Colorado's Andrew Freedman on Social Use and States Gearing Up for Recreational Pot

Andrew Freedman spends his days neck-deep in cannabis. As the director of the Governor's Office of Marijuana Coordination for Colorado, he knows the ins and outs of just about everything about the drug and how it relates to the state. We just sat down with him to discuss, among other things, Denver's social-use initiative and how the state will be involved in implementation, how states that legalized marijuana in November are building on Colorado's model, and where he thinks Colorado businesses might expand next.

Today you'll have a chance to ask Freedman your own questions during our Facebook Live interview with him at 2 p.m. But first, our own Q&A:

Westword: How have you been involved with social use and implementing Initiative 300 at the state level?

Andrew Freedman: Especially for things like Denver's social use, this has mainly been a local question. I'm not sure that it'll always be a local question, but for the time being, we really let the localities decide what is open and public use and what is not open and public use. When I talk to the responsible-use people, they talk about having a place to do it so people aren't out on the streets and that there is an atmosphere to do it that is fun for them but also allows for more responsible use. I hope that's the way it works out, and that it doesn't increase behavior of over-use and doesn't increase attractiveness to youth, because that's something that's happened around bars, as well. But I think it's part of the experiment.

At a meeting last week, Denver City Council met and discussed, among other things, how to coordinate with the state about implementing 300. Has that coordination started to happen?

We talk with Ashley [Kilroy, director of Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses] at least once a month, and we have a very close relationship. It's so confusing at the state level that I'm sure that there's still some clarity that's needed for the city to know where to go, but we certainly plan on continuing to talk to them and doing whatever is in the best interest of the public health and public safety.

With eight more states legalizing marijuana in one form or another last month, are you getting more questions from other states as they begin to implement these laws?

I think before we were getting a lot of questions on our data — what we were seeing with public health, public safety, youth use. But those were a lot of questions about should you legalize, and now that question has been answered there, so we get a lot fewer of those questions and a lot more, kind of two buckets. One I would say is all the small questions, [like], "How did you deal with when you put the frequencer tag on a plant? Do you have to put it as a seedling, do you have to put it as a clone, and then is there any chance for manipulation?" There are a whole bunch of small questions we get in the hundreds. And then there's the bigger ones, what do we not know that we should know. For all the concrete problems, this is all nebulous—  so they want to know how to go through this and learn from [our] lessons. For the most part, they've been great conversations.

As Colorado businesses begin expanding, where do you see them going next?

Well, Nevada had a very similar medical code up and running, so there's already a framework for them. California is going to be a market, and so I think it is challenging right now and everyone's wondering what's going to happen, but they'll be off to the races when things do get a little more clarity. I haven't heard much about Maine, but I hear a lot about Florida for people wanting medical marijuana.

Watch for Andrew Freedman on the Denver
Westword Facebook page at 2 p.m. today, and have your questions ready.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.