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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 3, 20176min1550

If U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks he can score political points for Republicans by coming after Colorado’s pot, then a whole Phish concert would want what he must be smoking.

State Sen. Tim Neville doesn’t like pot, not to smoke it or eat it.  He didn’t vote to legalize in 2012, but like a handful of lawmakers with some of the most conservative bonafides in the statehouse, he sees the issue as much more than stoners and Cheetos.

He took a break to talk on the phone on a recent Friday morning, as he and other senators brewed up some suds to serve at the Great American Beer Festival, an annual competition with the House. “Haze,” suggesting a thick microscopic brew, is expected to be part of the name of their brew, he said.

Neville and other legislative Republicans have gotten onboard to make sure marijuana is strictly regulated — a given for a tough guy like Neville — but regulated and taxed fairly, like any other business.

Plus it’s in the state constitution now, and Neville said he takes his oath to uphold that document deadly serious.

“It’s something all of us have to be involved with now,” Neville said.

In Neville’s view voters agreed to legalize pot on the condition that it’s well-regulated with a focus on keeping it out of the hands of people younger than 21.

“Once the people in (Colorado) said yes, it was up to us to craft the best policies possible,” he said.

Now that marijuana is a legal business, it should be treated as fairly as any other legal business.

Neville and fellow Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins drove the conversation and legislation on creating clubs where people could use pot the same way they enjoy beer and booze in bars.

I told you in February they saw it as commonsense and good business, not reefer madness. Marble said the state invites tourists, allows them to buy pot, but then designates no place for them to smoke it legally. Most hotel rooms won’t even allow it.

“The one thing we do not want in this state is for people to come on vacation and leave on probation,” said Marble, who successfully passed a bill to allow people to seal misdemeanor arrest records for marijuana if what they did was made legal by Amendment 64.

In the last session, Neville linked arms with Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont, on a bill to allow pot shops to operate more efficiently. Pretty liberal, Singer has been the chief proponent of reasonable but thorough regulation from the start. The bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers, including from Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speak Crisanta Duran. The governor signed it into law in June.

“My feeling is that when businesses operate more efficiently, it’s good for everyone,” Neville said of knocking down pointless, expensive hurdles for business, a general passion of his. “My real fear is that if we don’t allow businesses to operate as an industry, it’s just going to backslide into an area we can’t control, the gray market or the black market.”

Neville isn’t the only Republican driving the magic bus.

Out of 23 pot-specific bills in the last session, 19 had bipartisan sponsorship and 18 became law.

Colorado Springs Rep. Bob Gardner joined with Democrat Dan Pabon of Denver on legislation to create pot clubs, after Marble and Neville’s bill died in a Senate committee. The House and Senate, in bipartisan fashion, passed different versions of the bill.

On the last night of the session, lawmakers were debating how many people should be allowed to smoke pot on a porch, which might qualify it as a club.

Neville said he expects a compromise on pot clubs before the next session begins in January,

But hemp, the non-intoxicating stalk, was a big bipartisan winner this year.

And Sen. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, is getting in on the hemp game.

He told me at the State Fair that he has 10 acres in hemp, and he’s putting in a processing facility. That’s putting your money where your bipartisanship is.

He named his operation Paradox Ventures, and Coram hopes to be a Colorado pioneer.

“The voters approved it,” Coram said. “Who am I to override that?”

Neither Neville nor Coram are worried about Sessions’s saber-rattling on cannabis with federal laws that still criminalize marijuana.

“I’m really not concerned,” Coram said at the carnival.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 28, 20173min660

For all of Colorado’s newfound hipness — it always has been a destination for skiing and scenery, but now there’s also craft beer and, well, y’know, pot — it’s the legalization of marijuana over four years ago that still leaves plenty of long-timers feeling like they woke up on the other side of the looking glass. And the editorial board of the venerable Pueblo Chieftain isn’t afraid to admit it is among those who remain uneasy. Yet it, too, is evolving.

That’s the gist of an editorial earlier this week by the Steel City’s longtime daily newspaper, which lauds the latest round of scholarships awarded to local students but waxes philosophical over the source of the funding: marijuana sales tax revenue:

We also have to admit that while the photos and the story about 210 Pueblo students receiving the scholarships were pleasing, we remain a bit unnerved by the source of the funding.

The students received the two $1,000 scholarships — one for each school year semester — from Pueblo County’s marijuana excise tax. In all, $420,000 from pot taxes went to the students.

Qualms? Well, there’s also a sense that it’s time to move on:

It still seems odd to us that marijuana is helping fund college educations, but the reality is, it’s time to get over it. If legal retail marijuana is here to stay, and that seems to be the case, then proceeds from it might as well be used for good purposes.

And helping young men and women with their high college expenses certainly is a good cause.

We admit to being old-fashioned about the entire marijuana issue, but several of the scholarship recipients who were interviewed by The Chieftain were not in the least bit bothered by any real or perceived stigma attached to the funding source.

“It’s going to something good. If it wasn’t going to something good, then maybe it would be a problem,” one student told our reporter.

It’s one thing for individual Coloradans — whether they had voted for or against Amendment 64 in 2012 — to adjust, or not, to the new culture surrounding legalization. It’s even more noteworthy, and interesting, to watch Colorado’s institutions evolve on the subject.

 


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinMay 12, 20178min91

The first of Denver’s marijuana social consumption permit applications are expected this summer, after proposed rules and regulations called for under Denver’s Initiative 300 are adopted. Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the city’s Department of Excise & Licenses, discussed the main provisions of the ordinance establishing the four-year pilot program and the proposed timeline for implementation at a recent City Council Special Issues Committee meeting.


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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinApril 11, 20179min86

Instead of a sought-after additional five hours of business, Denver's recreational marijuana dispensaries seem likely to be allowed three extra hours, and city coffers could see between $664,000 to $1.3 million in extra revenue if all those dispensaries decided to take advantage of the extra hours that may soon be allowed under a City and County of Denver policy change. But the idea is not unanimously supported on Denver City Council or by the body's constituents. Currently, Denver’s hours of operation for both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. State regulations allow all marijuana dispensaries to be open from 8 a.m. to midnight, subject to local regulation. Many other Colorado municipalities allow dispensaries to stay open until either 10 p.m. or midnight, including Aurora, Boulder, Commerce City, Edgewater and Glendale.