Before I light this thing up, try to reflect on the meaning of the 9th Amendment:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, as you may have heard on the GMS podcast, is a representative for District 31 in the Colorado State House. She has won praise from many of Colorado’s editorial and legislative boards for working toward bipartisan support.
Indeed, H.B. 1317 is one of her biggest bipartisan accomplishments. Haven’t heard of it? The bill was being drafted behind closed doors not public knowledge, and the participants and circumstances surrounding the germination of the bill are scarce.
What we do know is that in February, a draft of the bill reached public eyes before she was ready to introduce it. As “leaked,” the bill contained new industry wide, recreation and medical cannabis restrictions on concentrates evaluated with the same “objective” scrutiny as Comstock Laws would evaluate obscenity. That is to say, “objective” meaning “entirely subjective.”
Among the bill’s more questionable (if not unenforceable and unconstitutional) prohibitions were:
- Ban on selling retail or medical marijuana which contains butane, propane, or “a known human carcinogen.”
- Ban on “concentrates” of any potency.
- Ban on vaping devices.
- Ban on all cannabis over 15% THC
- Ban on any brand with national cachet.
Although her colleagues on the left had some misgivings about how restrictive these were, there was no research backing up the efficacy of any of the measures to come in the intervening months between the leak and the bill being signed by Gov. Polis in June 2021. No meetings with the stakeholders left in the dark while the bill was written.
Muddier issues as raised during the town hall by experts she refused to meet with on the matter included requiring doctors to write prescriptions, a violation of federal law and their DEA drug license.
Another example: The original bill also took a “black highlighter” to existing state licensing rules to establish a “standardized marijuana serving size” as 10mg. What was previously only applicable to edibles became, with no explanation, the “standardized serving size” of marijuana. As the Knights of Pol will kindly crow, I am sagely on cannabis, but 10mg as a “serving size” in concentrate would have me sawing logs before finishing the dab.
Dr. Caraveo used the intervening months to run the press, speaking to like-minded sources who agree with the general principles of safeguarding children and assume she must be acting in good faith. Stakeholders with insight to offer such as Black and Brown, a coalition of BIPOC local cannabis stores, NORML, or even the researchers at CSU-Pueblo were left in the dark, while SMART Colorado, a staunch anti-marijuana activist group that has long sought to reverse marijuana legalization.
The public hearing for the bill occurred in the hours before its certain unanimous approval was a messy affair. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D3EpanJHPY
Dr. Caraveo heaped praise on children brought in on busses (one might use the gerund “bussed”) to the hearing and given large swathes of time to read prepared speeches (I have no evidence to offer other than inviting you to listen to each of them and consider for yourself if they weren’t given points to hit). Longer blocs of time than the voting public was given. The voting public by and large had to telephone in to be heard and wait for hours for an opportunity to voice their opinion because, unlike the children organized and scripted to speak there, they were not given equal time. The webcast recording uploaded to youtube unfortunately is visually clipped, but the audio is intact. The video would have captured the large amount of time Dr. Caraveo took during her constituents’ appeals to wander out of the chamber.
Among her supporters on the stand, Sen. Priola from Henderson testified about his son’s “marijuana use disorder,” and other parents with children struggling with cannabis, prescription drugs, and alcohol. These parents shared a similar tale of “trying everything,” especially “tough love” by way of troubled youth boot camps. You know the ones, and how that surely must mean there is no other recourse but prohibition, right? Nevermind these programs are shown to be ineffective and a poor choice for “difficult” or “at risk” kids. Hey, those are the kids this bill is trying to protect!
Hmm, I wonder if there might be some sort of, I dunno, “political advantage” to be had by putting legislation in place that will help local businesses. Businesses like for-profit rehab facilities like the ones down in Colorado Springs. And Aurora. And, oh wow, Colorado has quite a few options for parents to give their child’s welfare over to a stranger! Hmm. I wonder if those people would be inclined to continue in an “advisory” capacity to help with the appropriated funds that will have to be spent. We’ll have to keep an eye on that!
Wait, who is deciding this? The Colorado School of Public Health, of course! That’s great, their Anschutz research facilities could use that funding. After all, it’s not like they are affiliated with Dr. Caraveo’s funders! UCHealth, who missed out on that sweet, sweet medical marijuana research funding already doled out to the Institute for Cannabis Research at CSU-Pueblo to study the health effects on Colorado’s youth of recreational marijuana legalization, medical marijuana legalization, and incidence of cannabis youth in untimely deaths. They seem to be pretty heavy stakeholders, wouldn’t you say?
The state already has programs in place researching the exact same stuff, but weirdly, when Dr. Cinnamon Bidwell phoned in to voice her opinion as a concerned citizen during the hearing, she noted that neither she nor her cohorts were approached by, or even known to exist to the authors of the bill. I can’t imagine why!!
I’m no Woodward or Bernstein, but perhaps informal business like appointments to placeholder, redundant, heretofore nonexistent and uncalled for principle constituents in the author’s districts would benefit, say, an up-and-coming state legislator with upward ambition. Btw, did you hear “State Rep. Yadira Caraveo is running for Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District?” Gee, I sure hope crafting this well-publicized, unquestionably noble if legally iffy bill doesn’t hurt her odds!
Now, I hesitate to bring up this part because pulling heartstrings to convince voters is repulsive, but it’s all too easy to straw man any criticism of the debate. Emotional appeals in legislation invariably lead to foggy areas, such as the mother who testified in favor of abolishing cannabis (not on the menu that night) after her daughter was raped while high pitted against the mother whose child uses MMJ to treat severe epileptic seizures. This exchange is not a basis for good policy, but as the Knights of Pols showed, is any easy logical trap ensnaring a fact-based piece of legislation for hurt egos. Both of these mothers deal with unimaginable tragedy, but tragedy doesn’t write law. Nor should it. Saying the bill is doing neither of these women any good doesn’t disparage them or their hardships. It is just a fact.
The goals of the bill are noble, to be sure. Nobility doesn’t connect the dots, however, and how the bill’s measures are intended to have a positive effect remains to be seen. Nor will there be evaluation as to the effectiveness of the restrictions and how to improve on them.
Which brings me to my conclusion, and the 9th amendment. When writing legislation one should ask at any level, just as Hamilton asked concerning the Bill of Rights, why it should “declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”” He, and other Federalists, felt that any liberties not explicitly outlined and afforded by the constitution might be construed as being prohibited. Simply put, a “bill of rights” would pave the way toward more regulation required to enumerate other rights not explicitly included. (https://law.jrank.org/pages/8815/Ninth-Amendment.html)
H.B. 1317 has noble stated goals, I’ll say it again. Children should not have easy access to cannabis. Colorado should fund research into cannabis and its health effects, especially mental health. However, Colorado voted to regulate cannabis “like alcohol,” and this bill has already enumerated a much narrower interpretation of what that means and is opening the door for even more regulation for the sake of regulating. As Dr. Caraveo forebodingly said, “It’s a regulated industry, so let’s regulate it.” This is a legislative ouroboros.
Thanks for reading. I am not a professional writer and have a penchant for run on thoughts so I apologize, and hope this might pump the brakes for some of you gunning to “own” stoners like me for suggesting something about all of this stinks worse than skunk piss (the animal urine, not the cannabis strain), at least enough for me to feel worried about prohibition rearing its ugly little head again. That she is getting even more free publicity for her bill without any scrutiny whatsoever isn’t fair to Colorado, in my opinion.
When I hear the sob stories repeated ad nauseam as incontrovertible proof, as seen at the hearing in June, in editorials from The Denver Post, The Denver Gazette, the ‘other’ Gazette and from district leaders in sunny mountainous resort towns perfect for rehab facilities who are not acting in good faith, I feel sorry for them. Not just because of the difficulties these parents face in understanding the forces behind addiction, but because they are expending so much time, effort, and money on a handout to a small group of individuals. What began as a page from the Carrie Nation playbook of prohibition has been whittled down to something “acceptable” actually puts in place restrictions that can be wiggled and wedged in a little deeper during the next time.