20ish Questions with Jared Polis: Colorado Congressman and Gubernatorial Candidate
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by Matthew Van Deventer

Outspokenly cannabis-friendly U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder County has officially thrown his hat into the crowded race to replace Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who is facing his term limit. Because of the state’s strict limits on fundraising, Polis, the internet-entrepreneur turned politician with an estimated worth of $140 million to $468 million, may already have a top spot.
Polis’ top campaign promises include powering Colorado with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, providing parents with access to free preschool and kindergarten, and pushing companies to provide employees with stock options.

As for cannabis, Polis says he doesn’t want to move cautiously, but instead make sure regulations work for businesses and consumers, and he wants to keep Colorado competitive as other states look to legalize it.

He took time out of his busy congressional voting schedule and running for governor to speak with THC.

THC: Last we spoke you had recently formed the Cannabis Caucus to educate your colleagues and introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. How have those been received?

Jared Polis: I think we are gaining support every day for marijuana reform in Congress. I think we have support today if we could get an amendment to the floor that would prevent the Department of Justice from [prosecuting] marijuana related offenses where it’s legal under state law. But the challenge is getting it to the floor. . . I think we need to get to a federal framework that’s consistent with how we look at alcohol and tobacco and address legitimate concerns around safety and smuggling, but create a framework that allows for states to fully implement legalized marijuana and their own regulatory systems.

THC: And what about the Cannabis Caucus?

JP: We had a great [Marijuana Thinkers Talk and Expo on the Hill] and we featured a number of folks who are [from] across the country. It’s great to have that bipartisan imprint of Democrats and Republicans as we seek to educate my colleagues about cannabis reform.

THC: How long have you been thinking about running for governor and what made you decide to go for it?

JP: I am honored to serve at any level just as I really enjoyed starting businesses and creating hundreds of jobs. I enjoyed starting a school for new immigrants and homeless youth. I’m really excited to give back, and I think [there are] a lot of opportunities to give back, whether it’s moving towards a renewable energy economy, establishing universal preschool and kindergarten or just making sure our economic success works for everybody, not just a few—the action will be at the state level.

THC: What’s that transition from representative to gubernatorial candidate going to look like for you?

JP: I have executive experience in the business sector. I also have executive experience at the state level having chaired the State Board of Education. And frankly, I welcome the opportunity and the responsibility of that kind of position. I think that for us to move forward as a state we’re going to need strong leadership and bold leadership at the state level and that’s one of the reasons I decided to run.

THC: How will your pro-cannabis stance translate to a governorship?

JP: I don’t think we need to be cautious about it. We need to make cannabis regulations work for our state, for businesses, for consumers and I’m excited to tackle that. I think Colorado’s leadership role in the cannabis industry will be challenged by states like California and Washington, and we need to make sure that we keep a lot of those good jobs right here in Colorado.

THC: Voters in Denver recently passed a social consumption pilot program. Many people in the industry think its limited scope will knock us down on the competitive totem pole. Do you have any plans for how you will help keep Colorado competitive in that way?

JP: A lot of those decisions should be made at the local level, and they are made at the local level. Different communities decide whether they want to have dispensaries, how many they have, how they want to regulate social consumption . . . these are all dealt with locally and they’re very important issues as people select their mayors and city council candidates.

THC: What’s your strategy look like headed into such a crowd governor’s race and how do you feel about your place in the arena?

JP: I’m working hard to earn every vote and taking no votes for granted. So I think it’s a wide open field to continue the legacy of Governor Hickenlooper of growing our economy and creating jobs. And I’m excited to offer a vision for an economy that works for everybody, and creating tens of thousands of green jobs that can’t be outsourced, and improving our schools to make sure we have a first-class education system in place for next generation Coloradans.

THC: How did energy, free access to preschool and kindergarten, and employee stock options become your focus?

JP: There’s a lot more, obviously, than that, but I think the fundamental question that we need to answer as Americans and Coloradans is how can economic growth work for everybody not just investors and executives. And I think a big part of the answer is encouraging employee ownership in all of its forms and that means stock options. It means formalized profit sharing. It means ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans). It means co-ops. All the different forms that it can take, we want to make sure that those who work hard every day to create the value have their incentives aligned with the investors and management and also to see their share of the profits from the sale or from profitabilities.

THC: What about renewable energy and free access to preschool and kindergarten?

JP: There’s so many reasons to move to 100 percent renewable energy. I have a plan at polisforcolorado.com to do it by 2040. It’s for clean air. It’s to do our part on climate. It creates green jobs that can’t be outsourced and it creates an economy that’s energy independent and gives us an advantage over other states and countries that will rely on the price variability of fossil fuels that are subject to global markets and global forces that they don’t control.

Education is where I’ve done much of my professional work. I served six years on the state board of education. I’ve started two schools; I’ve served as superintendent of one. And I’ve served on the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington. The most important and impactful thing we can do to improve opportunity for success is have universal preschool and kindergarten in our state. So we’re going to build a coalition with Republicans and Democrats and the business community to get it done.

THC: What else tops your list?

JP: I would say another challenge facing the state is transportation and infrastructure. We’ve had a lot of growth. We have a lot of traffic. We need smart planning, transit-oriented communities that are bus and rail systems in our metro area. We need to get ahead of the curve with regard to traffic and growth rather than always playing catch-up.

THC: How do you plan on bringing Colorado Democrats and Republicans together?

JP: I have a proven record of doing that work in my experience. I’m a member of the “no labels group” where we bring Democrats and Republicans together around solving problems. I think the challenges that Colorado faces are not partisan challenges. Republicans and Democrats want quality preschool and kindergarten for their kids. Republicans and Democrats want clean air. Republicans and Democrats want to make sure that the economy works for everybody. So we should focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us.

THC: What sort of relationship do you envision having with the Trump Administration?

JP: As a governor you have to work with whatever administration is in charge. But certainly we worry about their actions with regard to the legal cannabis industry. It’s too early to say, but we’re scared of some of the rhetoric from both the attorney general and others. As the governor, I would continue my efforts to push back against any and all federal efforts that interfere with our state laws.

THC: You’ve been back and forth with the oil and gas industry, what’s that relationship going to be like and how would you work with it?

JP: Well, look, with my plan for 100 percent renewable energy the goal is 2040, so that means that the grid will continue. That’s talking about the retirement of the last coal plant, the last natural gas burning facility and certainly I’ve been active in empowering communities to be able to successfully integrate — to have a planning process around integrating oil and gas extraction in their communities.

Among the other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are former State Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Intertech Plastics founder Noel Ginsburg, and businessman Erik Underwood.

On the Republican side, seven candidates have declared they’re running for governor including prosecuting attorney of the Aurora Theater shooting, George Brauchler; Mitt Romney’s nephew, Doug Robinson; the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s election campaign in Denver, Steve Barlock; and former State Rep. Victor Mitchell.  ♦

Trump Threatens Adult-Use Cannabis
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by DJ Reetz

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday made the bold claim that the Trump Department of Justice would likely be targeting adult-use marijuana in the eight states that have voted to legalize it. While Spicer was clear that this would not include attacks on state medical marijuana programs, the news is troubling for the markets that have so far flourished in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as the burgeoning industry in Alaska and the prospective industries in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine that have yet to take shape.

Spicer tied any forthcoming enforcement to an effort to stymie the opioid epidemic, saying that the federal government shouldn’t be “encouraging people” by allowing adult-use cannabis laws.

Drawing a clear distinction between medical laws, which have previously been protected from federal meddling by an attachment to a previous appropriations bill that barred the Department of Justice from spending money interfering with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

“That’s something that the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into,” said Spicer. “They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”

Despite Spicer’s unfounded claim that adult-use marijuana somehow worsens the crisis of opioid addiction, most data shows that medical cannabis laws lessens opioid use.  A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a 25 percent lower rate of death due to opioid overdose in states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010.

Another study out of the University of Athens looked at data from 2010 to 2013, finding that on average of doctors prescribed 1826 fewer doses of pain medications, including opioids, in states with medical marijuana programs.

A study published in The International Journal of Drug Policy found that 63 percent of respondents registered to receive medical cannabis were using the plant in place of prescription drugs.

Spicer’s claim that progressive cannabis laws lead to increased opioid use may not be based in fact, but the impact on tax revenues and local economies that enforcement actions predicated on this claim are more easily nailed down. Colorado sold over $1 billion in cannabis sales last year, generating more than $127 million in tax and fees for the state.

Earlier in the press conference, Spicer stated clearly that Trump represented a party that believed strongly in states’ rights. 


CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEA
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by DJ Reetz

A lawsuit filed on January 13, 2017 aims to push back against a recent DEA decision to create a separate tracking number for “marihuana extracts” under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively codifying all cannabinoids derived from marijuana or hemp as Schedule I controlled substances. The lawsuit was filed by the Hoban Law Group in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the same day the new ruling was set to take effect, and seeks judicial review of the decision, claiming that the DEA has overstepped their authority in adding this definition of “marihuana extract” to the controlled substance schedule without following proper procedures to do so as outlined in the CSA. Serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hemp Industries Association, Centura Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings.     

The DEA’s announcement in the federal registry published on December 14, 2016 raised concerns amongst many in the cannabis industry that the DEA would begin to target producers and distributors of hemp-derived CBD, which would fall under the definition of “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” outlined in the DEA’s final ruling.

“This is an action beyond the DEA’s authority. This final rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the federal government," said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Robert Hoban in a press release.

The DEA has claimed that the ruling presented in the recent federal register amounted to little more than a clerical decision carried out in order to make tracking cannabinoid extracts easier, but many in the hemp CBD industry saw it as the first step toward a federal crackdown on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has thus far operated nationally in somewhat of a legal gray area.

The true impact of the classification will likely be seen in the coming months and years.


2016 Election: Cannabis Wins Big
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by DJ Reetz

Results from the 2016 election might seem grim, but the silver lining seems to be the sweeping victory for cannabis. Nine states voted on cannabis measures, eight of which passed despite the often staunch opposition from the political hierarchy in many of these states.

The biggest news is likely the passage of Proposition 64 in California, which was approved by 56 percent of voters in the state. California has served as one of the vanguards of cannabis progress since passing the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996. Unlike some other measures, 64 saw strong support from the state’s elected officials, including an endorsement from Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Proposition 64 levies an excise tax of $9.25 per ounce of cannabis flower and $2.75 per ounce of leaves on cultivators, as well as 15 percent on retail sales. That money is designated for the state’s Marijuana Tax Fund, intended to cover administration of the state’s adult-use program, with excess going to research and harm mitigation. Some $10 million of this excise revenue will be handed out to public universities studying the impacts of legalization, $3 million has been earmarked annually for the California Highway Patrol to develop protocols fro determining driver impairment, $2 million will be given to UC San Diego for medical cannabis research, and $10 million will be given to local health departments and non-profits to pay for various substance abuse, mental health and job placement programs. That last number is set to increase by $10 million every year until it reaches $50 million in 2020. Any additional money held in the in the Marijuana Tax Fund will go toward youth programs, environmental mitigation related to illegal outdoor grows, and reducing the number of stoned drivers or other wise combating unforeseen negative effects of the measure. Additionally, local governments could impose their own sales tax.

Some concern was raised by members of California’s medical marijuana community, who worried that the taxes would be levied on patients, though 64 includes exemptions on some taxes for medical producers.    

 Nevada followed suit with the passage of Question 2. Similarly to California’s measure, the law imposes a 15 percent excise tax on cultivation and annual fees ranging from $3,000 to $30,000, depending on the type of license, in addition to the one-time application fee of $5,000. This money is designated to the Nevada Department of Taxation and local governments to cover the cost of administering the program. Any additional money has been earmarked for the State Distributive School Account.

In Massachusetts, Question 4 passed with support of 53.6 percent of voters, despite strong opposition from Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, among others. Adult-use sales will be subject to existing state sales taxes as well as 3.75 percent excise tax. Local governments will have the option to levy up to an additional 2 percent tax on sales. State taxes and licensing fees will go into the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which will pay for the program’s regulation.

Maine also legalized adult-use cannabis for those 21 and over with the passage of Question 1. Adult-use cannabis will be subject to a 10 percent excise tax on all sales. Notably, Question 1 included language relating to cannabis clubs, where cannabis could be both sold and consumed.

Of the adult-use measure on ballots, only Arizona’s failed to pass. In a narrow loss, Proposition 205 failed with a vote of 52.14 percent opposed to 47.86 in favor.  

On the medical front, victories in North Dakota, Arkansas and a sweep in Florida will bring medical cannabis programs to those states. A measure restoring some of the medical marijuana program in Montana, decimated by the state legislature in 2011, passed with 56.96 percent in favor.  

In Colorado, the progress on cannabis issues continued, or at least held firm. The defeat of Proposition 200 in Pueblo County and Proposition 300 in the city of Pueblo protects the adult-use industry there. Both measures sought to ban sales, production and testing of adult-use cannabis, which have provided the impoverished area with an estimated 1,000 jobs and millions in related revenue and taxes.

Voters in Denver narrowly approved Initiative 300, which will allow for cannabis consumption licenses as part of a city pilot program. The program will, for the first time since the opening of adult-use dispensaries in 2014, give cannabis purchasers in the city a legal place to consume outside of private residences, as well as allow for consumption events.

These victories represent significant progress for cannabis nationally. With nearly 50 million more people now living in adult-use states, a change in federal attitudes toward the plant seems closer than ever. Medical cannabis victories in states with heavy conservative leanings also show promise of shifting attitudes.



LivWell Announces Solidarity with Pueblo Cannabis Growers
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Colorado’s leading cannabis company announces Pueblo-grown cannabis now available in its stores to support the county’s cannabis industry in light of efforts to ban recreational sales.


DENVER—October 27, 2016 — LivWell Enlightened Health announced today that it will begin offering Pueblo-grown cannabis for sale at its adult-use stores to support Pueblo’s legal cannabis industry, which is currently under dire threat by Issue 200. Were 200 to pass this November, it would ban all legal and regulated adult-use cannabis sales in the county, devastating the area’s growing industry and breathing life back into the shrinking criminal market.

 LivWell will immediately begin offering its customers $89.99 pre-weigh recreational ounces of cannabis grown outdoors by Pueblo cultivator, Los Sueňos Farms. LivWell historically produces the bulk of the cannabis it sells, but company owner and CEO John Lord believes that the threat facing Pueblo deserves more than just the monetary and political support the company has provided so far.

 “Issue 200 seeks to overturn the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved of recreational cannabis with the passage of Amendment 64,” said Lord. “This is not just an issue for Pueblo, but for all of Colorado. We are proud to support those companies bringing good-paying jobs to Pueblo by offering the fruits of their labor to our recreational customers across the state.”

 Despite having no retail presence within the county, LivWell is already one of the top-5 financial backers of the effort to defeat 200. LivWell’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Neal Levine is also serving as part of the campaign leadership team. Earlier this year, Levine helped to lead the successful effort to keep a statewide measure off of the ballot that would have wiped out most of the adult use cannabis industry in Colorado.

 “We cannot sit idly by and allow the prohibitionists to wipe out 1,300 good paying jobs in Pueblo based on falsehoods and scare tactics.” said Levine, who also serves as a board member for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the cannabis industry’s national trade association

 The cannabis industry in Pueblo has brought a much-needed economic boost to an area still dealing with the aftershocks that accompanied the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980’s. The cannabis industry has contributed directly to the creation of more than 1,300 jobs there, and cannabis-related companies accounted for more than 65% of all the commercial building permits issued in the county last year. As of May 2015, the county’s unemployment rate of 7.1% is far higher than the state overall (4.2%). Passage of Issue 200 would devastate economic prospects in this southern Colorado jurisdiction, which have otherwise looked quite promising thanks to the hundreds of cannabis companies that currently comprise the region’s budding marijuana industry.

 “200 is another deceptive effort in an increasingly long line of deceptive efforts to roll back Amendment 64 piece by piece,” said Lord. “We expect the entire industry to continue to step up and fight these threats wherever and whenever they pop up.”

 By offering Pueblo-grown cannabis to its customers, LivWell aims to raise awareness about this important issue among its large customer base and to demonstrate solidarity with its fellow southern Colorado cannabis workers.


About LivWell

LivWell Enlightened Health is among Colorados largest cannabis companies, with fourteen locations across the state. LivWell provides its patients and customers with the best value, quality and variety of cannabis products including flower, topicals, tinctures, edibles, smoking accessories and more. LivWells team of innovative farmers and scientists grow more than 40 strains of cannabis to meet the varied and evolving tastes of its customers. LivWells searchable strain library can be found at http://www.livwell.com/product-category/strains/. LivWell employees undergo rigorous training and education through LivWell University, preparing them to be the most knowledgeable, helpful budtenders in the industry, and to become advocates of responsible use. LivWell employs approximately 500 Coloradans who enjoy higher-than-average salaries and benefits. For more information, including a list of LivWells locations, visit http://www.livwell.com.

Several States Voting on Legalization Measures
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By Erin Hiatt

November 8, 2016 could be the day that forever changes the trajectory of legalized marijuana in the United States and even perhaps drug policy throughout the world. Spanning California to Maine, five states have marijuana legalization on their ballots while three others will be voting on medical marijuana initiatives. True to the states-rights way, the ballot language varies and provides for different systems of regulation. What they do have in common is that an adult-use, legal market only applies to those 21-years and older.


In Arizona, The Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act follows fairly closely the trail blazed by Colorado and is sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), an organization whose mission is to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Upon legalization, you may possess and consume cannabis and grow up to six plants. The initiative calls for a 15 percent tax on all marijuana sales that would be dedicated to education and healthcare. Arizona has had medical marijuana for six years and medical dispensaries, as part of this initiative, would be able to make the move to retail. There are several groups, including Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (a competing but defeated legalization initiative), the Arizona Republican Party, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry opposing the initiative, but many expect that it will pass.


The Maine Legalize Marijuana Initiative, or Question 1, would designate marijuana as an “agricultural product” and would lay the plant under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Question 1 differs from other states in key ways. Like Amsterdam and Spain, Question 1 would allow for marijuana social clubs where adults may buy and consume on site. It also borrows from Washington DC’s “grow and give” model, where you may grow up to six flowering plants and keep the bounty. Question 1 has the endorsement of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and famous travel writer and marijuana enthusiast Rick Steves, who pledged to match donations to the initiative up to $50,000. Anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and local marijuana growers are opposed to Question 1, both of them fearing a takeover of the market by moneyed interests.


Rick Steves, true to his traveling self, makes yet another appearance in Massachusetts, joining forces with the ACLU of Massachusetts to rally behind the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, aka Question 4. Should it pass, it would be legal to have one ounce of marijuana on your person and up to 10 ounces in your home. It also allows for a home grow of six plants and to give up to an ounce to another adult without payment. The law would create the Cannabis Control Commission that would oversee the regulations and ancillary services that go hand-in-hand with a legal market. The taxes collected from marijuana sales would go into the Marijuana Regulation Fund set-up to pay for the bill’s administration. Question 4 also provides some protections for marijuana-using adults who have minor children at home, ensuring that unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence of marijuana abuse that children will remain with their families.


Question 2 in Nevada would allow for retail purchases and for those living more than 25 miles away from a licensed establishment permission to grow up to six plants, provided that the grow is enclosed and locked tight. The proposed 15 percent excise tax would be directed to the Department of Taxation, who would oversee all aspects of the program. Any funds in excess of those costs would go to the general fund and be designated to benefit public education. Helmed by MPP, Question 2 has wide support from local lawmakers who see it as a potential boon to the tourist industry, upon which Las Vegas in particular depends. Given its likelihood to pass, you can bet there will be more and more things happening and staying in Vegas.


The legalization vote that everyone, especially law enforcement and policymakers will be keeping their eye on is California. If voters mark the “yes” box on the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA), the untamed, unregulated medical marijuana market that CA has had for the past 20-years will get broken-in at last. California is the sixth largest economy in the world, so the performance of an adult-use market there may be a harbinger of marijuana’s economic impact in other states and countries. Should voters pass the AUMA, legal marijuana will be available to more people than all four current legal states combined. Heavy hitters like former Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Medical Association are backing this initiative. Drug policy reform organizations have been working with lawmakers and others to painstakingly craft an initiative that addresses the myriad aspects of drug policy reform. Of the $1 billion in projected revenue, money is allocated to medical marijuana and legalization research, DUI protocols, and financial support for the communities, largely minority, who have suffered the most from punitive drug policies. They’ve also considered small growers, including a ban on large-scale manufacture for the first five years of the program, and have allocated funds to clean-up environmental damages wrought by illegal grows. Under the AUMA, marketing to minors would be banned and rules would be laid down from the onset regarding packaging, advertising, marketing, and labeling. A 15 percent retail tax would be assessed, with some exemption for medical marijuana. The AUMA also includes hemp and paves the way for those with marijuana convictions to be resentenced and their records cleared. Among those who have voiced opposition are the California Growers Association for fear they will be gobbled up by an adult-use market. Legalization plans for CA have been in the works for a very long time and some drug policy insiders believe that this is a “make or break” moment for a legal marijuana industry. Many are predicting that the AUMA will get the “yes” box checked, but when marijuana legalization was last on the ballot in 2010, voters in the Golden State said “no, thanks.”

Medical initiatives

If all the adult-use ballot initiatives become law that will bring the tally of fully legal states to nine, ten when you add the District of Columbia. There are three states voting on medical marijuana initiatives and if they pass, the number of medical states would jump to 28. Here are the states voting on medical marijuana this fall.


In Arkansas, the Medical Marijuana Act, if passed, would be by far the most extensive medical marijuana program in the south. It would allow for home grows under specific conditions, create payment systems for low-income patients, and cover an incredibly broad range of conditions. All caregivers and cannabis care centers potentially operating under the proposed law would have to function as a nonprofit. A second medical marijuana initiative has also qualified for the November ballot that would allow for-profit dispensaries, but local advocates worry that both initiatives on the ballot will doom medical marijuana in Arkansas altogether. 

North Dakota

North Dakota last attempted a medical marijuana initiative in 2012, but petition efforts were invalidated when it was discovered that some University of North Dakota football players, paid to circulate the petition, forged signatures. But advocates are back this year with the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. The measure would create a system to treat debilitating conditions and all aspects of the system would be overseen by the Department of Health and operate as nonprofit.


Florida last voted on medical marijuana in 2014 when it narrowly missed the mark, but it’s back this election cycle wiser from its previous defeat. The initiative is written for the treatment of specific diseases like cancer, epilepsy, and Crohn’s Disease, and it also would allow for doctor discretion to recommend medical marijuana for a patient with an unapproved condition. This time around the initiative makes it clear “that doctors would not be immune from malpractice claims for negligent prescribing of marijuana” and will put a cap on the number of patients a caregiver can treat.

The United States is already at the halfway mark for marijuana legalization with 25 medical states, four of which have adult-use markets. Regardless of the outcomes on the 2016 ballots, the number 25 isn’t likely to go backwards. Here lies the moment of reckoning for lawmakers to reexamine both local and federal drug policies, because legal cannabis is here to stay.

Prop 64 Could Change the Country
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by Thor Benson


With Oregon, Alaska, Washington state and Colorado all working out the kinks of recreational marijuana, the conversation around cannabis is changing. As we watch these states generating mountains of cash, those who were previously skeptical about legalizing marijuana are starting to change their tune. Now let's imagine if the most populous state in the country did the same.


“The size of California in terms of population and the potential market dwarfs the other states thus far,” Tamar Todd, the director of the office of legal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told THC Magazine.  “It will certainly influence the national conversation and resulting federal and international policy.”


California has over 38 million people. Colorado and Washington have 5 and 7 million people respectively. If those states with populations that small can alter the national conversation, it's hard to even fathom how much California legalizing would change the game. Prop. 64, the initiative that would legalize marijuana in California, will be voted on in November. Full disclosure: I'm voting for it.


“It’s hard to overstate the impact of California’s probable legalization of marijuana this November,” Tom Angell, founder and chairman of Marijuana Majority, told THC Magazine. “I’ll put it this way: The state is represented by 53 members of the U.S. House, a body in which we very narrowly lost a vote last year that would prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state marijuana legalization laws. If we flip just nine votes next time, we win."


California has more representatives than any other state, and most of them are Democrats. The Democratic Party's platform now includes language about supporting a “pathway to legalization” for marijuana, so California legalizing could be a major step forward in that process.


Does prop. 64 contain flaws? Yes, every law does. Some are worried about if it protects individual liberties enough or if it's too pro-business, but the fact of the matter is that California could legalize marijuana in November, and that's a huge deal. Laws can always be reformed.


“Prop. 64 is written to benefit the people of California,” Todd said. “It prevents the unnecessary criminalization of tens of thousands of Californians, it allows people to reduce or remove prior marijuana convictions from their records opening up opportunity to housing, employment, and schooling, it will raise a billion dollars in new revenue to be spent on environmental protection, youth prevention and treatment, and community re-investment.”


Todd said there are definitely some good things in the law. “The California initiative also includes a number of elements aimed at reducing criminalization, providing for reparative justice, and protecting youth and public health that will set a new standard for other states to follow,” he said.


With states like Colorado raking in around $1 billion per year in marijuana sales, you can imagine California's marijuana revenue would be incredible. The amount of money it could inject into the state's economy is hard to imagine. Some estimate the state has a $7 billion marijuana market waiting to be tapped.


“Prop. 64 is written to benefit the people of California,” Todd said. “It prevents the unnecessary criminalization of tens of thousands of Californians, it allows people to reduce or remove prior marijuana convictions from their records opening up opportunity to housing, employment, and schooling, it will raise a billion dollars in new revenue to be spent on environmental protection, youth prevention and treatment, and community re-investment.”


That said, the United States has still not faced the issue of how to handle the money marijuana businesses make. Since marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, major banks won't take deposits from marijuana businesses, so that means California's theoretical legal marijuana market could involve billions of dollars that can't find its way into the banking system.


Furthermore, the tax code still doesn't know what to do with the marijuana industry. Because of an old piece of legislation from the 1980s that was meant to prevent drug dealers from writing off business expenses, many expenses a normal business would write off at the end of the year cannot be written off by marijuana businesses, so they end up paying exorbitant tax rates. Until Congress does something about that, California businesses may get stuck with a huge bill from the government.


The latest polls show over 60 percent of Californians support legalizing marijuana in November, so it looks likely to pass. California has always been a leader in American culture and cultures around the world, so this could be the state's chance to lead the charge again. Once California joins the recreational marijuana movement, it doesn't seem like it will take long before the whole country is on board.

NO MEANS NO: Prohibition in Pueblo
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By Jennifer Knight

Pueblo County may not be on the top-three list of famous cannabis-growing spots in the United States, but it does stand to lose a large number of tightly run businesses if a measure there being pushed by the group Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo is enacted by voters this November. Ballot question 200 would ban all adult-use retail, testing and grow facilities in Pueblo County, while question 300 would do the same for the city of Pueblo itself.

Roughly 1,300 members of the active marijuana workforce including the employees of twenty-one retail licensees, one hundred-twenty cultivators, and twenty-three MIP (Marijuana-infused Product) licensees will be negatively impacted if voters choose to ban retail marijuana establishments in Pueblo County.

“If things go well, then everything will remain the same. If things go badly, what the opposition has put on the ballot is a request for the closing of all retail cannabis facilities in the county of Pueblo which would be about 180 licenses that would have to be given up by October of 2017 - every retail business in the county, over 180 businesses, would be closed,” says Bob Degabrielle, chairman of the group Growing Pueblo’s Future, which was formed to opposed the measure. In addition to chairing the group, Degabrielle is a partner at Los Sueños Farms, a 36-acre cannabis farm in Pueblo County that would be shuttered if question 200 is approved, leaving the farm’s roughly 90 employees out of work.   

Pueblo typically ranks as one of the most impoverished areas in the state, and since the passage of Amendment 64, the county has seemingly embraced the legal cannabis industry as a means of replacing the steel industry that once thrived there. Favorable regulations and a conducive climate have allowed for businesses like Los Sueños. Colorado State University is in the process of creating the  preeminent cannabis research center in the country at its Pueblo campus, and high school graduates in the county receive an automatic $1,000 scholarship to attend either of the colleges there, funded entirely by cannabis taxes. Passage of these two ballot questions could mean an end to all of this, as well as an end to the associated economic activity that comes from ancillary businesses working with but not directly involved in the cannabis industry.       

“Think of the harm that would happen if that many businesses just up and disappeared,” says Chris Lindsey, Senior Legislative Council with the Marijuana Policy Project. “I mean, you’ve got leases, you’ve got contracts for equipment, you’ve got a lot of money that keeps coming into the system. For all that to stop, that would be bad. Bans don’t work. We know that banning fails. We tried that for decades. The solution is not to ban everybody. The solution is better regulation, and Colorado is leading the way on that. Other states are learning from what they’re doing. And that’s a good position for a state to be in and I think the community ought to work on it.”

“In Colorado, virtually all counties have three commissioners and they’re each elected county-wide. You just have to live in your commissioner district, so I roughly have 160,000 people in Pueblo,”says Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who supports the legitimate and fully-regulated local marijuana industry. Because of the dual ballot questions, voters in the city will be making the decision on adult-use cannabis twice. “Your voice will be heard on 200 and 300. Question 200 is a ban for the county, but all city residents are also residents of the county. Question 300 is a ban in the city,” says Pace.

So in effect, the voice of a private citizen from within Pueblo’s city limits may or may not carry a bit louder than a county-only voice. A “no” vote means no prohibition and a “yes” vote equals prohibition.

Dan Corsentino is a former sheriff in Pueblo County, elected for seventeen years, and a former Chief of Police in Fountain, Colorado, he currently provides security and private investigation services. Recently, Corsentino was head of security for an event called Bands in the Backyard, where he led a team of more than 100 security professionals and walked something like 12 miles over the course of one day. He awoke the next day unable to walk, until he tried a non-psychoactive CBD ointment, which was introduced by his significant other. Two hours later, he was walking. “I believe [the cannabis industry] is the best regulated industry there is right now anywhere. They’re much better regulated than liquor. They’re almost equal to the lottery in the state of Colorado. The only thing we’re missing in this industry is the banking industry, and the feds need to wake up and alleviate some of those concerns. My position is very strong. Cannabis is here to stay and if Pueblo voters decide to opt out [of legalization] they’re really positioning themselves for an extremely myopic perspective on the whole industry as it’s starting to explode nationwide,” he tells THC.

"Cannabis has been an economic driver to our community, including $25 million worth of construction expenditures in the last two years accounting for 40 percent of all construction permits in the city and county combined. It's employing 1,300 people and it's providing tax revenue for a number of really important, innovative programs like college scholarships for local kids to attend one of our two colleges, funding for medical marijuana research, and the creation of the Cannabis Studies Institute at Colorado State University, Pueblo. I'm of the opinion that people didn't start using cannabis with Amendment 64, we simply created a mechanism for researching, regulation, taxing, and testing that previously did not exist," says Pace.

 Writer bio as follows:

Jennifer F. Knight (http://bathtubjenn.com) is a Colorado-based gonzo journalist, podcaster, and part-time editorial consultant. She studied Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (for approximately 90 days) where she inadvertently became hooked on literature, music, comedy, weed, freedom and the American dream. Jennifer is also an ordained Dudeist priest. Knight can be reached by talk, text, email, or astral projection. She prefers astral projection.

Planning the Cannabis Industry: An interview with NCIA’s Event Planner Extraodinaire, Brooke Gilbert
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by DJ Reetz

In a small office across the street from the state capitol building, the National Cannabis Industry Association is hard at work advocating for the cannabis industry. From humble beginnings in the early days of the legal market in Colorado, the group has grown, now operating a lobbying arm in Washington D.C. in addition to its office in Denver. Part of that growth is seen in the roughly 50 events the group hosts every year, aimed at educating the public and connecting cannabis hopefuls with the opportunities for them to thrive. Organizing these events is no small task, and at NCIA’s Denver office, that challenge is met by Director of Events and Education Brooke Gilbert.

Gilbert began her work with the NCIA in 2013. At the time, she was only the third full-time staff member hired on at the non-profit, bringing with her several years of experience in the advocacy world.

For 28-year-old Gilbert, who has spent the entirety of her professional career in the world of drug policy reform and advocacy, the journey began in college, when a traffic stop forced her to confront the harsh realities of the war on drugs. “The police officer told me that he smelled marijuana in the car, said that he was going to perform a search. I was naive and scarred at the time and allowed him to do that. He found parts of a broken bowl in my car that had resin on it, and I got arrested for that,” says Gilbert.

The stop lead to a year of probation, but more importantly a more personal understanding of the war on drugs. “I really, you know, kinda went through the system; But at the same time, because I’m white and privileged and rich and in college, I saw the very, kind of, easier side of getting arrested for cannabis possession. So that kind of opened my eyes to how ridiculous drug policies in our country are.”

The ordeal, and the understanding gained from it, led Gilbert to Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a newfound purpose in life. “Once I saw how terrible the drug war really was, I switched my major to public policy and administration and just sort of dedicated myself to changing these failed policies,” she says. “It really just opened my eyes to this bigger movement that was going on.”

At SSDP, Gilbert’s passion for live music steered her toward the AMPLIFY project. “Basically the program was partnering with live musicians who travel around the country that agreed that the war on drugs was a failure and would let volunteers come and set up at their shows to talk to attendees about what local initiatives might be going on, how they can get involved in the broader drug policy reform debate, but then also it obviously touched on drug use that was going on at these shows,” says Gilbert.

From there, the next logical extension for Gilbert was joining DanceSafe, a non-profit organization that educates concert goers with a focus on harm reduction. Part of DanceSafe’s mission involves testing drugs at concerts for purity, as well as fact-based education on the effects of drug use. The mission appealed to Gilbert, whose passion for live music still draws her to dozens of concerts each year, and after a year of volunteering with the organization she found herself on DanceSafe’s board of directors. “I saw it as a very effective means of harm reduction for what I was seeing happen in the music community,” she says. “It was interesting when cannabis became legalized here in Colorado, especially from a harm reduction perspective, because people would come in from out of town, not be educated with concentrates, infused products, edibles, that sort of thing, and so DanceSafe was actually seeing these types of people have bad experiences at shows.”

Gilbert’s resume also includes a stint as the outreach and events coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, where she helped to organize the group’s first ever national conference. These days, She’s staying busy with the ever-increasing number of events that NCIA puts on, including the third annual Cannabis Business Summit that took place in Oakland last June and NCIA’s quarterly cannabis caucuses that take place all over the country. The advance of cannabis legalization has grown the need for NCIA’s services, and the number of events the group puts on has doubled over the past year. With the changing attitudes, the challenge of hosting cannabis-centric events in non-legal states is starting to lessen, says Gilbert, and the work being done at the NCIA is helping with that.

“The stigma is starting to die away,” she says. “Places like Florida, they definitely are like, ‘Well, can you tell me more about this event? There’s cannabis in the name, is anyone going to be  smoking?’ those sort of questions. We’ve done enough events at this point that we’ve put together a portfolio so that we can show that to event venues that might be a little cautious about working with us, because it is something that we get somewhat frequently.”

While the stigmas attached to cannabis are slowly rolling back thanks in part to groups like NCIA, Gilbert still sees work that needs to be done to quell the harm done in the broader war on drugs. “If you saw the failure of cannabis prohibition systemically… I think those arguments can definitely be made for other drugs,” she says. “It does behoove us to be involved in the larger conversation around other drugs.”

The cannabis industry is in full bloom, attracting progressively minded entrepreneurs, but Gilbert’s time working on harm reduction strategies still lingers in her mind, and she says it’s important to recognize that socially harmful policies still exist in this country. “I think there’s a lot of people here that are in the industry now that didn’t come from the social justice background of it,” she says. “What I think is important for organizations like us, and to continue to partner with organizations like [the Drug Policy Alliance] and [the Marijuana Policy Project] and SSDP, who work in the broader drug policy reform debate, is how we can infuse those messages so that we’re kind of this umbrella bringing in these people who might not necessarily see the social justice benefits of
ending the drug war … That’s a responsibility that we have as an advocacy group for sure.”

For information on NCIA’s upcoming events, including the inaugural Seed to Sale Show, which will take place in at the Denver Convention Center January 31 to February 1, visit thecannabisindustry.org/events.


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