Pot legalization: Rob Corry asks Dan Maes, Tom Tancredo, John Hickenlooper if they'll back it

Today, medical marijuana attorney Rob Corry sent a letter to the three best-known gubernatorial candidates -- John Hickenlooper, Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo -- asking them two weed-related questions: Would they support a law preventing the legislature from using MMJ funds like a piggy bank? And would they back the legalization, regulation and taxing of pot for adult use?

In Corry's view, the potential use of millions in medical marijuana fees to help plug a budget gap has fueled a new push for marijuana legalization. Hence, he sees his two questions as related.

The candidate most likely to answer affirmatively to at least one of Corry's queries? Tancredo, who's already publicly stated that he opposes continued prohibition against cannabis. But Corry clearly sees his arguments as nonpartisan.

Here's his letter:

September 9, 2010

Mayor John Hickenlooper 789 Sherman St. Suite 110
 Denver, CO 80203 [email protected]

Dan Maes 11 W. Hampden Ave Englewood, CO 80013 [email protected]

Congressman Tom Tancredo 9600 E Arapahoe Rd. Suite 212. Greenwood Village, CO 80112 [email protected]

Re: Medical Marijuana

Dear Gubernatorial Candidates:

Coloradoans are suffering from debilitating economic conditions. However, one homegrown Colorado industry is creating jobs, occupying vacant commercial space, infusing federal, state, and local governments with sales taxes, income taxes, and licensing fees, and otherwise helping to alleviate the symptoms of Colorado's sick economy. This summer, Colorado's Medical Marijuana industry paid the Colorado Department of Revenue approximately $8,200,000.00 in Medical Marijuana Business application fees in compliance with new State legislation. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the agency responsible for processing Medical Marijuana patient applications under Article XVIII § 14 of the Colorado Constitution, has also seen a sharp influx in new patient applications.

Colorado Medical Marijuana patients must pay an annual $90.00 application fee to be placed on the Medical Marijuana Registry. The State estimates that approximately 150,000 patients/voters will apply to the Medical Marijuana Registry in 2010. Consequently, the State expects to receive more than $13,000,000 from Medical Marijuana Registry applications this year, which does not include the much larger figures for sales taxes and permitting fees. However, the Medical Marijuana Registry program has been so severely understaffed that many patients applying to the Registry must wait upwards of eight months to receive their registry cards.

Instead of ordering the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to satisfy its constitutional duties and adequately staff its floundering Registry program, Governor Bill Ritter has proposed a transfer of $9,000,000 from the Medical Marijuana Program Fund into the State's General Fund to help balance the State's $60 million revenue shortfall for 2010-2011. This proposal is unconstitutional. The Colorado Constitution Article XVIII § 14 mandates that "the state health agency [CDPHE] may determine and levy reasonable fees to pay for any direct or indirect administrative costs associated with its role in [the Medical Marijuana Program]." This clause does not permit the State to use the fees levied upon patients to balance the State's budget because this would not be an administrative cost nor associated with the CDPHE's role in the Medical Marijuana Program.

I write as an attorney active in serving the Medical Marijuana community for the past decade, and I currently represent many patients and caregivers. My lengthy involvement with this issue is documented on my website The Medical Marijuana industry is "growing up" and weighing in on political races. My personal endorsements are non-partisan, and based on individual candidates' personal integrity and positions on the issues. For example, this election cycle I have personally endorsed, contributed the maximum amount of $1050.00 to, and have held or will hold fundraising events for, both Democratic candidate Stan Garnett for Attorney General, and Republican candidate Scott Gessler for Secretary of State.

As part of our community's efforts to support a particular candidate for Governor, we would appreciate your response to the following questions by September 16, 2010:

1.) As Governor, would you veto a proposal similar to Governor Ritter's proposal to draw funds from the Medical Marijuana Program for the general fund?

The prevalence of Medical Marijuana has stoked the fire for outright legalization of marijuana. California voters will decide this issue in the November elections. Colorado voters may face the same issue in 2012. The State of Colorado could benefit greatly by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult recreational use: Law enforcement resources would be liberated to fight and prosecute actual crimes, the power welded by drug gangs and organized criminals would be substantially reduced, and the sales tax generated by the legal, regulated sale would soothe the State's fiscal woes.

Two of you have taken actions or positions either directly or indirectly on these issues. Congressman Tancredo supports legalization, and stated, "I just don't see any great move for Prohibition anymore." Mayor Hickenlooper -- while presiding over one of the most marijuana-friendly cities in the world, which has voted to either legalize or de-prioritize marijuana four times -- has come under fire for giving an appointment to Denver's marijuana commission to Lt. Ernie Martinez, who believes that "[t]hose who want to legalize drugs weaken our collective struggle against this scourge of our society. Like a cancer, proponents for legalization eat away at society's resolve and moral fiber."

2.) Should marijuana be legalized, taxed, and regulated for adult recreational use similar to alcohol?

Thank you for your consideration of these important questions. Please provide your written answers to Travis Simpson of my staff at [email protected] Please feel free to email Mr. Simpson or me with any questions. Thank you for your time.


Robert J. Corry, Jr. Attorney at Law

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