Marijuana: John Hickenlooper-Eric Holder A64 call still a mystery despite activist's efforts
Editor's note: Medical marijuana critic William Breathes's latest review, which is usually published at 4:20 p.m. on Thursdays, has not quite finished curing; look for it in this space soon.
In the meantime, we share the story of a marijuana activist and his efforts to discover what was said during a key conversation between Colorado's governor and the U.S. Attorney General....
Shortly after Amendment 64's passage, Governor John Hickenlooper participated in a conference call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, presumably to talk about the contradictions between A64 and federal law. Afterward, Hickenlooper released a brief statement about the chat, but no details have emerged, prompting a months-long effort by one activist to find out what was said. He's frustrated by what he sees as governmental stonewalling.
Long before the birth of the Occupy movement, however, Donahue was well known in the marijuana-reform community for his aggressive pursuit of change. In July 2011, for instance, he was arrested after disrupting a Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act meeting. Shortly thereafter, he was named on a warrant after allegedly taking Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division public records without paying for them.
Unsurprisingly, Donahue wasn't satisfied with the following statement, released by Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown after the November 9 conversation involving the governor, Holder and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers:
Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers talked to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by phone [Friday]. They emphasized the need for the federal government to articulate what its position will be related to Amendment 64. Everyone shared a sense of urgency and agreed to continue talking about the issue.
From Donahue's perspective, the real urgency in this case involved a need for full disclosure -- so he filed a Colorado Open Records Act request asking for access to any information about the teleconference.
Finally, last week, Donahue received a reply from the office of Stephanie Donner, Hickenlooper's deputy legal counsel: No records were responsive to his inquiry. When he followed up to ask specifically about the possible existence of minutes or recordings, Donner replied via e-mail, "The Governor did have a conversation with the Justice Department, however, there are no documents or recordings from that conversation."
Donahue's reaction to this rejection speaks to his frustration.
"This was a secret meeting between Governor Nixonlooper and the federal government regarding the implementation of Amendment 64 (Use and Regulation of Marijuana) to the Colorado Constitution," Donahue writes in an e-mail to Westword. "If this meeting, which took place less than a week after Colorado amended the constitution, is not of vital public interest, then what is? What was said in the meeting? I know what they said, was said, but without any recording how can we be sure.
"Didn't President Nixon resign because he erased sixteen minutes of a conversation?" he goes on, before referencing past open-records requests. "Yet we have the MMED erasing e-mails, the Governor's office having no e-mails between them and the MMED, and now Governor Nixonlooper has a meeting with the Department of Justice, which has time and again cracked down on Colorado. How many Department of Justice letters were sent to shut down dispensaries?
"I wish I could say this was a surprise, but the state and the federal government have been completely opaque about allowing any real oversight by the public regarding marijuana. By denying access to these documents and conversation, the Government of Colorado and of the United States are actively thwarting the will of the public."
One more thing: Donahue wonders, "Did the Department of Justice mention in the conversation with Governor Nixonlooper that they will in fact go after growers and distributers in Colorado?" -- a reference to a statement made by drug czar Gil Kerlikowske during a recent interview.
Thus far, Donahue doesn't have the answer. But you can bet he won't stop demanding one.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Medical marijuana activist Corey Donahue carves a niche in Occupy Denver's kitchen."
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