Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division's Dan Hartman reassigned in favor of Laura Harris

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Update below: Last week's reports from industry sources that Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division director Dan Hartman would be leaving his post have now been confirmed. However, Hartman's not out of a job. He's been reassigned within the Department of Revenue, with another Revenue veteran, Laura Harris, taking over for him at MMED.

Here's the skinny from Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch, via voicemail.

"Laura Harris, who is currently the director of the Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division, will be assuming the duties of Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division director effective on November 14," he said. "Don Burmania, who is currently the director of the Division of Racing Events, will move to be the director of the Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division on that day. And Dan Hartman will move from the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division to be the director of the Division of Racing Events."

Why the shifts? Couch had previously answered questions about Hartman's rumored departure with a prepared statement that discussed new leadership: executive director Barbara Brohl and Division of Enforcement director George Thomson. Following such changes at the top, he said, "there is generally a desire to review the organizational structure and determine if additional movement would be appropriate in order to create cross-training opportunities and bench strength."

This explanation is unlikely to satisfy Hartman supporters. Expect speculation that the real motivation for these shifts was the sense that he had grown too cozy with the medical marijuana industry he was charged with regulating, as demonstrated by letters published in cities considering MMJ retail bans in today's election. Those documents found Hartman quietly lobbying to reject such measures, because prohibiting the dispensary model would leave such communities in an essentially unregulated environment.

We've made an interview request with Couch in the hope that he can elaborate on the statement above now that the changes have been finalized. When he gets back to us, we'll update this post. In the meantime, here's a bio of Harris from a June 2010 page for an event called the Sociable City Forum:

Laura has been employed with the Colorado Department of Revenue since 1983. She has been with the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue since 1989, and was appointed as Division Director in September 2007. She began her career with the division as an investigator, specializing in Trade Practices regulation and complex financial investigations. In 2002, she moved into liquor licensing, and became Licensing Director in 2004. Laura also spent the last two years managing the tobacco enforcement program, and has acquired a specialty in state tobacco enforcement. Given her 18 years of experience in all aspects of alcohol beverage regulation, Laura is intimate with the regulatory issues facing the state of Colorado.

She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, is a Colorado Certified Peace Officer, and Certified Fraud Examiner.

Page down for our update. Update, 10:28a.m. November 1: Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch offers more details about the reason for assorted changes at the DOR, including Dan Hartman's move from the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division to the Division of Racing Events, and Laura Harris's shift to MMED.

"Barbara Brohl became executive director" of the DOR "in mid-July," he says, "and one of her assignments in taking this task for the Governor's Office was to review the organizational structure of the entire department.

"She's already made some moves at the executive director's office level. She created a chief administrative officer position, and that position will oversee human resources and some other functions of the department. In addition to that, she appointed a deputy executive director, promoting someone who had been the deputy of the taxation section.

"The department is split up in four groups -- taxation, the DMV, the enforcement business group and the lottery -- and in regard to that, she's been assigned to look at their organization structure, making sure people are doing the jobs they're supposed to be doing, and that we have proper management of the entire department. The task has been assigned to the division directors as well, and as a group, they've been looking at changes since she's been here."

Does that mean Hartman's letters arguing against a medical marijuana retail ban had no impact on the shifts? Rather than directly answering this question, Couch stresses the timeline: "Barbara has been here since mid-July, and she's been reviewing the organizational structure since she's been here."

As for why Harris was a logical choice to head up MMED, Couch cites the information in her bio included above, plus a few other factoids. For instance, he says "she's a graduate of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Criminal Investigator training program." As such, he notes, "the scope of her career gives her many strengths that she brings to the job."

Do the changes at the top of various DOR divisions portend changes in policy? "We administer the law," Couch points out, while "the lawmakers set it. So if they determine that there's a shift in policy, we're the ones who implement it."

Otherwise, presumably, it's business as usual -- but with different folks in charge.

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: 9 license rejections, 50 fines, says enforcement division's Dan Hartman."

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