Marijuana activist objects to Amendment 64 task force member calling for fed crackdown

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As we've reported, the first meeting of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force is slated for noon today. But even before that initial session, a marijuana activist is protesting the inclusion of one task force member, Colorado Concern's Tamra Ward. Why? Because her signature is the first on letters from business groups calling for the federal government to crack down on the very measure she's supposed to be working to implement.

As our Sam Levin reported earlier this month, the letters were sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers by a coalition of twenty business groups opposed to legalization. They encourage the feds to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, which currently states that marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic whose use is illegal.

The three letters are on view below in their entirety, but here's an excerpt from the one addressed to Holder:

The Colorado business community, as represented by the signatory organizations noted below, seeks clarity from the Department of Justice with regard to your intentions to enforce federal law under your prosecutorial discretion.

The provisions of Amendment 64 are in direct conflict with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and other provisions of federal law. The CSA clearly states that federal law preempts state law when there is a positive conflict between the two jurisdictions....

Consequently, we encourage the enforcement of the CSA, to provide the certainty and clarity of law we seek.

To Mark Slaugh, membership director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, Ward's position on the issue, expressed as president and CEO of Colorado Concern, makes her wholly unsuited to participate on a task force charged with implementing the measure. Hence, his note Friday to Hickenlooper's legal counsel, sent under the heading "Conflict of Interest." We've included that note below as well -- but when asked about his concerns, Slaugh says, "Tamra signed off on a letter that's basically asking the federal government to come in and enforce the Controlled Substances Act not just on Amendment 64, but also on the hundreds of businesses in Colorado that are operating on medical cannabis centers.

"This action is contrary to the goals of these business groups," he adds. "These groups are dedicated to increasing economic development for their regions and increasing job opportunities to strengthen our local economies. So her taking the position to essentially throw the industry under the federal bus threatens literally thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic stimulus that our industry has provided."

Continue to read more about the task force, and to see letters calling for federal intervention. In Slaugh's opinion, "there are real questions about what side she is on -- the side of Colorado and the majority of voters asking this to be regulated like alcohol, or on the side of asking the federal government to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and derail the very efforts she's supposed to be taking as a representative member of the governor's task force."

At this writing, Slaugh has not received a response from Governor Hickenlooper's office in regard to his concerns about Ward. But he'll be attending today's meeting and plans to listen closely for evidence that the task force is fulfilling its stated mission.

Slaugh is also troubled by what he sees as the under-representation of the Colorado Springs area, and Southern Colorado as a whole, on the task force. The only person from the area to be named is Representative-elect Dan Nordberg, a Republican and former aid of hardcore conservative Congressman Kevin Lamborn -- hardly known as a big booster of marijuana legalization.

He notes that "we've always been a little different from Denver in the way our advocacy has worked down here -- the way our patients are viewed and businesses are advertised. It's a different climate, and I think there should be more representation for a region that's the second largest in the state for the medical marijuana industry."

Likewise, he thinks the business groups represented on the task force, including Colorado Concern, are more interested in providing a voice for big employers, not the small businesses that dominate the medical marijuana industry and may have similar opportunities should retail operations for recreational cannabis be allowed to move forward.

As for Ward, he believes "the conflict of interest is pretty clear."

We'll be covering today's meeting and hope to get comment from Ward about Slaugh's concerns.

Continue to see Mark Slaugh's notes to Hickenlooper's legal counsel and letters to the Department of Justice and President Barack Obama (plus Hickenlooper and AG John Suthers) calling for federal intervention. Letter from Mark Slaugh to Governor John Hickenlooper's legal counsel:

My name is Mark Slaugh and I work as the membership director for the largest cannabis industry organization in Southern Colorado. We are experienced in working with business owners and governments to ensure responsible implementation of Cannabis policy at the local level.

In reviewing your list of Legal Panel members that will be meeting Monday, a concern came up to an obvious conflict of interest with one of your members. I've attached a letter sent less than one month after the passage of Amendment 64 from a misinformed and reactionary group of business folks requesting the Department of Justice to subvert the will of the voters by enacting the CSA in Colorado.

As you'll see in the letter, Concern Colorado President and CEO Tamara Ward signed off on an invitation for the Federal Government to intervene in Colorado's new law. Unlike letters from your office seeking guidance, this letter attempts to literally throw the Colorado cannabis industry under the federal bus by requesting enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act. Anyone who signed this letter should not be on the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force.

As a business organization who has represented on panels with HR organizations on hiring practices regarding medical cannabis patients, we feel she is unqualified and misinformed on the cannabis issue. Her representation of employers as outlined in this letter is contrary to the Governor's' purpose of the task force. We have copied the media on this fact and ask that you reconsider Ms. Ward as the ideal representative for employers. Her personal position is not conducive to a productive task force working toward the interests of our members, our society, or the voters of Colorado.

Since small businesses comprise most of the job creation in Colorado, we would suggest a member who represents a small business coalition. These small enterprises account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and would be more representative of the employers of Colorado. These business people have not attempted to thwart the job creation and economic development of the Colorado Cannabis industry. Additionally, your board could use more representation from Southern Colorado as Dan Nordberg is the only person on the task force from our region. Perhaps the SBDC in Pueblo or Colorado Springs may be able to offer a more ideal representative.

Thank you for understanding this obvious conflict of interest, we look forward to your response.

Letter to the Department of Justice:

Letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Letter to President Barack Obama:

Letter to President Barack Obama

Letter to Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers:

Letter to Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64: Business organizations ask feds to clamp down on Colorado marijuana measure."

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