Today’s round-up of stories demonstrates that although I-502 and A-64 won at the ballot box over a year ago, the laws still face an uncertain and contested status. The most recent round of resistance comes from a group of Colorado businesses and the president of University of Colorado.
Resistance from businesses
Colorado businesses request Federal pre-emption of Amendment 64.“Now, a coalition of business groups opposed to legalization is not only asking for clarification, but is urging the federal government to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, which maintains that smoking marijuana is against the law. The coalition is made up of twenty business organizations across the state, mainly chambers of commerce and economic development corporations. This group has put its message into letters, all on full view below, to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, as well as Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers, asking them for their support.” Sam Levin at the Denver Westword
Text of the letter. An excerpt: “Today, we ask that you and the DOJ remain consistent in your commitment to the CSA and federal law to provide the bright line we, as employers in Colorado, seek. The uncertainty created by Amendment 64 is causing direct harm to Colorado businesses and is primarily based on not knowing how the conflict between federal and state law will be resolved. DOJ is the only party that can provide clarity with regard to this matter. Receiving this clarity before the end of the calendar year, or indeed, prior to the possibility that employees and others can legally (under state law) possess and consume marijuana is critical for Colorado businesses.”
Resistance from Universities
Colorado University President Benson warns that A-64 could jeopardize his school’s Federal funding. “Our campuses bring in more than $800 million in federal research funds, not to mention nearly an additional $100 million in funding for student financial aid. The loss of that funding would have substantial ripple effects on our students and our state. CU contributes $5.3 billion to Colorado’s economy annually, a good portion of it derived from our research… We are not only within our rights to ban marijuana on our campuses, it is the right thing to do. Many insist the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington state are in part a referendum on the war on drugs, and the point is hard to argue. That is a discussion we should have as a society. However, in a tenuous funding environment, the possibility of losing nearly a billion dollars is a chance we simply cannot take. We have better things to focus on.” Brad Feld at Business Insider
…but Congressman Jared Polis (D – CO) calls that claim false. “The University of Colorado is not in jeopardy of losing a single dime of federal funding due to Amendment 64. President Benson has allowed his personal opposition to Amendment 64 to compromise his responsibility to the university by spreading an alarmist claim that has no basis in fact. The legality of marijuana in Colorado tomorrow will not impact CU any more than the legality of alcohol does today…” Congressman Jared Polis
Washington State University doesn’t plan on loosening marijuana policies either. “Institutions of higher education must maintain and enforce drug-free policies on campus or risk losing federally funded financial aid, grant programs and contracts. The federal Drug-Free Schools Act requires maintenance of drug-free campuses for receipt of federal funding for financial aid. The federal Drug-Free Workplace Act requires public institutions of higher education seeking federal grants and contracts to certify that they will keep drugs out of the workplace. In short, universities, including WSU, will still follow federal law.” Kathy Barnard at WSU News
Amendment 64 has been certified but it isn’t law just yet. “Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler certified the state’s Nov. 6 election results Thursday, spokesman Rich Coolidge said, setting the stage for possession of marijuana to be legal in the state within a month. However, distribution of marijuana will remain illegal after Gov. John Hickenlooper signs Amendment 64 into law no later than Jan. 5, according to the governor’s spokesman.” Patrick Malone at the Coloradoan
Obama is still deciding the Federal response. ‘ The Obama administration is strategizing how to fight legal pot in Colorado and Washington, reports Charlie Savage of The New York Times.While “no decision” is “imminent,” Savage reports that senior level White House and Justice Department officials are considering “legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives.” ‘ The Reason Foundation at OpposingViews
In Washington, it’s legal to consume non-medicinal marijuana even though all methods of acquisition are still illegal. ‘ “So I’m not sure where you’re supposed to get it,” [King County Prosecutor Daniel] Satterberg said. “If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you are part of a criminal chain of distribution.” Until the state takes over managing marijuana sales, the black market will thrive as it meets consumer demands, Satterberg said.’ Alan Duke at CNN
The Burgeoning Marijuana Industry
Stoner, Colorado is eyed as a marijuana tourism attraction. “With the passage of Amendment 64, the stage is set for new businesses to bud. McDonald, who credits medical marijuana for his comeback from kidney cancer, is poised to capitalize. He’s naming the venue Mary Jane’s at Stoner, in honor of Mary Jane, a real person who lives in a nearby shack. It’s not hard to envision the Mary Jane’s at Stoner marketing possibilities: T-shirts, coffee mugs, pipes, a brand of pot… He created a vision for the 7-acre former townsite. He sees a music venue that will attract nationally known acts and thousands of spectators on summer evenings. He pictures a community-oriented place where a variety of businesses may thrive, with an emphasis on philanthropy.” John Peel at the Durango Herald
This is Marijuana Monitor, a new daily digest and policy news tracker dedicated to the progress of marijuana legalization in the United States. Please direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.