iStock-823402932.jpg

Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min992

Denver elected officials say they “strongly condemn” the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to suspend a George W. Bush-era program geared toward educating detained immigrants on their legal rights.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council advocated for the DOJ to reverse course on its decision and allow the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) to continue.

“Terminating the LOP would eliminate vital protections for thousands of our community members who are separated from their loves ones and placed in civil immigration detention,” the letter reads.

The DOJ announced earlier this month it would temporarily suspend funding for the LOP, just weeks before the program’s contract is set to expire, NPR reports. DOJ officials said the federal government needs time to review the effectiveness of the program, which is run nationally by non-profit Vera Institute of Justice. The program costs about $6 million per year.

Vera serves more than 50,000 people per year and works with a network of like-minded organizations to carry out the LOP program across the country. In Colorado, the program is administered through the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN).

As RMIAN and Denver officials note, those in immigration proceedings do not have a right to court-appointed counsel.

“Yet immigration law is incredibly complex, and for many of our community members, the stakes in these court cases could not be higher,” Denver officials say in the letter.

The LOP helps bridge that legal gap, providing immigrants with legal information and referrals to pro-bono legal counsel, among other services.

At the immigration detention center and immigration court in Aurora, Denver officials say just 9 percent of people have legal representation during proceedings.

“To abruptly end this program would have a devastating impact on access to justice for immigrants in Denver and beyond,” the letter reads.

Read Hancock and the City Council’s full letter here.


Bidlack.jpg

Hal BidlackHal BidlackJanuary 26, 20186min553

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.


chuck-smith-e1499408224213.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 7, 20176min2724
Chuck Smith

Colorado was the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, and being the first in anything poses both significant challenges and unique opportunities.

Consider that in just three and a half years, Colorado’s cannabis industry has evolved from opening the doors to the first marijuana retail store to becoming the fastest-growing business sector in the state, creating thousands of jobs and generating more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue. And as a truly local industry with an economic impact of $2.4 billion, the money generated in Colorado stays in Colorado.

Members of the cannabis industry are also an integral part of the community. We are entrepreneurs and small-business owners who create jobs and pay taxes.  Our employees and co-workers include laboratory technicians, farmers and security guards. It is estimated that over 18,000 Coloradans are employed in the industry. We are your neighbors, the parents sitting next to you at PTA meetings, and volunteers at the town fundraiser. And we are proud that marijuana tax revenue has helped fund school drop-out and bullying prevention programs, substance abuse and mental health services, college scholarships, homelessness programs and local road improvements.

The rapid growth of the industry has not come without challenges. By partnering with elected officials and regulators, law enforcement, public health leaders, and others, the cannabis industry has worked hard to help shape Colorado’s comprehensive regulatory framework that protects public health and safety while fostering a positive business climate.  When unforeseen or unintended consequences of legalization have surfaced, we worked side-by-side with those same state and community leaders to find solutions. In fact, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman recently co-wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling Colorado’s system “a model for other states and nations.”

As business owners, parents, concerned citizens, and proud Coloradans, we take our responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public seriously. We vehemently oppose driving while under the influence of marijuana. But voicing concerns is not enough, which is why industry members are part the Colorado Task Force for Drunk and Impaired Driving and work with the Colorado Department of Transportation on its public education campaign warning of the dangers of impaired driving.

It is also why the marijuana industry has proactively launched public service campaigns on safe and responsible marijuana consumption, including advising consumers not to take marijuana across state lines.  And perhaps most critically, the industry has undertaken numerous steps to ensure children and teenagers don’t have access to legal marijuana. Retail shops enforce stringent ID policies, and the industry has educated adults on ways to keep marijuana in their homes locked away from kids.  The industry has also worked with state regulators and elected officials to ensure edibles have childproof packaging and do not include forms appealing to children, such as animals, people or fruit.

We are encouraged that youth marijuana use in the state has not increased and that the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health actually shows a 12 percent reduction.  And while we are also encouraged to see the number of drivers the Colorado State Patrol considered impaired by marijuana drop 21 percent in the first half of 2017 as compared to same time period the year before, we support the development of reliable detection technology and data collection to make our roads safer.

People may think they know Colorado’s cannabis industry. But too often, it is the stereotypes and one-dimensional portrayals of the industry that shape public perception. As business leaders who believe that a responsible cannabis industry is an integral part of Colorado’s community, we aim to change that perception through public education and fact-based discussions.


9Mansion.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 19, 20173min315

It’s a marriage made over marijuana; specifically, Colorado voters’ decision to legalize it in 2012, and the federal government’s seeming inability to accept it.

Colorado U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, the Aurora Republican, and Diana DeGette, the Denver Democrat, are again joining forces to push back at Donald Trump over pot just as they did against Barack Obama, reports Denverite’s Adrian Garcia.

Their “Respect States and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017,” which they introduced in Congress this week, would make clear that Colorado and other states have the right to blaze their own trails on matters like marijuana policy. They filed the legislation in response to statements by Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions that suggest he might start a crackdown.

The two lawmakers have filed the same legislation before, in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Here’s Coffman — who opposed legalization but says he respects the will of his state’s voters — as quoted by Denverite:

“Since this is clearly not a matter of interstate commerce, I believe that the people of Colorado had every right, under the U.S. Constitution, to decide this issue for themselves, and as their representative in Congress, I have an obligation to respect the will of the people of Colorado and that’s why I’m reintroducing this bill with Congresswoman DeGette.”

And DeGette:

“My colleagues and I — along with our constituents — spoke out frequently during the Obama administration to make clear we didn’t want the federal government denying money to our states or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens … Lately, we’ve had even more reason for these concerns, given Trump administration statements.”

No guess as to the bill’s prospects this time around.