John Suthers's office fires back at marijuana activists over demand to sign ethics pledge

Yesterday, we previewed a media event during which advocates asked that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers sign an ethics pledge pertaining to future commentary on the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. But Suthers wasn't in his office when the paperwork was presented, and he wouldn't have signed it anyway, because of what his spokesman portrays as flaws in the activists' arguments.

The pledge demand turned on letters by just-reassigned Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division director Dan Hartman that opposed MMJ retail bans being proposed in several communities. Suthers described these documents as "unethical," even though he had vigorously opposed 2006 marijuana-related legislation with an op-ed of his own, among other things.

To Mason Tvert, one of Regulate's primary proponents, Suthers's censuring of Hartman was hypocritical. For that reason, he wanted Suthers's promise not to criticize Regulate once it is approved for the November 2012 ballot -- because to do so would be unethical by his own public standards.

Attorney General's Office spokesman Mike Saccone has a very different take.

"We understand why the legalization proponents are attempting to garner press through a publicity stunt," he writes via e-mail. "But what their press release and pledge overlook is a critical distinction between the Attorney General and the source of the column at issue. The Attorney General is a statewide elected official with broad responsibilities versus the head of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, a civil servant whose job it is to be a neutral regulator of an industry. The Attorney General believes that it is problematic for a regulator to be choosing sides in a local election that affects a business that he and his agency collect fees from and oversee.

"The legalization proponents are free to disagree with the Attorney General," he adds. "But their complaint glosses over the difference between two public officials in very different circumstances."

Click here to follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Marijuana archive: "John Suthers, Colorado Attorney General, thinks medical marijuana dispensaries suck -- and here's why."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts