Amendment 64 Archives - Colorado Politics
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Hal BidlackHal BidlackJanuary 26, 20186min3481

Regular readers of my columns (and I want to thank both of you) may recall my previous ruminations on representation as well as on hypocrisy. On representation I mulled over whether an elected senator or congressperson should vote in accordance with the will of the people (the “delegate model” of doing things) or should vote for what he or she feels is in the long term best interest of the citizens, even if it is not the current majority view of the folks back home (the “regent model”). Regarding hypocrisy, well, I really, really dislike it.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJanuary 4, 20189min7440

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said on Twitter Thursday he's "prepared to take all steps necessary" to block a reported move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversing federal policy that has has let states legalize recreational marijuana. His Democratic counterpart, Michael Bennet, said the decision will "create unnecessary chaos and confusion."


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 11, 20174min15450
(iStock image / KatarzynaBialasiewicz)

Longtime advocates of Colorado’s bold step into legal recreational marijuana back in 2012 are sure to feel vindicated by new federal data indicating teen pot use is down markedly in the state. Indeed, legalization-movement pitch man Mason Tvert was practically on the media’s doorstep with the news this afternoon:

The federal government published survey data Monday that shows the rate of current marijuana use among Colorado teens decreased significantly last year and is now lower than it was prior to the state’s legalization of marijuana for adult use.

The rate of past-month marijuana use by individuals ages 12-17 dropped nearly 20% from 11.13% in 2014-2015 to 9.08% in 2015-2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is now lower than it was in 2011-2012 (10.47%) and 2012-2013 (11.16%). Marijuana became legal for adults 21 and older in December 2012, and legal adult marijuana sales began in January 2014.

Here’s a link to the federal website with the hard data Tvert references — for you numbers crunchers and fact checkers.

And here’s a comparison of Colorado with other states in light of the new data, compiled by the pro-pot legalization BSC Group and its Marijuana Moment website:

An antidote to the naysayers? Arguably, though if we’ve learned anything about statistics, it’s that there always appear to be more statistics that can and will be used to counter them. The latest numbers, for example, seem to contrast with some of the data in a previous iteration of National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As we noted earlier this year, legalization foes wrote Gov. John Hickenlooper in April, contending among other things:

The only representative sample of teens ever conducted in Colorado, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), shows that Colorado now leads the nation among 12 to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period (“first use”).

Meaning, we’ll probably be hearing from the other side this time around, too. Stay tuned.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 3, 20176min2770

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.