Update: We've now received a response from Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch regarding persistent reports from multiple medical marijuana industry sources that Dan Hartman will depart as director of the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division at day's end. Couch's prepared statement doesn't contradict our previous reporting, but neither does it provide specifics. Instead, it hints at more changes to come.
The statement reads:
The Department has new executive leadership, both at the executive director and senior director of the Division of Enforcement levels. With new leadership, there is generally a desire to review the organizational structure and determine if additional movement would be appropriate in order to create cross-training opportunities and bench strength. The senior director of enforcement is reviewing his organization and will announce some decisions within the next week.
The new executive director is Barbara Brohl. She's the state official charged with asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to designate marijuana a Schedule II controlled substance under the provisions of House Bill 1284, Colorado's main MMJ regulatory measure. Brohl was appointed to the position by Governor John Hickenlooper in June.
The senior director of the Division of Enforcement? That's George Thomson, taking over for Matt Cook, who became a medical marijuana industry consultant after leaving his state gig at the end of June.
The statement doesn't directly address Hartman's position, but neither does it dispute the contention that he's leaving MMED -- and that's telling. Presumably, we'll get more details next week. However, it's unlikely the information will reveal whether his departure came as a result of a controversial op-ed on view below, or if one of the other wild rumors currently flying back and forth between industry types was a factor.
Look for William Breathes's previous coverage below.
Original item by William Breathes, 5:12 p.m. October 27: Today, multiple medical marijuana industry sources tell us Dan Hartman will no longer head the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division after tomorrow. At this writing, neither MMED nor Department of Revenue reps have responded to interview requests; if and when they do, we'll update this post. But while our sources disagree about whether Hartman was canned or stepped down, most agree his impending departure is connected to an op-ed piece he wrote that was published by several newspapers.
The piece, published in communities that are considering medical marijuana retail bans, takes a pro-MMJ industry stance. Here's an excerpt from the item published in Steamboat Today on October 13: "If your community bans commercial medical marijuana businesses... you will only remove the regulated medical marijuana distribution model from your community."
Politics aside, the fact that an appointed state official would be advocating for medical marijuana in our communities is pretty mind blowing to me. I'm not alone. As one Facebook commenter wrote: "I gotta say this is an affront to honesty on the part of the MMED if this is grounds for firing the Director."
It's easy to imagine the op-ed pissing off quite a few people ahead of Hartman in the political food chain -- folks who might have interpreted it as a state official pushing dangerous drugs in our communities, or shilling for the very industry he's charged with overseeing, and that he might one day join. Example of the latter: Matt Cook, the state's former medical pot director, who became a medical marijuana consultant after leaving public office.
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Even though Hartman's departure has not yet been confirmed, lots of people in the online cannabis community are already predicting a ball-busting, by-the-books hardass replacement to steer the Good Ship Ganja back into more conservative waters.
Below is a complete copy of Hartman's letter:
I am the director of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED) of the Colorado Department of Revenue, and I want to make you fully aware how your vote will affect the availability of medical marijuana in your community. In 2000, the citizens of Colorado voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana, and therefore, the ability for lawfully registered patients to obtain and use medical marijuana within your community will not change. If your community bans commercial medical marijuana businesses (centers, cultivations and infused-product manufacturers) you will only remove the regulated medical marijuana distribution model from your community.
Our agency is tasked with building and maintaining a transparent and unambiguous regulatory scheme within which Colorado's commercial medical marijuana industry will operate. Law enforcement officers who are criminal investigators determine if an applicant (owner) is able to meet statutory requirements by conducting extensive background investigations that delve into each applicant's financial, criminal and personal history. These investigations ensure industry members meet statutory requirements such as financial stability and good character. Individuals who work as employees or vendors also must pass background checks to obtain an MMED occupational license allowing them to work within this industry.
The MMED regulatory compliance staff is made up of law enforcement criminal investigators and auditors who monitor commercial medical marijuana from seed to sale. Business owners must account for each plant introduced to growth medium to its final sale to a patient. They must install and maintain 24-hour video surveillance systems in each location, and they must adhere to stringent accounting controls and practices. Businesses are required to submit online reports and maintain extensive records on all product grown and any transactions or transfers that take place with their medical marijuana inventory. This regulatory scheme creates a closed system in which the product may be obtained and transferred only between these heavily regulated businesses. We partner with state and federal authorities and law enforcement to address concerns, stop illegal activity and, perhaps most importantly, provide a bright line to determine if a medical marijuana business is operating within this regulatory scheme.
Be aware that Colorado's constitution ensures that lawfully registered patients may grow their own medical marijuana or obtain it from a caregiver. This right will not be affected by your vote to ban medical marijuana businesses. While caregivers are required to register their cultivation location with us, they are not under our jurisdiction and we cannot regulate their activities.
Citizens and law enforcement agencies in areas that have enacted bans have contacted us asking why we do not take action against those operating unlawfully within their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, communities that vote to ban commercial medical marijuana operations also ban the MMED from regulating and monitoring any and all medical marijuana activity within their community. Only those businesses operating within areas that allow for commercial medical marijuana will be regulated and monitored by the MMED.
I want Colorado citizens to truly understand what they are voting for or against. This ban will not remove medical marijuana from your community, but it will prevent the MMED from being able to help ensure that medical marijuana sales are regulated, monitored, safe, secure and taxed.
Director, Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: 9 license rejections, 50 fines, says enforcement division's Dan Hartman."