marijuana Archives - Colorado Politics
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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 14, 20183min4520

A lot of marijuana is being sold in Las Animas County — the most per capita in the state, in fact.

According to a recent report from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the county near the New Mexico-Colorado border sold $43.9 million worth of recreational cannabis last year. That’s more than neighboring Pueblo County, which has been dubbed by some the Napa Valley of pot.

Greg Sund, Trinidad’s city manager, told the Cannabist the city is having to constantly re-evaluate how much it’s expecting to get in revenue from recreational marijuana sales.

And with those sales has come other economic development. The publication reports hotel stays are up as well.

But this isn’t the first time Trinidad and Las Animas County have seem booms. The southern Colorado town was a coal town and just like during coal’s heyday, Trinidad officials say they know they can’t ride the wave of marijuana money forever.

Last year, PULP Newsmagazine spoke with now-former economic director Jonathan Taylor, the first ever economic development director for Las Animas County.

“Without the progressive policies of the City of Trinidad in its relationship to cannabis, Trinidad’s economy would not be as robust as it is today. So, it is the primary reason for all of this growth,” he told the monthly news organization.

And as for the future of cannabis in the county, he said it looks bright. But it’s not forever.

“It is never smart to throw all your eggs in one basket in dealing with the local economy. It is just a matter of time before New Mexico legalizes it, which will have a tremendous impact on Trinidad. However, the city has positioned itself on sustainable budgetary path,” he said. “In the short-term we are using this industry to update all of our necessary infrastructure to increase outside investments while the revenue is present.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 13, 20186min4301
Blame Cory Gardner. Democrats have been doing that for a while, but now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is down on the senator from Colorado, claiming the fellow Republican is using pot to trip up the Justice Department. On Tuesday Gardner wasn’t backing down. Gardner is blocking Trump nominees over Sessions’ decision in January to […]

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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 6, 20182min3281

The nation’s first pot scholarship program is making college possible for even more students in Pueblo this year; 600, to be exact.

Pueblo County commissioners announced Monday they would likely award more than 180 more awards to college-bound seniors in Pueblo than what was awarded last year. This year nearly $750,000 is available for scholarships. Last year, the county awarded $420,000 to students; county officials said that amount was just coincidentally similar to the 4/20 reference.

In recent years between 300 and 400 students graduate from Pueblo high schools. Every high school senior in the county is automatically eligible, but the scholarship that comes from the recreational marijuana revenue is only awarded to Pueblo high school graduates who plan to attend college at CSU-Pueblo or Pueblo Community College.

“Even if you’re not sure if you’re eligible, you should apply. We have $75,000 available for students who may not fall into the Pueblo County Scholarship’s defined criteria,” Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation Executive Director Beverly Duran said in a statement.

Pueblo County voters decided in 2015 to allocate 50 percent of the marijuana excise tax collected in Pueblo County to the scholarship fund. The remainder of that money goes to a list of community projects, such as trails and parks.

As the excise tax grows the amount of money available for scholarships is expected to, too. And that could mean the difference in going to college for some Pueblo students.

“It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community,” Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said of the program last year. “Too many kids can’t afford to go to college, with this program we are taking cannabis-tax revenue and using it to provide for a brighter future in Pueblo.”


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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 1, 20184min4350

If Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened up the Washington Times Wednesday he was bound to see a message from several Colorado leaders, and elected officials from across the country, on cannabis policy.

A new coalition, headed by Pueblo County Commissioner and former state legislator Sal Pace, took out a full page ad in the Washington Times for a letter outlining the confusion that has ensued since Sessions announced the Jan. 4 decision to rescind of the Cole Memo, which kept federal authorities at bay in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

“Your decision also created uncertainty for our local governments by leaving federal enforcement decisions up to each individual U.S. attorney, resulting in what could be selective and unfair enforcement. Of greatest concern, however, is the sheer confusion felt by local officials who now face governing in a chaotic environment,” the letter said.

“While it may have been the intention to spark uncertainty for legal cannabis license holders across the nation, it also created significant confusion for local governments in thirty-one states and territories where they have comprehensive programs regulating the licensing, land-use, enforcement, and taxation of this industry.”

The group, called Leaders for Reform, also requested that a bipartisan and bicameral task force be created to “explore aligning federal and state cannabis laws.”

“While this task force is convening, we would request that the Department of Justice not initiate new enforcement actions in situations where operators are following state and local regulations. This would provide certainty to the basic operations of local governments across the country,” the letter said.

In case Sessions didn’t happen to pick up a copy of the Washington Times, the group also mailed him a copy of the letter, which included nearly 100 signatures from elected officials from 11 states.

On a call announcing the letter Wednesday, Pace said the task force would “allow for a healthy dialogue on how to address discrepancies (in state and federal law) and allow for greater direction for state and local communities on how to best move forward.”

Beyond the legal enforcement aspect, some pointed out how the Cole Memo was useful in other instances too, such as water. Mark Carmel, a board director for the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, said there’s confusion on using federal water for marijuana now. The Cole Memo said it couldn’t be done. But now?

Pace said that could potentially be a topic the suggested task force could address.

And while rescinding the Obama-era memo has created unclarity for governing bodies, it’s unclear whether that confusion has translated to the market.

“I’ve heard anecdotally that investing has gone down and private investors have pulled out of deals in Colorado,” Pace said, adding that there hasn’t been an increase in sales or economic activity following the move by Sessions either.

“People are going to be using without regulations. It makes more sense to have regulated, licensed and taxed cannabis than to have it on the black market,” he said. “If there are fewer investments in emerging markets, that means less there’s less safety and assurances in public safety.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 30, 20182min23841

It’s usually a friend to the GOP, having endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016, but the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest law-enforcement labor union, has come out swinging at Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. What’s the beef? Gardner’s vow to hold up nominees to the many vacant posts in the U.S. Justice Department after the Trump administration announced it was giving the department more leeway to crack down on pot-legalizing states like Colorado.

In a press statement released Friday, police union President Chuck Canterbury said the union’s rank and file “are disappointed and very frustrated” by Gardner’s vow:

“…(T)he fact that he believes Colorado can profit from the sale of this illegal drug does not give him the right to hold up or delay the appointment of critical personnel at the Justice Department. … Senator Gardner does a real disservice to the nation as a whole, and we urgently ask him to reconsider his rash and ill-advised obstructionism.”

In a parting shot, Canterbury added:

“The ability of the Justice Department to carry out its nationwide mission should not be compromised by a single senator trying to make it easier for business in his state to sell marijuana — an illegal drug as far as the federal government is concerned.”

The clash is ironic. Gardner personally had opposed the statewide ballot issue legalizing marijuana. Now, he’s staring down law-and-order types with whom he actually agrees on that core issue — in defense of another conservative tenet: states’ rights.


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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.