Marijuana Q&A with Rico Colibri: "This isn't legalization.... This is regulation"

This week's multi-part cover story about the state of the state of marijuana takes a look at Amendment 64 and how legislators will address implementing the legalization of small amounts of cannabis and the shops that will sell it. Our print edition also features a Q&A with Amendment 64 proponent Mason Tvert. But to get a broader look at the subject, we caught up with several other cannabis activists, as well as representatives of business groups, to get their take on A64 and the challenges ahead. Today's interview: Rico Colibri, founder of the Cannabis Alliance for Regulation and Education.

Westword: Five years ago, where did you see Colorado with regard to cannabis legalization by 2013? Do you think the state has met that goal with Amendment 64?

Rico Colibri: As longtime activists, we have always been pro-marijuana commerce. That is the point of all of this. It was the grassroots component that added commerce to Amendment 20 [the state medical marijuana laws]. We have always been fighting toward this. We knew this could happen -- and that's why I campaigned against the loose language of 64. I knew that it wasn't a matter of if it was going to happen -- but how it was going to happen is what I've been concerned about. I knew something was going to happen. If it didn't happen in 2012, it was going to happen in 2014. Is it going the right way? So far, so good. I'd have to wait until [Governor] Hickenlooper stamps something to feel fully confident. But the wind is generally blowing in the right direction -- which I'm amazed at, because we have all of these people in the industry fighting against us, trying to do this weird protectionist stuff, and so far all of it has been knocked down. We have to start somewhere. Right now I'm very enthusiastic about the starting point.

WW: Where do we go from here as a state? What is the biggest challenge you see going forward? What still needs to be done?

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RC: We had issues with 64, and it passed and that's the will of the voters and now we are trying our best to address everything we were concerned about. What needs to be done is to do what the voters said: regulate it like alcohol. We're still far from that mark, but we're definitely closer than the task force recommendations were.

WW: What is important for Colorado citizens to know about cannabis legalization?

RC: I think the most important thing they need to realize -- as I was saying during the campaign -- is that this isn't legalization, that this is regulation. Full legalization can only occur when it's de-federalized. The gold ring that we are all going for has not occurred yet. People shouldn't just relax, get really high and feel happy. Right now we have the perfect storm. We have President Obama, we have a Democratic-controlled state government, we have the voter's will and we need to make sure they implement the voter's will. It's like we're in the championship round of a boxing match, but we haven't won yet. If you are an activist, one of the best things you can do is at least set an example for responsible use. That is what was voted in. And maybe oil rigs [hash-smoking pipes] in Civic Center park don't really qualify.

WW: Anything else you'd like to add?

RC: I think the most important component for the average person is the social-use component. Everyone who voted yes, voted yes for a marijuana bar. "Like alcohol" means "like a bar," and they, like, voted yes. We haven't secured that part of the victory yet, but I don't think it's out of reach. We might not get it this session, but we are definitely trying.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana Q&A with Laura Kriho" and "Denver 4/20 rally schedule."

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