Colorado May Not Be As 420 Friendly As We Thought

Despite the massive amount of revenue to the state and for that matter federal government the legalization of marijuana could bring, Colorado is re-considering its legalization of marijuana. As people tens of thousands of people from all walks of life descended on Denver Colorado on April 20,2013, no one expected that the celebration would be cut short. After the Boston Marathon bombing, police focused on crowd security and were not as concerned about the yearly pot event billed as the largest April 20 celebration.  The festival the previous year brought 50,000 people together and were hoping to bring more people since it is the first celebration since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use Associated Press reports. Even with legalization, open and public use is illegal, but authorities look the other way as the 420 friendly participants celebrate at a park at the base of the state Capitol and music keeps the crowd entertained well past 4:20. Both states are waiting for federal response to votes and want to set up commercial pit sales limited only to medicinal marijuana right now. The celebration drew many marijuana activists from out of state.

However the day was marred by a shooting during the rally that wounded two people and Denver police last Monday had yet to arrest anyone in connection with incident but did interview a man wanted in connection causing the event to be canceled for security reasons. The man seen in a YouTube video was believed to be an accomplice to the primary shooter last Saturday according to police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police urged people to watch the video showing a man in brown and wearing a white checkered shirt walking away from the scene. Jackson said last Monday the man came in voluntarily and spoke to detectives then left later that day. Police received numerous tips based on videos and photos provided by revelers and encouraged the public to keep sending them around the time of 5p.m. when the shooting occurred. Still unknown is the primary shooter but the man was wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt and black pants at the rally and it is not known whether it is gang related or not Associated Press reports. The shooting happened last Saturday at the end of the outdoor celebration when the crowd became panicked after shots were heard leaving a man and woman with non-life threatening gunshot wounds and a juvenile grazed by a  bullet which was treated at a nearby hospital. Organizers canceled a Sunday event after the shooting and it remains unclear if the shooting would affect future events.

This last Friday, backers of the Amendment 64 announced a news conference for the morning at the State Capitol to denounce what they are saying is an effort by anti-legalization group’s effort to repeal Colorado’s recreational marijuana legislation Huff Post reports. Mason Tvert, former co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign ans communication director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that “numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado.” According to Huff Post, Tvert believes lawmakers are considering putting the secret measure before Colorado voters on November 2013 if voters don’t pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes which is on the same ballot. Tvert, according to his statement, commented,”We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously. Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved.” Any effort to repeal the law may be more difficult as the measure is part of the state constitution which requires the lawmakers to prove a repeal would be constitutional. Two thirds majority of the House and Senate would be needed to place the repeal on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year makes it almost impossible to do.

 

Tvert commented the two ballots would be included in the same resolution, while lawmakers have not commented yet. The House Finance Committee did pass House Bill 1318 7-6 last Thursday which wants 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on marijuana in the state according to Huff Post. The Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear voters could reject one or both tax proposals leaving the state to foot the bill for enforcing pot sales. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so with a narrow margin in committee while the same is true of HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational sales in the state with a vote of 6-5. According to a Public Policy Poll, Huff Post reports that backers of Amendment 64 have confirmed that 77 percent of the voters support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent opposed. The poll polled 900 registered voters from April15-16. The taxes if passed would yield $90.9 million according to the Colorado Futures Center, but backers of the amendment were told by state officials that the cost to enforce the recreational regulations would be no greater than $30 million meaning lawmakers could lower the tax rates to 10 percent and still come out ahead at $60 million. Tvert said on Friday, “If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates.”

Smart Colorado the Huff Post reports describes their vocal opposition to marijuana legalization on their website as:

 

We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.

Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.

The actual Amendment 64 passed last November limits sale, possession and growing of the drug for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states:

Adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.

 

Gun Proponents Take Action and Speak Out

Heidi Heitkamp Michael Bloomberg

 

 

 

 

Surely this debate will never end until both sides can compromise which will probably be when hell freezes over. Nonetheless, many of the Second Amendment supporters are speaking out or taking action to protect their rights but most importantly their guns. Eventually, with the public outcry and fierce opposition to any sort of gun control legislation, the White House as well as Congress will ultimately have to decide what is the best measure for the country. As lawmakers debate arming teachers and administrators to prevent more school shooting, one Colorado school district has voted to allow superintendents and high school principals to carry concealed semi-automatic pistols on campus which some believe sidesteps laws that keep the schools gun free reports the Associated Press. Dolores County, in southwestern Colorado, voted unanimously in February to allow Ty Gray, principal of Dove Creek High School, and Superintendent Bruce Hankins to double as security officers. Both men will receive an extra $1 a year for the responsibility after completing a concealed carry course and receiving permits to carry on campus from the county sheriff. Hankins told the Cortez Journal that this will give them the ability to respond immediately to any shooting. Like Dolores County, New Jersey Passaic Valley High School’s board of education voted unanimously last month to allow the principal, a retired police sergeant, to carry concealed on campus which Ray Rotella has no problem doing so since he has a license to carry one reports the Associated Press.

There is a big difference between Dolores County and Passaic as Rotella explained last month, “It’s a unique situation. I’m not advocating administrators carry weapons. You don’t just give a gun to someone even with a little training. You’re talking about someone who was in law enforcement. I was a firearms instructor.” The reasoning behind the decision in Dolores County was the response time for police is 40 minutes and with a limited budget “it is necessary to rely upon existing staff to fulfill the function of the needed security personnel.” But according to Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Law Center Prevent Gun Violence, believes that administrators are already dealing with so much and don’t have the experience of a security guard or police officer that the stress may affect their ability to serve the school well. As she explained to the Associated Press, “They’re not used to being in that type of stressful situation, not the type of stress that a police officer faces,” she said. “The likelihood of causing more death and injury is through the roof. Even police officers have a hard time hitting the target during a stressful situation, so how can we expect a superintendent or principal to do it?” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several bills into law last week that require background checks for private and online gun sales as well as banning ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Many states already ban guns on campus unless carried by peace officers, security guards, or employees with permission to carry from the school’s superintendent. But after the Sandy Hook Shooting many lawmakers in two dozen states are making it easier for school employees or volunteers to carry on campus for example South Dakota’s Governor, Dennis Daugaard, signed a bill March 8 to allow districts to permit teachers and personnel to serve as sentinels and carry guns on campus which will go into effect July 1.

On the other side of the aisle, the gun violence and gun control ad blitz is in full effect as the $12 million ad buy from Mayor Against Illegal Guns begins to target key Senators such as Heitkamp to support gun control legislation and comprehensive background checks. Bloomberg the co-founder of the group and personally financed the ad blitz is spending $156,000 in North Dakota. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) the target of the ads came out on Tuesday in the Grand Forks Herald to criticize Bloomberg’s federal fun control push saying the mayor needs to worry about his own city’s gun violence than North Dakota. As Heitkamp explained in a statement: “North Dakota continues to have one [of] the highest rates of gun ownership and lowest incidences of gun crime in the country. Yet New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists on taking gun-driven crime statistics in his city and from other major cities and trying to force those numbers into a narrative that just does not fit North Dakota.” Bloomberg has defended the ad buy by saying, “These ads bring the voices of Americans — who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks — into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, North Dakota one of the highest rates of gun ownership at 50.7 percent but one of the lowest gun homicide rates at 1.1 per 100,000 below the national rate at 2.75. Heitkamp attributes the low gun violence rate to the proud outdoor heritage that firearm owners in her state understand the rights and responsibilities that come with guns. According to the Associated Press, this is not the first campaign that has targeted Heitkamp’s position on gun control as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence launched ads attacking her pro-gun stance less than a week after being sworn in as senator in January. The ad read, “No parent should have to send their children to school wondering if they will come home. Shame on you, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), for telling the country on Sunday that the Obama Administration’s response to Newtown — which may include universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines — is ‘extreme.'” The group was responding to Heitkamp’s statement that White House’s gun control plans were too extreme.

Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado

 Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado.

Well this town has the right idea because the reality is that whether people are 420 friendly or not, people will continue to use marijuana so why not regulate like alcohol. At least some benefits to all will be had from the regulation of this very common drug. Marijuana advocates tired of waiting for Amendment 64 to be implemented are looking to pass a local ordinance in Nederland that would make it the first in Colorado to set up recreational marijuana industry before the statewide regulations goes into effect. Mayor Joe Gierlach dismisses their actions saying the people who drafted it don’t understand the planning processes and time it takes to set up regulations. A shadow task force made up of advocates monitoring the government appointed task force make their legal recommendations  for the set up of recreational marijuana facilities  and also brought their own ordinance to Nederland Town Clerk. Rico Colibri who is a member of this group said that the slow progress in establishing statewide regulations shows that the state isn’t ready to do what it promised which is have marijuana regulated like alcohol. “Amendment 64 was a message to D.C. — that is what they said during the campaign — and our ordinance is a message to the General Assembly,” Colibri said.

One issue driving the ordinance is a desire to get rid of black market distribution which without regulated businesses would get rid of marijuana purchases that are supporting criminals. It is now legal for adults 21 and older to purchase an ounce of marijuana to use it in their homes. Right now sophisticate drug cartels are providing the marijuana, instead of the small town being able to collect tax revenue and setting an example of what the state could do says Colibri. The ordinance would allow separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers making it easier to have places where production, sale and consumption could legally take place under one roof. Next on the agenda once verified, will be collect 420 signatures from Nederland voters which will demonstrate strong support and convince the Board of Trustees to adopt it without voting on it in the next election. Mayor Gierlach referred to the ordinance as premature and “until we can revise our codes in a very sensible way that makes sense for the community, who knows…I don’t think people even want Rico (Colibri ) to write our local code” since he is new to the area. He also said that the ordinance raises concerns about potential zoning issues and in response to the black market many residents grow their own which may be impacted negatively. The town has a meeting Feb. 26 where the town attorney will be updating the town on implications at the state level and local implementation task force will be seated. In addition, other meetings with the town’s advisory board wil be scheduled and sustainability criteria will be applied to any new regulation.