So Long, Jeff Sessions

Ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

NPR reports as Coloradans toke up in celebration:

Jeff Sessions, the president’s earliest and most fervent supporter in Congress, stepped down as attorney general Wednesday after brutal criticism from the president, bringing an abrupt end to his controversial tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

President Trump wrote on Twitter after a marathon press conference at the White House that Sessions was out and that his chief of staff, Matthew Whittaker, would serve as an acting replacement.

Of course, there is that Russia thing.

With Sessions out, Trump may attempt to limit or end the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and whether the president himself obstructed justice.

But for today, smoke ’em if you got ’em Colorado! We’ll update with local reactions.

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Registered To Vote? Weed Discount!

FOX 31:

A Boulder-based dispensary chain is offering customers a stinky reason to get involved in the upcoming midterm elections.

Five Terrapin Care Station stores across Colorado will offer a 10 percent discount on purchased products if customers show proof of voter registration.

The company’s founder said that current “political leanings may be polarized but everyone should agree that at its core, election participation is critical to a sound democracy.”

You’ll never get an easier discount on your ganja than by registering to vote in Colorado, since we have some of the most accessible voting laws in the country providing for same-day Election Day registration–and mail-in ballots as long as you’re registered before October 29, so you don’t even have to get off the couch.

With that said, please do vote responsibly! All those little bubbles tend to run together after a few tokes.

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Just Wow, Walker Stapleton (Redux)

Via American Bridge and KRDO-TV Colorado Springs, a moment from last night’s gubernatorial debate at Colorado State University-Pueblo in which Republican Walker Stapleton earned a sustained round of indignant booing from the audience:

STAPLETON: Does that mean you tell your kids to smoke weed for schools? Is that the, uh, is that the idea? [Pols emphasis]

We’re honestly not sure what’s worse here–Stapleton suggesting that Jared Polis would give his four and seven-year-old children marijuana, or the awful half-smile half-grimace Stapleton has on his face as the crowd reacts to this outlandishness:

That, gentle readers, is the face of the guy who never gets the joke, never tells the joke right, and never understands why nobody else is laughing. If it seems like every time these two candidates meet Walker Stapleton has some kind of bizarre highly embarrassing on-camera gaffe or meltdown, it’s because that’s exactly what’s happening.

Again, maybe it’s a Bush thing.

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Is Trump Coming For Colorado’s Weed Or Not, Cory Gardner?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

AP reports via the Colorado Sun–after almost two years of uncertainty over what the Trump administration might do about legalized marijuana in Colorado and elsewhere, featuring disturbing threats against the industry from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and repeated reassurances by GOP Sen. Cory Gardner that such threats shouldn’t be taken seriously, real signs are emerging just weeks before the midterm elections that Trump and Sessions may crack down on legal weed after all:

Colorado’s system for regulating marijuana has too many loopholes that disguise illegal activity and jeopardize public safety, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday, detailing his motivation for boosting scrutiny in the first state to broadly allow cannabis sales.

U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said he is particularly concerned with how companies that grow marijuana account for damaged product and the state’s system allowing people to grow a certain number of plants at home for medical use. He said both situations create an opportunity for marijuana to be sold on the black market and require federal prosecutors to take a closer look at Colorado’s regulated marijuana industry.

“If somebody is licensed by this state, should they feel at increased risk of federal prosecution now?” Troyer said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Yes. They should. We do a public safety analysis, not an analysis of whether someone has a piece of paper from the state.” [Pols emphasis]

In 180-degree contrast to Gardner’s assurances, supposedly after talking to the President himself about the situation, that Colorado’s marijuana industry was not in danger of federal prosecution, this flat-out statement from U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer that marijuana businesses in compliance with state law are at “increased risk of federal prosecution” is deeply chilling–and not in the pleasant sense that follows a nice indica bong hit.

So what happens next? The industry isn’t reacting with public alarm, at least not yet. Cory Gardner has been silent so far on Troyer’s comments, with the high drama over Brett Kavanaugh’s embattled Supreme Court nomination hogging the spotlight. If the federal government’s interest here is merely to prevent black market diversion and not shut down the legal marijuana industry entirely, that would be one thing. But who can say that with confidence knowing how Jeff Sessions feels about the devil weed?

As it stands now, everyone from individual tokers to investors with millions committed to this business should be worried–and Gardner’s assurances are looking awfully hollow.

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Statehouse Candidate Grady Nouis Campaigns on Immigrant Crime Despite Criminal Record

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Grady Nouis, the Republican candidate for an Arvada area statehouse seat in the Colorado legislature, talks a lot about crime. He’s primarily concerned that so-called “sanctuary cities” endanger residents, because undocumented immigrants who may live in these cities commit crimes, particularly drug crimes.  

In the summer of 2005, Nouis was arrested and charged with felony manufacturing of hallucinogenic mushrooms. He ultimately pled guilty to “maintaining a drug house” and possession of marijuana.

The arrest report, obtained by the Colorado Times Recorder via a source, explains how the police discovered Nouis’ suspected mushroom grow operation. He was living in a house owned by his parents in Grand Blanc, Michigan. They had moved to another city and were planning to sell the house in Grand Blanc. A realtor, believing their son to have returned to college, entered to prepare the house for a showing. She discovered numerous syringes and mason jars filled with a clear liquid and topped with plastic tubing. Believing she had discovered a methamphetamine lab, she called the police. After entering the property themselves, the police determined that it was a “psilocybin mushroom grow operation.”

“As we cleared the rest of the residence, we continued to find evidence of a psilocybin mushroom grow operation. We observed several dehydrating/drying units, packaged mushrooms ready for sale, the spores need to grow mushrooms a makeshift greenhouse made out of large plastic tubs with mushrooms growing along with various other items.”

HD29 Candidate Grady Nouis Arrest Report

According to court records, Nouis was initially charged with one felony count of “manufacture of psilocybin,” and one misdemeanor count of “possession of marijuana.” A plea bargain reduced the felony manufacturing charge to another misdemeanor, “maintaining a drug house.” Nouis was sentenced to three years of probation and paid fees and fines totaling $1,660.

(more…)

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Gardner Hopes Like Hell Trump Doesn’t Waffle On Weed

FRIDAY UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Thursday sent a scathing letter to the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy urging the administration to reconsider its quest to gather negative data about legal marijuana programs, like the one in Colorado…

In his letter Thursday to James Carroll, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Bennet said that Trump and his administration “has further eroded any credibility it had on the issue” and that the committee’s work would “further contribute to the Administration’s incoherent and backward-looking policy on marijuana enforcement and regulation.”

“At a time when we should be investing in objective and peer-reviewed scientific research on marijuana and the effects of legalization, the White House is instead using taxpayer money to spread a politically-driven narrative,” Bennet wrote. “What’s perhaps most unfortunate is that my state and others stand ready to work as partners with the federal government to gather the data and research necessary to ensure we are protecting public health and safety.”

Isn’t this what Sen. Cory Gardner, the “Trump whisperer” on all matters marijuana, should be saying?

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The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports on a story that once again has Colorado’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry facing the prospect of a big buzzkill:

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, remains “confident” President Donald Trump will keep his promise not to meddle with state marijuana policy despite a report that the White House asked federal agencies to compile statistics and stories that paint the drug in a negative light.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in these storylines going around about how staff are trying to manipulate the president or to work around his firmly held policy positions – including the position he’s held since the campaign that marijuana policy is best left to the states …,” Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano said.

The storyline comes from an article first published Wednesday by BuzzFeed News about The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee. It reportedly asked 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to provide “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and how it might threaten the country. The reported purpose behind amassing all these data points was to brief the president.

Not to worry, says Sen. Gardner, who received a large helping of credit for “saving” Colorado’s marijuana industry from the threat of a crackdown by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he interceded with Trump earlier this year. But setting aside the strange bedfellows of a conservative Republican championing the marijuana business, an act of political expediency that Gardner has reportedly had to explain to a great many unhappy fellow conservatives, there’s the larger problem that Gardner really has no control over the capricious decisionmaking of the Trump administration. Just like North Korea or any other matter on which Gardner has tried to run cover for Trump, he’s at the mercy of Trump’s inconsistency.

Which means that, well, sure. If Trump decides it’s in his best political interests to crack down on weed despite it all, you can expect Cory Gardner will be left flapping in the breeze without even a moment’s consideration. In that event, we can only hope that the voices who praised Gardner so loudly for protecting their reefer last time will realize that a counterintuitive friend is oftentimes a fair-weather friend, too.

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Lawmakers, Marijuana Industry Slam Hickenlooper Vetoes

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, anger over Gov. John Hickenlooper’s veto this week of several important marijuana bills that passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support has yet to subside, with proponents, bill sponsors, and the industry continuing to ask why the lame-duck beer-brewing governor chose to make such a public display of disdain for an industry that helped put Colorado on the map during his expiring term:

Four state lawmakers joined a group of marijuana advocates Thursday in blasting Gov. John Hickenlooper over his veto of three pot bills, saying the term-limited Democrat’s decisions threaten Colorado’s place as a leader on cannabis and hurt patients, consumers and businesses…

Hickenlooper turned down legislation that would have added autism to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, allowed for pot “tasting rooms” and opened up the cannabis industry to investment by public companies.

Hooton was a prime sponsor of House Bill 1263, the medical marijuana for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders legislation,and said she was especially upset by Hickenlooper’s decision since a bipartisan group of lawmakers spent months working on the measure. She called its veto “absolutely devastating.”

Here’s more from Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder on the governor’s veto of House Bill 1263:

HB18-1263 passed the CO State House and Senate with broad bi-partisan support (90%). We worked countless hours with these tireless, committed families, and as legislators across the aisle, did our research and came to the same conclusion that seven other states, representing every region of the country, have already come to – recognizing the value of medical marijuana in significantly reducing the symptoms of autism – CA, FLA, MI, MA, PA, GA, DE. It took a lot of groundwork and collaboration to get this bill passed and was devastating to see it vetoed. I’ve already requested the bill for reintroduction next year with confidence that our next Governor will be more knowledgable about the value of [medical marijuana] and engaged in the legislative process…

While I definitely applaud the call to research, it isn’t going to help alleviate the hardships these families are experience now, or stop children from dying while we wait for it to happen. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado Public Radio’s Ann Marie Awad:

Much of the ire was focused on the veto of HB 18-1263, which would have added autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program…

“We have to be here for our children,” Walker said. “We cannot risk losing them. We want to work with our doctors and medical professionals, and we want to do this legally and the right way.”

Walker and others also slammed the timing of the veto at the very end of the day Tuesday, right before Hickenlooper left town Wednesday.

“We respected you, and you vetoed our bill at 5:01 p.m., when we respectfully and cordially left the Capitol,” she said. “This is a slight to our families.”

Politically this unexpected series of vetoes of marijuana bills appears to be backfiring, with much more negativity about the vetoes in press coverage than discussion of Hickenlooper’s defenses offered in his veto letters. In the case of the autism bill, this anger at least partly results from Hickenlooper’s contradictory statements about the reasons–that there wasn’t enough data, then claiming flippantly that the bill could encourage youth marijuana use.

In all cases these were bills intended to resolve legitimate issues, crafted with stakeholders on all sides, and supported by legislative coalitions that spanned the ideological poles. Vetoing these bills, especially with a record as governor of only very rarely vetoing legislation passed with bipartisan support, leaves a permanent blemish on Hickenlooper’s image with no political upside we can see.

If that looks different by 2020, we’ll let you know. As of now it looks like a huge mistake.

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Outrage Grows After Hickenlooper Vetoes Key Marijuana Bills

UPDATE: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis weighs in–and says he would have signed them both.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Gov. John Hickenlooper held the final bill signing ceremony of the year yesterday, but most of the conversation today is about two marijuana bills vetoed in the last two days–bills that both passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support, intended to address significant issues related to its legal use. The Colorado Springs Independent reports on the veto of House Bill 18-1258, legislation to allow limited consumption of certain marijuana products at dispensaries who set up a proper space for it:

Currently, there are no legal places in Colorado to consume marijuana outside of a private home, making it difficult for renters, out-of-state tourists, and parents with young children to enjoy dispensary purchases. It’s possible that contributed to a 471 percent increase in citations for public cannabis consumption in the first three quarters of 2014, as Colorado Public Radio reported. Westword also reported that between the time of legalization in 2014 and 2017, Boulder saw a 54 percent climb.

The bill would have limited purchases in tasting rooms to 10 milligrams active THC in an infused product or one-quarter gram of marijuana concentrate. In compliance with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, customers would not have been allowed to smoke. Products would have had to be consumed on business premises.

The bill passed the Senate in late April with a 22-12 vote, and the House in early May with a 57-8 vote.

The governor’s stated reason for vetoing this legislation is the “concern” that allowing consumption of marijuana anywhere other than a private residence could lead to “additional impaired or intoxicated drivers on our roadways.” Notwithstanding the legal limbo that the absence of a legal place to consume marijuana leaves tourists in who come to our state to partake, creating a major policy conflict–by Hickenlooper’s logic, no one should ever be granted a liquor license again! After all, more places to drink would logically result in “additional impaired or intoxicated drivers on our roadways.” Right?

But our brewery owner governor doesn’t see it that way. And that’s not a good look.

The second bill vetoed by Gov. Hickenlooper has less of an economic impact, but has particularly upset parents of autistic children who earned considerable press this session in support of House Bill 18-1263–a bill to add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for obtaining a medical marijuana card. CBS Denver:

Before Hickenlooper’s decision, parents of children with autism gathered outside the governor’s office at the state Capitol.

“We ask that the governor help our children. Our kids are dying. We can’t wait another year,” said Michelle Walker whose son has autism…

One mother brought prescription bottles to show what her child has taken. She came in hopes of legalizing marijuana for autism.

Hickenlooper’s statement to reporters after vetoing this bill seemed to go much farther than his official statement on the veto, which claimed the bill was vetoed “on the sole concern” that not enough study had been done on the usefulness of marijuana in the treatment of autism. But as the Denver Post reports:

“If we sign that bill we end up, without question, in some way encouraging more young people to look at this as an antidote for their problems,” he told reporters before turning down the legislation, House Bill 1263. [Pols emphasis]

For the families of autistic children who pleaded with the governor to sign this bill, and who won the public’s sympathy this spring with a high-visibility media campaign highlighting what their families go through and how marijuana has helped, this high-handed sermonizing about the message to “young people” is a shocking insult. This bill was not about enabling drug use by kids, it’s about treating a serious disorder on par with any of the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana today. That’s why the bill passed by a lopsided 53-11 margin in the House and near-unanimous 32-3 in the Senate.

Along with other recent lurches to the right like Hickenlooper’s endorsement of a work requirement for Medicaid and lip service to re-criminalizing marijuana entirely, these vetoes seem to be political moves to “sanitize” himself politically for a possible run for higher office. We don’t know exactly who is giving Hickenlooper the advice to take these actions, but it’s exactly the wrong way for him to be moving politically. Undoing any good will with the proponents of the autism bill by dismissing their concerns as an attempt to promote adolescent drug use, and punting the huge unresolved issue of legal marijuana consumption, is not how a governor shows leadership.

It’s how you prove you don’t deserve to be President.

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Trump Craps All Over Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

CNN reporting on a story that will make, amongst others, Colorado stoners happy:

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he regretted choosing Jeff Sessions as attorney general, a continuation of the President’s frustrations over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Quoting Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, who noted on CBS earlier Wednesday that Trump “could have picked somebody else” for the position, Trump tweeted, “I wish I did!”

…Trump has frequently criticized Sessions over his recusal, which paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump, according to The New York Times, has said he needs an attorney general to protect him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ bellicose threats against legal marijuana have given the rapidly-growing industry in Colorado the most stress they’ve endured since legalization in 2012, but it does appear that he lost the battle for President Donald Trump’s blessing to carry out the crackdown he so badly wanted. That’s the local angle of relevance in this story–Sessions’ lack of favor with Trump being a positive development for Colorado’s marijuana industry–though obviously, Sessions’ recusal from the investigation into involvement by Russian nationals in the election of Trump is the factor driving the day.

Will Sessions survive in his position long enough to headline the Western Conservative Summit in Denver in less than two weeks? We’ll all have to find out together.

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Walker Stapleton Just Makes Stuff Up (MMJ Edition)

Walker Stapleton.

Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal released an overall fawning profile of GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton earlier today. Given Stapleton’s solidifying reputation for making stuff up on the campaign trail, any such profile is likely to contain an item or two in need of correction, whether or not the reporter catches it–and the latest example wasn’t hard to find:

One significant policy change Stapleton would seek would be a crackdown on the roughly 150,000 state residents who still carry medical-marijuana cards, which allows them tax-free purchasing of the drug, the ability to grow their own plants and the ability to consume the weed at age 18. Moving all but medically necessary card holders into purchasing legalized retail marijuana would increase state tax revenues on the drug by two to three times and ensure that they couldn’t distribute home-grown cannabis to friends, creating a new stream of revenue for transportation and other needs, he said.

Which sounds good except, as medical marijuana advocates quickly pointed out:

That’s right, folks! The state of Colorado has never had 150,000 medical marijuana cardholders, and since the passage of Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, the number of patients on the state’s medical marijuana registry has steadily declined. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s latest report on Medical Marijuana Registry Program, in April of 2018 there were a total of 88,946 Coloradans with an active medical marijuana card.

For those of you lacking a handy calculator, that’s 59.3% of Stapleton’s claim.

Obviously this has a big negative impact on the utility of Stapleton’s proposed “crackdown” on the medical marijuana registry, since the amount of revenue that could be extracted from medical marijuana patients who were “cracked down on” is directly proportional to the total number of such individuals. Because there have never once been the number of people with medical marijuana “red cards” that Stapleton asserted “still carry” them, we really have no idea how to reconcile this discrepancy.

Unless we already did, in the title of this post.

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Attention Colorado: Toke Up For Jeff Sessions Friday, June 8

Just announced by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University–introducing the new headline act at the Western Conservative Summit next month, Attorney General Jeff “Reefer Madness” Sessions:

We are proud to announce that the 84th Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions will be speaking Friday afternoon, June 8, 2018, at the Western Conservative Summit!

On illegal immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has returned our country to a rule of law.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions joins our nation’s top conservative leaders in Denver, Colorado including: Attorney General Ed Meese, 2nd Amendment advocate Dana Loesch, Rep. Steve King, Rep. Ken Buck and the House Freedom Caucus, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, Christian movie star Kirk Cameron, author Matt Walsh, Fox and Friend’s Ainsley Earhardt, YouTube sensations Diamond and Silk, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv, the Colson Center’s John Stonestreet, many of Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates, Alliance Defending Freedom’s President Michael Farris, Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall, former U.S. Navy Seal Chad Williams, and many others.

Sessions is the biggest name on the confirmed speakers list now, which is sure to impart a very special character to this year’s Western Conservative Summit. It’s interesting that this announcement makes no reference to Sessions’ infamously dim view of marijuana legalization, a view strongly shared by the Centennial Institute’s director Jeff Hunt. As we’ve recently discussed, support for marijuana legalization both locally and across the nation is strong enough to make Sessions’ buzzkill threats against pot a significant political liability for Republicans in this already-challenging election year.

So needless to say, we’re excited to see what Sessions has to say when he arrives in the vanguard state of the wave of legalization sweeping America! The protest outside Sessions’ speech should be a memorable event, at least for those watching from a distance. Protesters toking up en masse in Jeff Sessions’ honor might have a fuzzier recollection.

But if you’re a marijuana smoker anywhere near Denver on June 8th, toking up in Jeff Sessions’ honor will be something akin to a religious obligation.

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Jared Polis: The Governor Colorado’s Weed Industry Needs?

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

A new story on cannabis culture news site Herb argues strongly that Rep. Jared Polis is the candidate for governor of Colorado best suited to champion he state’s legal marijuana industry–after the current Gov. John Hickenlooper disappointed marijuana advocates with his on-again-off-again support following the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012:

After ten years in Congress, vocal cannabis reform advocate Jared Polis is now looking to become the Governor of Colorado. Polis, currently a representative for Colorado’s second district, is running on an ambitious campaign to provide the state with 100% renewable energy by 2040 as well as implement a single-payer health care plan. But as governor of the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, he would also preside over a cannabis market which has set the tone for the rest of the country.

Since Colorado legalized in 2012, reform advocates have cited Colorado’s tax revenues and falling crime rates as a reason to legalize nationally while opponents have claimed that out of state smuggling has flooded surrounding states with organized crime. As a result, the success or failure of Colorado’s recreational market could define national policy and a pot-friendly governor like Polis could make all the difference…

“We also need to make sure that Colorado’s businesses encourage diversity and provide economic opportunities to every qualified individual,” says Polis. “The cannabis industry is attractive to men and women of all backgrounds and races.”

The solution, Polis has suggested, is a commission of lawmakers, citizens, and industry professionals to audit the effectiveness of Colorado’s current regulations. It’s no doubt that Polis will be missed among reform advocates in Congress, but if he’s able to smooth out the kinks in his state’s cannabis industry, he could still have an impact nationwide by setting a precedent for all the states looking to legalize in the next two years.

When Colorado became the first state to legalize the sale and use of marijuana by adults without any license or medical prescription, it was risky territory for the state. The initial reaction from Gov. Hickenlooper and many other local political leaders in both parties was one of caution, with great doubt over whether the federal government would ever allow the legal retail sale of marijuana to begin.

Six years after Amendment 64, Colorado’s nervous foray into legal marijuana sales has become a model that other states have followed–most prominently the state of California, whose retail marijuana operations began at the beginning of this year. Today, the rush of larger states to legalize marijuana has taken the pressure off Colorado as a petri dish for an uncertain experiment. The explosive growth and maturation of the marijuana industry has unquestionably validated the wisdom of legalization in 2012, and makes Gov. Hickenlooper’s recent well-publicized fumbles on the issue seem terribly out of touch.

In the first post-Hickenlooper gubernatorial election, it will be very interesting to see how much influence the marijuana business wields. Whatever Hickenlooper says from day to day, public support for legal weed remains strong–so we don’t see Republicans campaigning in 2018 on a Reefer Madness platform of recriminalization. That means candidates will be jockeying to be the industry’s friend–and Polis has the bonafides here.

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The Grand Equivocator

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is getting beaten up on social media today because of his penchant for answering one question with two answers…and probably for good reason. Taking multiple sides of a single issue is not a new trick for Hick, but as John Frank of the Denver Post points out, the Governor’s wordplay is getting a little out of hand:


Frank is referencing this CNN story about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado (and around the country), in which Hickenlooper suggests that he wouldn’t rule out re-criminalizing the funky herb:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has two facts in front of him: Since 2014 crime has been rising in his state, outstripping the national trend, and since 2014 recreational use of marijuana has been legal.

Whether the two are connected is hotly debated — and if they are, then what? For the first time publicly, Hickenlooper told CNN he doesn’t rule out recriminalizing recreational marijuana, even if that’s a long shot.

“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in,” he said. “It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.” [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper has never been particularly enthusiastic about legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and that’s fine. But going back and forth like this is a bad look for a guy who is trying to position himself for a potential run for President in 2020, and he’s been doing it a lot lately. Earlier this week we took note of a comment from Hickenlooper in a KUNC story about addressing sexual harassment at the State Capitol:

“There’s an argument that says let’s get it right, let’s not rush into action,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “That being said, there needs to be a sense of urgency.”

Yes, there are two sides to every story, and two sides to every coin, yada, yada, yada. But if Hickenlooper is going to have another act in his political future, it would behoove him to present himself as more of a leader and less of a mediator.

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BREAKING: Gardner Abandons DOJ Marijuana Holds

UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller reports that Cory Gardner is releasing his holds on the high-priority nominees Jeff Sessions complained about being held up, though apparently some lower-priority holds will continue:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is dropping his holds on certain Justice Department nominees “as an act of good faith” amid ongoing conversations with the deputy U.S. attorney general and the acting U.S. attorney for Colorado.

Gardner said he would lift his holds on the assistant attorney general for national security, U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals, but said his holds “on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

…He said that his “positive conversations” with Rosenstein and Troyer led him to Thursday’s decision. But he said that people shouldn’t construe the decision as backing off his thoughts that there should be solutions put in place to protect Colorado’s marijuana programs. [Pols emphasis]

Because obviously, the best way to negotiate is to give up your most valuable bargaining chips.

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Senator Cory Gardner (R).

We told you this was coming. As the AP reports:

Colorado’s Republican U.S. senator says there’s been enough progress on negotiations over marijuana with the Trump administration that he will stop blocking nominees for some jobs in the Justice Department.

Cory Gardner used his power as a senator to freeze department nominations last month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked Obama-era protections for states that have broadly legalized marijuana.

Gardner said Sessions needed to re-establish protections for the industry. Gardner told The Associated Press on Thursday that recent talks make him confident the department won’t change the way it enforces federal laws in Colorado and other states that allow adults to use cannabis recreationally.

News reports as recently as yesterday documented the continuing impasse between Sen. Cory Gardner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over rescinding the Obama-era Cole Memorandum dictating a hands-off policy toward legal marijuana states. Gardner specifically stated in a Senate floor speech that he would hold Justice Department nominees until the Cole memorandum was reinstated.

Since that time, however, pressure from law enforcement groups and conservative supporters of Sessions has built on Gardner to release his DOJ holds. On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions went public with criticism of Gardner’s actions, complaining that the holds were hampering his ability to fill critical positions.

And today, Gardner announced he would release the DOJ holds for which he earned nationwide thanks from marijuana advocates. Without getting what he demanded. The Cole memo has not been reinstated, nor will it be now. The revised guidance from Sessions  to U.S. Attorneys that provoked widespread fears of a marijuana crackdown remains operative. The industry has no real assurance other than Sessions’ apparent word to Gardner–which Gardner already blasted Sessions for breaking in the past.

Anybody who is surprised by Gardner’s lack of courage down the stretch, please raise your hands.

Nobody should be raising their hands.

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Police Union Nastygrams Cory Gardner Over DOJ Holds

Senator Cory Gardner (R).

A press release over the weekend from the National Fraternal Order of Police tears into Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado but good over his hold on nominees to the Department of Justice after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance to U.S. Attorneys protecting marijuana commerce in states that have legalized:

The members of the Fraternal Order of Police are disappointed and very frustrated by the vow made by Senator Cory S. Gardner (R-CO) to hold up all nominees for vacant posts in the U.S. Department of Justice following the decision to rescind the Cole Memo and restore discretion to our nation’s U.S. Attorneys on investigations into violations of Federal drug laws involving marijuana.

Senator Gardner has come out swinging to defend the pot industry in his State. However, the fact that he believes Colorado can profit from the sale of this illegal drug does not give him the right to hold up or delay the appointment of critical personnel at the Justice Department. How can he justify putting at risk the public safety of all 50 States to advance the interests of the pot industry in his own?

The FOP has repeatedly made our concerns about current vacancies in the Justice Department and other key Administration posts known. Senator Gardner does a real disservice to the nation as a whole and we urgently ask him to reconsider his rash and ill-advised obstructionism.

Policy differences should be worked out by a dialogue and not turn into hostage situations. The ability of the Justice Department to carry out its nationwide mission should not be compromised by a single Senator trying to make it easier for business in his State to sell marijuana—an illegal drug as far as the Federal government is concerned.

After Sen. Gardner enjoyed no small amount of favorable local press for publicly throwing down in defense of marijuana with Sessions, this more recent backlash from the FOP hasn’t received nearly as much attention. One exception to that is conservative blogger and former GOP legislative staffer Dan Njegomir over at the former Colorado Statesman:

It’s usually a friend to the GOP, having endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016, but the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest law-enforement [sic] labor union, has come out swinging at Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. What’s the beef? Gardner’s vow to hold up nominees to the many vacant posts in the U.S. Justice Department after the Trump administration announced it was giving the department more leeway to crack down on pot-legalizing states like Colorado.

With Sen. Gardner’s support in polls quickly declining, perhaps most critically with base law-and-order Republicans who are generally speaking not big fans of the devil-weed, pressure on Gardner to fold on his nominee holds could become an interesting predicament for him. With Colorado’s U.S. Attorney having disarmed fears of an immediate crackdown on the retail marijuana industry following Sessions’ change of policy, though with plenty of uncertainty about the long term under the Trump administration remaining, Gardner may have taken an position that burns him no matter what he does next.

But remember, the promise Gardner made was not to the cops.

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Gardner Qualifies Threat To Hold Justice Department Nominees

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports after Sen. Cory Gardner’s much-anticipated meeting today with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about federal marijuana policy–as readers know, Sessions last week rescinded the Cole Memorandum that allowed for a hands-off approach to enforcement of federal law in states where marijuana is legalized. In response, Gardner announced a hold on all Justice Department nominees until the guidance in Cole was reinstated:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wasn’t swayed to immediately change his mind about his decision to rescind the Cole Memo after Wednesday’s meeting with Sen. Cory Gardner despite the Colorado Republican’s threat to withhold Justice Department nominees.

“I think the meeting kind of went as I expected it to,” Gardner told Denver7 after the Wednesday morning summit. “I shared my states’ rights position with Attorney General Sessions, and he shared his concern about the Cole Memorandum and why he rescinded it, and he also reiterated that the US attorneys will be in the position to make these determinations.”

Sessions agreed to meet with Gardner Wednesday after Gardner loudly balked at the decision to rescind the 2013 memo that protects states where marijuana is legal from extraneous federal enforcement.

Gardner has also told Sessions he will hold up Justice Department nominees until Sessions took a step back, though he admitted Tuesday that if the nominees have “overwhelming support” that it would “be difficult to stop them.” [Pols emphasis]

As of today, Blair reports, Gardner’s Justice Department holds remain–but this last statement signals clearly that Gardner’s holds either won’t last long or won’t matter. For all the praise Gardner received after making his bellicose threats last Friday, that would be a sheepish end that should get at least as much press attention.

Because as it turns out, maybe he really didn’t deserve all that praise.

With that said, it would be a mistake to rule out entirely the possibility that legislation to tie the Justice Department’s hands in legal marijuana states will come about as a result of Sessions’ threats. As of now, Gardner has paid only lip service to the protection of Colorado’s marijuana industry–and without the kind of confrontation marijuana supporters hoped Gardner would lead against Sessions last week, the most likely outcome now is an uneasy status quo that may well outlast Sessions’ tenure as Attorney General.

We’ll say it again and again: talk is cheap. And just like when Mike Coffman dropped his bid to force a discharge petition to vote on legislation to protect undocumented DREAMer students, Cory Gardner is getting credit that the facts of the situation do not appear to warrant.

If and when that changes, we’ll gratefully acknowledge it. But it hasn’t happened yet.

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Gardner Sets “High” Bar For Releasing Justice Nominees

Learning about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Obama-era protections at the Justice Department that allowed individual states to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, Sen. Cory Gardner flew into a rage from the well of the U.S. Senate last week–threatening in explicit terms to hold up every nominee for the Department of Justice unless the Cole Memorandum is reinstated as the operative guidance for U.S. Attorneys on marijuana prosecutions.

We think.

The specifics of what Gardner are said are very important, since he is reportedly meeting with Sessions tomorrow to discuss the situation. After which, depending on how that meeting goes, Gardner will either lift his hold on Justice Department nominees or allow them to stand pending Sessions reconsidering his position.

Transcribed:

GARDNER: I agree with President Trump, that this decision should be left up to the people of Colorado and othere states. And I call on Attorney General Sessions to explain to me why President Trump was wrong in 2016 and what changed their minds. And that they reverse their decision to withdraw and rescind the Cole memorandum. And that they reimplement and reinstate the Cole memorandum. [Pols emphasis] And until that happens, I think I am obligated by the people of Colorado to take all steps necessary to protect the state of Colorado. And their rights.

And that’s why I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice. Until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me in my confirmation–my pre-confirmation meeting with him, the conversation we had that was specifically about this issue of state’s rights and Colorado. Until he lives up to that commitment, I will be holding all nominations to the Department of Justice. The people of Colorado deserve answers. The people of Colorado deserve their will to be respected.

Madam chair–Madam President–I yield the floor and not the absence of a quorum.

Now, you can read this statement as Gardner laying out very precisely what Sessions needs to do to see Gardner’s nominee holds released: reinstating the Cole memo. The only problem is that Gardner, being an infamously crafty crafter of weaselly statements, separated his specific comments about the Cole memo from his announcement that he will hold up Justice Department nominees. You could, in a strained but literal reading, see Gardner only promising to maintain the holds until Sessions lives up to some unspecified “commitment.” Was that commitment specifically to preserve the Cole memo?

It all gets kind of, you know, weaselly.

The reason we’re asking these specific questions is simple: the chances that Sessions will actually reverse course and reimplement the Cole memo after meeting with Gardner seem very slim, but the odds that Gardner will come out of his meeting with Sessions tomorrow with those holds intact are even slimmer. Much like Rep. Mike Coffman’s abortive threat to force a vote on protections for undocumented students last summer, the most likely outcome here is, after receiving lavish praise for “standing up” to the Trump administration, Gardner folds without actually accomplishing anything.

And if that’s what happens, those who issued said lavish praise should do a follow-up.

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At Least He’s Not Your State Representative

Kansas State Rep. Steve Alford

In another edition of our long-running series, “At Least He’s Not Your Legislator,” we take you to Kansas, where a Republican lawmaker adds a racist tone to a conversation about legal marijuana.

From the Garden City Telegram:

During Saturday’s Legislative Coffee session at St. Catherine Hospital, State Rep. Steve Alford, R-Ulysses, made an ostensibly racist comment when citing domestic Jim Crow-era drug policies.

When Zach Worf, president of the Finney County Democrats, argued that legalizing marijuana could be a financial boon to cash-strapped Kansas, Alford told him he should look to the 1930s, the latter part of the prohibition era, for a history lesson. Alford said that a reason for the tightening grip on potential intoxicants at that time was to shield Americans from the consequences of drug abuse by “African Americans.”

“Basically any way you say it, marijuana is an entry drug into the higher drugs,” Alford said. “What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s, when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas (and) across the United States.

“What was the reason why they did that?” he continued to a crowd of about 60 people, none of whom were black. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off to those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that. [Pols emphasis] And so basically what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to do a complete reverse with people not remembering what has happened in the past.”

No word on whether or not Alford is friends with Colorado State Sen. Vicki Marble, who thinks African-Americans eat too much chicken.

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Boulder Daily Camera Shreds Gardner’s Faux Weed Outrage

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As we noted last week, Sen. Cory Gardner’s outrage over the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind Obama-era protections against a federal crackdown on marijuana in states that have legalized cannabis left un–or at least under–stated something very important: the fact that Gardner, alone among Colorado’s representatives in Washington, cast a key vote to confirm Sessions. This puts Gardner is a much more directly responsible position for Sessions’ actions than anyone else in the state.

After Gardner’s speech, he received a round of talking-head credit for “standing up to Trump,” including another rote atta-boy from the Denver Post editorial board. But the Boulder Daily Camera editorial board, on the other hand, isn’t buying it:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner was shocked — shocked! — last week to discover that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had reneged on his pledge to keep his nose out of Colorado’s burgeoning marijuana industry…

Gardner is right about Sessions’ mendacity, of course, although we think it’s a little late in the day to wake up to that fact. And the junior senator’s outsized outrage is highly suspicious. Like most of the state’s prominent politicians, he opposed marijuana legalization. And while his sudden devotion to states’ rights is interesting, it’s not particularly persuasive.

That leaves two possible explanations for an expression of outrage more melodramatic than Captain Renault’s deadpan in “Casablanca.” One is personal pique — he voted to confirm Sessions as attorney general because of that pledge and now he feels betrayed. We’re not buying it. Gardner has been in Washington long enough to know politicians reverse themselves all the time. Like, for example, Cory Gardner on “personhood.” [Pols emphasis]

…According to the website fivethirtyeight.com, Gardner has voted with Trump 94.6 percent of the time, despite the fact that Colorado delivered its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton, not Trump, in 2016. So much for his fealty to the will of Colorado voters.

Shots fired.

Without the endless benefit of the doubt Gardner is afforded by the Post and other members of the local pundit class, this is a much more accurate–if less flattering–examination of Gardner’s record. Anecdotal moments of “standing up to Trump” as Gardner went through the motions of with legal marijuana last week cannot erase the fact that Gardner votes with Trump almost all the time–including the highest profile votes of 2017 on repealing health care reform and slashing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Not to mention Gardner’s vote to confirm Jeff Sessions.

As frustrating as it may be to watch Gardner get credit he doesn’t deserve for what amounts to token CYA statements, this editorial sums up very well what Gardner should be afraid of when that finally stops working. As the saying goes, anecdotes do not equal data. And the record shows clearly, from Gardner’s condemnation of the Trump-energized racist right after Charlottesville to his faux outrage over Jeff Sessions, that Gardner has enabled the very things he decries.

Anything less than a full acknowledgement of this, every time, is a disservice to the facts.

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It’s Official, Colorado: Jeff Sessions Is Coming For Your Weed

UPDATE: Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says don’t be alarmed…yet:

Hopefully these words don’t come back to bite her (see below).

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

AP reporting via KDVR FOX 31 along with every other media outlet in the land, just days after the nation’s largest retail marijuana market commenced operations in California–Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be making good on longstanding threats to crack down on the legal sale of marijuana, with apparently no distinction even between medical and retail sales:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, including in Colorado, according to two sources.

Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors where pot is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law, the sources said…

While Sessions has been carrying out a Justice Department agenda that follows Trump’s top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to pot policy reflect his own concerns.

Trump’s personal views on marijuana remain largely unknown.

Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is affecting much outrage over Sessions’ move today via Twitter:

The rub here of course is that Sen. Gardner, alone among Colorado’s delegation in Washington, cast his vote to confirm Sessions as Attorney General–meaning that Gardner is left holding the proverbial bag in this case more than anyone else in our vanguard legalization state. For all the noise Gardner is making in defense of Colorado’s marijuana industry now, he can’t escape at least partial responsibility for Sessions’ actions.

Obviously we’ll be watching this developing story for updates, since Sessions’ next steps on marijuana will have a major effect on Colorado’s economy. Stay tuned.

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Where Are They Now? department: Jennifer Kerns 3.0 edition

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The “Hot mess” from California just got owned by Joy Reid.

The 12/23/17 AMJoy Show featured Jen Kerns attempting to distract from the Russian collusion scandal by rehashing the Uranium One “scandal”. This was round two – after Jen Kerns U1 talking points  were dissected by Reid on October 30.

In Colorado, we’re used to Kerns lying, just making stuff up – and getting away with it, for the most part.

In 2013, Jennifer Kerns emerged as the spokesperson for the recall effort against Senators Giron and Morse. The recall,  ostensibly for the Senators’ so-called “anti-gun” votes, almost shifted control to Republicans in the Colorado Senate.

(more…)

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Colorado Week in Review: 11/3/17

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Colorado Christian U To GOP: Hands Off Weed Money!

Weed biz.

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette follows up on one of the week’s more curious local political stories, a fundraiser for the GOP’s Senate Majority Fund 527 attended by members of the budding (pun) marijuana industry–an interesting change-up for a party that includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, far and away the biggest threat to legalized marijuana in its short history.

As as suspected in our previous mention of this, Colorado Christian University, which fancies itself as the leading moral arbiter of the Christian conservative ecosphere in our state, is not happy with Republicans consorting with reefers! Though they claim the Senate GOP’s fundraiser is not the reason they’re sounding off:

In a stern letter to state lawmakers, the president of Colorado Christian University and the director of the school’s conservative think tank on Thursday called on legislators to refuse campaign donations from the marijuana industry, saying the legalized drug “has devastated Colorado by nearly every metric.”

“It has come to our attention that state legislators are accepting campaign donations from the marijuana industry. As educators and researchers, we hope this is not the case. Marijuana has devastated Colorado by nearly every metric and we are particularly concerned about marijuana’s health impact on youth,” CCU President Dr. Donald Sweeting and Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt wrote.

“Colorado Christian University asks that you audit your donations for any money given by the marijuana industry and donate those funds to marijuana youth prevention and recovery organizations. We are happy to meet with you to discuss marijuana’s devastating impacts on Colorado. We look forward to your leadership on this issue and your work to make Colorado a better state for its citizens and especially its young people,” they concluded.

GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham’s sock-in-mouth response:

“More power to them,” Grantham said. “I think they will continue to be a good friend to us while continuing to lead that charge against some of the more destructive qualities of marijuana in Colorado. But as far as the other aspects of this, the donations, etc., that will be up to individual members what they want to do.”

As you can see, the question is not morally ambiguous to Jeff Hunt of CCU’s Centennial Institute like it appears to be with Senate President Grantham. For Hunt, taking money from the marijuana industry is little different from taking money from an organized crime cartel. But could you imagine Grantham saying it’s “up to individual members” whether they want to take money from Al Capone?

And before you flame us, yes, we know the legal marijuana industry has nothing whatsoever in common with organized crime. That’s the point of legalization. We’re just trying to illustrate how passionate the opponents of marijuana legalization are, viewing it as an historic and devastating rollback of almost a century of illegal drug prohibition in this country. Marijuana industry cash is much more of a political problem for Republicans than Democrats–for whom legal marijuana carries little to no moral stigma among their base. Legality of marijuana under state but not federal law supplies all the pretext necessary for opponents to rage against marijuana with the same zeal they had before it was legalized. Legal in Colorado or not, it’s still “a sin.”

With all of this in mind, might the Senate Majority Fund think twice about spending that freshly-raised marijuana cabbage? And if they don’t…will they answer to a higher authority?

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Don’t Tell Jeff–Colorado GOP Gladly Takes Weed Money

UPDATE: From Jeff Hunt of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute:

Time for a conference call.

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Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, some are calling it a groundbreaking moment while others cry hypocrisy–though we have yet to hear from such authoritative figures within the Republican Party as Attorney General Jeff “Reefer Madness” Sessions or locally the Centennial Institute’s famously anti-weed Jeff Hunt:

All the progress that legalized marijuana has made in Colorado is nothing compared to what is about to happen on Wednesday.

That’s when the marijuana industry will hold a political fundraiser for Republicans, many of whom opposed the legalization of personal use and retail sales of the drug five years ago…

The Republican group co-hosting the event at Denver’s Capitol Hill Tavern is the Senate Majority Fund, a political group that uses its money to support GOP candidates for the Colorado Senate, primarily through advertising.

The group’s aim is to make sure Republicans maintain their majority in the 35-member Senate, even if it’s only the one-vote lead it currently holds.

JUST KIDDING.

It’s important to note that, although elected officials on both sides were generally unsupportive of 2012’s Amendment 64, the vote in 2013 in the Colorado General Assembly on the legislation that enabled the constitutional amendment to take effect–House Bill 13-1317–was split closely along party lines in the House. GOP lawmakers like now-Sen. Chris Holbert, who is quoted in Ashby’s story saying Amendment 64 is the law and of course Republicans are duty-bound to uphold the will of the voters, actually voted against the legislation to let said voters’ will take effect.

Politically, it’s impossible to reconcile the Republican Senate Majority Fund holding a marijuana industry fundraiser with the overwhelming present-day consensus that the Republican Party is really not into the “devil weed.” In addition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ explicit threats to shut down not just recreational but also medical marijuana sales, local influentials like Jeff Hunt of the Centennial Institute have attracted much attention with their claims that legalization of marijuana has “devastated Colorado.” Not to mention 2013 recall agitator Jennifer Kerns’ ludicrous stories in The Blaze about “marijuana crack babies.”

Certainly we understand the marijuana industry’s desire to cultivate support (pun intended) on both sides of the aisle, so don’t mistake this for criticism of their efforts here–or the money they raise tomorrow night for Republican Senate candidates. The real question will be whether the substantial wing of the Republican Party that remains, in some cases fanatically, opposed to marijuana legalization is willing to tolerate Colorado Senate Republicans taking marijuana money.

Vaya con dios.

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