana Was A 'Great Association For Me' In 2012

Photo by Chet Susslin/National JournalBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) knows when he's politically associated with a good thing, and in 2012 that good thing was marijuana.

"My campaign headquarters last summer, we shared [a building] with a dispensary," Polis said while visiting a dispensary this week, reports Ben Terris at the National Journal. "You could see the sign, it was like, 'Marijuana, Jared Polis.'

"Marijuana outperformed me by 10 points, so it was a great association for me," Polis said.

Polis spoke from the soon-to-be-opened D.C. medical marijuana dispensary, Metropolitan Wellness Center. He was accompanied by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressional staffers, marijuana advocates and dispensary employees.

Within months, "certain D.C. residents will be able to come [to the center] to legally choose from more than a dozen strains of medical marijuana from Master Kush to Blue Dream."

Polis and Blumenauer have introduced legislation to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and set up a way to tax its sale.

Colorado: Medical Marijuana Training Program Approved

Photo: Cannabis NewsBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill aimed at training dispensary personnel and others who work in medical marijuana businesses was approved on Tuesday by the Colorado Legislature and is headed to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk.

The state Senate voted 23-12 on Tuesday to approve the bill, which creates a "responsible medical marijuana vendor" designation, reports The Associated Press.

The designation, which remains optional rather than mandatory, would allow dispensaries to train their employees regarding the state's medical marijuana rules, and how to spot fake patient ID cards.

The businesses could then get a break if they run afoul of state regulations. A similar designation has already been created for the alcohol industry.

Recreational marijuana stores created by Amendment 64, which are soon to appear, wouldn't be affected by the measure. The Legislature is still working on the rules for those shops, which will be allowed to sell cannabis to any adult 21 or older.

Something similar to a "responsible vendor" designation is likely to come in the recreational marijuana market, as well, according to observers.

The "responsible vendor" measure, backed by the medical marijuana industry, passed the House last month.

(Photo: Cannabis News)

Colorado: Marijuana Legalization Task Force Issues Recommendations

Illustration: The Denver ChannelBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's marijuana task force issued 58 recommendations on Wednesday regarding how legal marijuana should be grown, sold and taxed in the Mile High State.

The government regulators, cannabis advocates and law enforcement officials on the Amendment 64 Task Force were appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper to recommend how to implement the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November which legalized marijuana use for adults 21 and older, reports Alan Gathright at The Denver Channel.

The task force's 165-page report now goes to the governor's desk and to the Legislature, which will consider its recommendations as laws are written to regulate legal marijuana.

The Legislature will have to then go back to voters for approval of sales and excise tax rates for cannabis, according to task force leaders.

While agreeing that there should be a special cannabis sales tax, the task force left it up to the Legislature to set the taxation rate.

A 25 percent sales tax was recommended by a task force working group, according to Task Force Co-Chair Jack Finlaw, the Gov. Hickenlooper's chief legal counsel. But some members worried that imposing such a high tax would make legal marijuana too expensive, feeding the black market.

Colorado: CU Officials Say 4/20 Gathering Is Unwelcome On Campus

Colorado: CU Officials Says 4/20 Gathering Is Unwelcome On CampusBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Officials with the University of Colorado at Boulder said they still firmly oppose a large-scale marijuana party that traditionally takes place on campus every 4/20. With April 20 falling on Saturday this year, the party could be huge.

Despite the fact that Amendment 64, approved by voters in November, made marijuana use legal for all adults in the state, it is still illegal to smoke pot in public, CU-Boulder officials said, reports Brittany Anas at the Boulder Daily Camera.

"4/20 is most certainly an unwelcome gathering on the campus," sniffed CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.

CU officials said the smoke-out "disrupts academics," and they'll be making a stern announcement as early as next week about what the school's plans are to squelch the 4/20 celebration.

Last spring, CU took the unprecedented step of actually shutting down the Boulder campus to outside visitors on April 20. Norlin Quad -- the location of the party, which had grown to 12,000 pot-smokers -- was completely shut down.

University officials even put a foul-smelling fertilizer on the Quad to deter crowds. As a result, a far smaller crowd of only about 300 people gathered on a smaller campus field.

Global: United Nations Warns America Not To Legalize Marijuana

Photo: Raymond Yans, president, INCB. Photo source: United Nations International Narcotics Control BoardBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The United Nations has warned the United States against legalizing marijuana, either for medical use or for all adults. Doing so, according to the U.N., violates international law.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the arm of the U.N. in charge of overseeing drug treaties, issued the stern warning about the "unprecedented surge" of marijuana legalization in the U.S., reports Cheryl K. Chumley of The Washington Times. The group apparently has issues with both medicinal cannabis use and general legalization.

"In some U.S. states, they are being operated in a way that is completely inappropriate and outside of the [treaties]," INCB scolded in its new report.

The INCB, part of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, singled out Colorado and Washington for particular criticism, since voters in both those states approved general legalization in November.

"They also undermine the humanitarian aims of the drug control system and are a threat to public health and wellbeing," claimed Raymond Yans, president of the INCB, reports The Guardian.

Medical marijuana laws, as adopted by 18 states in the U.S., are little more than "a back-door to legalization for recreational use," Yans claimed.

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