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The Ten Biggest Marijuana Stories of 2017

Colorado's relationship with pot continued to grow in 2017.
Colorado's relationship with pot continued to grow in 2017. Danielle Lirette
Marijuana gained a very vocal opponent in January in Jeff Sessions, the country's new attorney general. Though Sessions has yet to make good on his word to end legalized cannabis in the U.S., he alludes to it constantly, making a lot of cannabis-industry folks sweat. Sessions isn't marijuana's only perceived enemy. Medical marijuana users and growers went on the defensive after Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill limiting how many plants they could grow.

Marijuana news of 2017 wasn't all negative, however. A report showed that consolidation in the industry is on the rise, a sign of its prosperity (depending on how you look at things), and Colorado officially deemed PTSD a condition treatable by medical marijuana.

And as of late December, Sessions had yet to touch our marijuana industry. We consider that a win. Keep reading for more of the biggest marijuana stories in Colorado this year.

1. Jeff Sessions!
The attorney general has been the cause of pot entrepreneurs' nightmares since taking office in January, making remarks and moves to tamp down the rising support for federal cannabis legalization. In April, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington sent a letter to Sessions, asking him to respect states' rights and to consult with state governments operating under the Cole Memo. In June, MassRoots reporter Tom Angell published a letter that Sessions had sent to congressional leaders asking them to undo the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which grants federal protections for medical marijuana. Sessions has continued his anti-marijuana crusade, supported by dubious statistics and anecdotal science.


2. The saga of social cannabis consumption continues.
Social marijuana consumption licenses were approved by Denver voters in November 2016, but the drama didn't really begin until 2017. The city established a committee to implement the new initiative, and the fights took off from there. Location restrictions, required ventilation, neighborhood-association approval, and dual consumption of pot and alcohol were just some of the contentious points brought up during committee meetings. Rules were finalized in June, and the city began accepting applications in August. However, proponents of the initiative say those rules don't reflect its intent, and they charge that location restrictions will kill the program's chances of succeeding. As of December, the city had received only one application for a social consumption permit.

click to enlarge United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a history of opposing cannabis use. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/MARK REINSTEIN
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a history of opposing cannabis use.
Shutterstock.com/mark reinstein
3. The state shrinks home grows.
The state Senate unanimously approved HB 1220 on March 29, lowering the number of plants a medical patient or caregiver can grow in a residential area. Senator Bob Gardner sponsored the bill to cut down on outsized grows, which could become tools of cartels, he said at the time. Although residential recreational grows are capped at twelve pants, medical patients and registered caregivers were allowed up to 99 plants unless local rules dictate otherwise. Hickenlooper signed the bill into law in April, with many medical marijuana advocates, caregivers and patients saying it was a greedy attempt to squeeze them out.

4. The 420 Rally gets messy.
What a long, strange trip the Denver 420 Rally has taken this year. After a disastrous gathering at Civic Center Park that included long security lines, broken fences and overflowing trash cans, 420 Rally organizers Miguel Lopez and Santino Walter were banned from applying for an event permit for three years. Lopez, Walter and their attorney, Rob Corry, appealed the ban in September, but the appeal was denied in November. During the appeal, Euflora dispensary owner Pepe Breton sued Walter's production company for unpaid debts related to the rally and had a Euflora employee camp outside the Denver Parks and Recreation building every day until the department began accepting event-permit applications in an attempt to take over the permit. Early on November 21, Michael Ortiz — a known associate of Lopez — snagged the permit in a foot race to the application window (as seen in an excellent breakdown by 9News), with Euflora representatives very vocal about their displeasure with the city's handling of the issue. Ortiz's attorney, also Corry, threatened to send Euflora a cease-and-desist letter in early December, and Lopez recently filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver after losing his appeal. We don't blame you if you're confused; we're still sorting through the bullshit, too.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell