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Pueblo’s Pace to pot’s critics: Lay off — you lost, and it’s here to stay

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 9, 2017 - Updated: June 9, 2017

Marijuana has won its place at the table across much of Colorado since legalization by the state’s voters in 2012, but that’s nothing compared to the weed’s status in Pueblo. There, it has moved to the head of the table.

We’ve noted before how cannabis production and sales in Colorado’s onetime “Steel City” has been embraced as in few other places. The Pueblo area boasts one of the largest outdoor marijuana grows in the country and a proliferating retail trade in recreational marijuana. A planned National Marijuana Museum was announced last November and has begun a fund-raising campaign. And Colorado State University-Pueblo’s year-old Institute of Cannabis Research recently hosted its first conference, attended by internationally prominent experts from the United States and eight other countries.

All of which came to mind this week when Pueblo County Commissioner (and former state House Minority Leader) Sal Pace publicly lashed out at the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a marijuana grow in the nearby town of Rye.

It’s not just any old lawsuit but in fact one filed under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — RICO, as it’s more commonly known — a legal tool typically reserved for use by the feds against mobsters. In this case, however, the litigation was filed in 2015 by Safe Streets Alliance, a national group that supports drug prohibition, as well as the owners of the property adjacent to the grow site, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

The property owners’ claim, that their property’s value has been diminished by the pot grow, got another chance to pursue their case this week when the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court ruled  that a lower court had erred by dismissing the lawsuit last year. The legal premise asserted in the suit is that federal law pre-empts Colorado law on drug policy.

Pace was having none of it. Noting Pueblo County already has spent $100,000 helping fight the suit for the past two years, he told the Chieftain:

“I think it is a last-ditch effort by some prohibitionists who are losing in the court of public opinion. They are losing state by state at the ballot box, and so they are trying to use obscure federal legislation to try to shut down the will of the voters for a very small, minute, right wing agenda.”

But it was this telling remark by Pace that truly underscored just how far marijuana has come:

“Pueblo County and Colorado has been a model not only for the rest of the country, but for the rest of the world (in the marijuana industry). This should be celebrated as an example of something that we are all proud of well creating a lot of jobs and a lot of tax revenue. Not something that people with a narrow social agenda want to push for their own interests.”

 

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.