Sunday, November 18, 2012

Advances on Many Fronts Following Passage of Colorado's MJ Law

Rep. Diana Degette has advanced the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ to exempt states like Colorado and Washington from the Federal Controlled Substances Act provision governing marijuana

Multiple advances are being made following the passage of Colorado's Amendment 64 on November 6th, allowing for the recreational use of marijuana (1 oz or under) for those 21 years or older. While the initial implementation phase is still about 30 days from now, legal progress is being made as lawmakers, DAs, prosecutors grasp that the PEOPLE have spoken and with a 55%-45%  clarity FOR recreational use and state regulated retail outlets.

Among the more noteworthy initiatives with possible national implications is U.S. Rep. Diana Degette's bipartisan legislation, introduced on Friday which would ensure the marijuana-legalization passing states are not overrun by federal interlopers seeking to overturn the laws ('DeGette Pushes Pot Bill', The Denver Post', Nov. 17, p. 4A). As Ms. Degette put it:

"My constituents have spoken and I don't want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens."

Bingo! And I imagine this savvy lawmaker also grasps that any such draconian strategies will not be lost on the many youth who voted for the Amendment - as well as Obama and the Dems! 

Degette's legislation is coined 'The Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act'. 

Never mind the 'States' Rights' misnomer (states actually have prerogatives, not rights) the bill seeks to exempt states that have legalized pot from the marijuana provisions of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.  Interestingly, even one of the most conservative Republicans in Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman, now stands behind the act where he once opposed it (prior to the election). As he noted (ibid.):

"I strongly opposed the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obliged to support this legislation."

All very noble and sincere-sounding, but I suspect a more powerful underlying reason is he saw the pro-initiative votes at 55% and realized they were more than most congressional reps up for re-election received, on either side of the aisle. Hence, those who joust against the implementation of the initiative are liable to be punished later - with their parties - at the polls!

Meanwhile, Degette's proposed legislation comes on the same day a handful of members from the state's congressional delegation were part of a coalition of lawmakers who sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to respect the new voter-approved laws in Colorado and Washington. In the letter, as the Post noted, all the lawmkers wrote that:

"it would be a mistake for the federal government to 'focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law".

Indeed. Of course, the subtext to that is Mr. Holder and his DOJ also showing they respect the rights of the voters proper.

As The Denver Post noted in its editorial 2 days ago, contrary to Gov. Hickenlooper's jokey take after 64's passage ("Let's not all go for the goldfish and cheetos now!") the citizens who voted for 64 were not loopy stoners, but stone-cold sober citizens who understood the prosecution of petty drug possession is a waste of resources, and additionally only adds terrible costs to not only enforcement but incarceration. Beyond that, it's hypocritical given MJ has not caused ONE single death while alcohol use in the state has caused hundreds of DUI incidents, more than half with fatalities. Beyond that, we all recognized that the legalized product in addition to the medical MJ dispensaries, provides badly needed revenues to the tune of over $170m a year.

Interestingly, 'Hick' (who has interests in a brew co.) wrote a letter to AG Holder, co-signed with Colorado AG John Suthers, not defending the voters' will like Diana Degette, but opting for a craven pitch that "emphasized punitive actions the feds could take like 'blocking the implementation of Amendment 64' and 'prosecuting growth and retail operations'" ('Kowtowing to Federal Authority', Vince Carroll in The Denver Post, today, p. 3D). Anyone wanna bet that Hick's tenure may not be overly long if he goes along with such a cowardly tack?

Finally, Degette's and Colorado lawmakers move comes two days after Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett made headlines when he announced his office "will dismiss any pending cases that deal with less than an ounce of marijuana. " (Denver Post, Nov. 16, 'Limits on Pot Prosecution', page 4A)  This was just before Denver prosecutors vowed to no longer charge those 21 and older for carrying less than an ounce of mairjuana.

Of course, the state still has its hardasses (as opposed to known conflict-of-interest clowns)  who will wait until the last minute and the last dog is hung to get off their keysters. One notable case is Weld County DA Ken Buck who said in a statement Thursday that his office has an obligation "to prosecute offenses that were crimes at the time they occurred". Recall this is the same character who ran for a Senate seat in '10 and insisted his same office would only prosecute rape cases if it could be shown they were "forcible rape". Hmmm.....anybody wondering why he lost?

Despite the usual state knuckledraggers like Buck,  progress is being made, and hopefully, once the law is fully implemented it will be seen that what has transpired was true citizen-mediated democracy in action. If our own democratic values and aspiration for other nations mean anything, this new law ought to stand!

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