Marijuana advocate: Each day feds are silent about Amendment 64 is a good one

It's been over six months since voters approved Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of marijuana, and the Obama administration still hasn't weighed in on the measure.

Last week, we speculated that the delays would continue thanks to current scandals that touch upon the Justice Department, and one of the main A64 proponents won't complain if they do.

"Really, every day that passes that the federal government does not say anything about Amendment 64 is just fine with me," notes Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente, one of the law's main authors and co-director of the campaign for the proposal. By the feds' silence, he adds, "they're allowing this to move forward."

As we've pointed out, marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning its use for all purposes, including medical ones, remains illegal federally.

Because Amendment 64 is in direct conflict with this edict, Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to provide guidance for the state during a conference call shortly after the election. However, their sense of urgency hasn't been matched in Washington.

In March, Holder promised that an A64 decision would be coming soon. But more than two months have passed since then -- and brewing scandals involving spying on the phone calls of Associated Press reporters and alleged targeting of Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service are expected to dominate Holder's attention for the foreseeable future.

That leaves marijuana-scene observers to guess at what the feds will do based on indirect evidence, like President Barack Obama's recent comments in Mexico about his disinterest in legalizing drugs. But Vicente is glad officials in Colorado chose to take steps toward the implementation of Amendment 64, via several new pieces of legislation currently awaiting Hickenlooper's signature, rather than stalling until the Justice Department acted.

The feds "haven't come out and said they're going to shut it down," Vicente stresses. "So I think they're allowing these laws and various interests to get more entrenched."

Not that Vicente is wholly disinterested in the feds' ultimate decision.

Continue for more of our interview with marijuana proponent Brian Vicente. "We're always somewhat concerned about what the federal government will do," Vicente concedes. "But really, their silence on this issue speaks volumes."

How does Vicente interpret the lack of an Amendment 64 response to date?

"It's an implicit support of these law changes," he allows.

Still, he goes on, "that doesn't mean people who get into this area -- people who possess marijuana, or business owners -- shouldn't be concerned about some degree of risk. But I think we're in better shape than we've been historically, because the federal government didn't come out with guns blazing about these laws."

Should entrepreneurs be concerned about future federal action? After all, the feds allowed a boom in medical marijuana dispensaries in 2009 through 2011 only to begin 2012 with shutdown-threat letters to dozens of dispensaries with 1,000 feet of schools.

"There's always some degree of risk," Vicente concedes. "But I think the risk is now less than it was six months ago, or six years ago.

"Business owners should be cautious," he goes on, "But at the same time, I think the winds are in our sails. Two states have legalized recreational marijuana" -- at least within limitations -- "and more and more states are passing medical marijuana laws. So at the end of the day, I think this will be a business opportunity."

He feels the same way about Amendment 64 in general. In his words, "this is an area with a lot of promise."

Especially since Eric Holder may be to busy to throw a spanner in the works.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana decision from feds unlikely in near future due to reporter spying, Tea Party scandals."

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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

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