A week after John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 into law, and four days after President Barack Obama said that the feds have bigger fish to fry than prosecuting recreational users of pot in states that have made it legal, Colorado's Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64 will have its first meeting. Welcome to the mild, wild West.
That task force, set up by executive order, has just over two months to recommend how all the provisions of Amendment 64 -- which legalizes limited personal use, possession and home-growing of marijuana under Colorado law for adults 21 years of age and older -- be addressed. "Voters were loud and clear on election day," Hickenlooper said at the signing. "We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."
According to the executive order establishing the task force: "All stakeholders share an interest in creating efficient and effective regulations that provide for the responsible development of the new marijuana laws. As such, there is a need to create a task force through which we can coordinate and create a regulatory structure that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado."
The task force will be co-chaired by Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel for the governor (and a smart, fair strategist) and Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, which already has responsibility for much regulation of this state's medical-marijuana business. The other members:
• Rep. Dan Pabon, appointed by the incoming Speaker of the House; • Sen. Cheri Jahn, appointed by the incoming President of the Senate; • Rep.-elect Dan Nordberg, appointed by the incoming House Minority Leader; • Sen.-elect Vicki Marble, appointed by the incoming Senate Minority Leader; • David Blake, representing the Colorado Attorney General; • Kevin Bommer, representing the Colorado Municipal League; • Eric Bergman, representing Colorado Counties Inc.; • Chris Urbina, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; • James Davis, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety; • John Salazar, the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture; • Ron Kammerzell, the Senior Director responsible for the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division; • Christian Sederberg, representing the campaign to pass Amendment 64; • Meg Sanders, representing the medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation industry; • Craig Small, representing marijuana consumers; • Sam Kamin, a person with expertise in legal issues related to the legalization of marijuana; • Dr. Christian Thurstone, a person with expertise in the treatment of marijuana addiction; • Charles Garcia, representing the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice; • Larry Abrahamson, representing the Colorado District Attorney's Council; • Brian Connors, representing the Colorado State Public Defender; • Daniel Zook, an at-large member from outside of the Denver area; • Tamra Ward, representing the interests of employers; and • Mike Cerbo, representing the interests of employees.
The issues they'll be tackling, according to the governor's office: amending current state and local laws regarding the possession, sale, distribution or transfer of marijuana and marijuana products to conform them to Amendment 64's decriminalization provisions; the need for new regulations for such things as security requirements for marijuana establishments and for labeling requirements; education regarding long-term health effects of marijuana use and harmful effects of marijuana use by those under the age of eighteen; and the impact of Amendment 64 on employers and employees and the Colorado economy.
The task forces will also work to reconcile Colorado and federal laws -- a task that will be easier when the Department of Justice releases a more substantive statement on its stance than fish recipes. In that same interview with Barbara Walters, Obama noted that "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."
On November 14, Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for clarity on the federal government's position related to Amendment 64. Holder promises an answer is coming "relatively soon."
But not soon enough, if the task force is really going to get the job done. The possession and personal cultivation of pot are the easiest parts of Amendment 64 to address; the provisions for any retail sales will be much trickier. "As we move forward now with implementation of Amendment 64, we will try to maintain as much flexibility as possible to accommodate the federal government's position on the amendment," Hickenlooper said at the signing.
All task force meetings are open to the public. The first will be held at noon today, December 17, in the Department of Revenue Gaming Conference Room, 17301 West Colfax Avenue., Suite 135, in Golden.
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Westword will be there. Watch for our report on The Latest Word.
From our archives: "Ask a Stoner: William Breathes answers more questions about Amendment 64 and beyond."