June 27, 2017

Alibi Pierce, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Alibi writes weed news right here at Marijuana Politics, and infrequently updates The Stoner's Journal. You'll find him reviewing weird bands and editorializing here and there and from time to time.

Weed-Driven Prostitution? The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Marijuana Scaremongering Continues

The Gazette is at it again. Not one to shy away from borderline libelous innuendo and flagrant cannabis scaremongering, the little paper (in both physical size and journalistic endeavor, but not circulation) from Colorado Springs can’t seem to control its pubescent-like impulse to mislead its readers when it comes to marijuana.

This week it’s the headline, “Alleged connection between legal marijuana, sex trade sparks debate in Colorado Springs.”

Note the saving grace in its otherwise fallacious headline: the word “alleged.”

Here we go again.

The “alleged connection” was allegedly alleged by an unnamed audience member during a sex trafficking panel discussion held…earlier this year. This audience member’s question was enough to send the Gazette‘s investigative team scrambling, searching for clues to answer the question:

“Did the legalization of marijuana bring in more pimps and prostitutes to Colorado?”

The answer is, of course, no. At least, there’s no evidence to support such a claim. And the Gazette, to its credit, does admit this. But not until the fifth paragraph. Most readers don’t even stick around that long, and the Gazette damn well knows it. Still, here it is:

There’s no statistical proof from law enforcement agencies to suggest that the legalization of marijuana is connected to sex trafficking across the state. Simpson’s statement centers around interviews with pimps and prostitutes.

The article throws in a token quote from Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert in which he completely demolishes the entire first half of the piece. But that doesn’t matter, because the Gazette‘s crack team is on a mission to make you believe that he’s wrong.

They cite “a report by a law enforcement task force” that itself cites two news articles to “suggest that ‘the legalization of marijuana is fueling a sex tourism in Colorado.'”

They quote a “faculty member at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Office of the Provost” who is concerned that “we have too little data to be able to make effective strategies to protect our vulnerable populations…”

They quote the chairman of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado who, they say, “believes there is a connection between marijuana and sex trafficking,” but who actually says:

“I don’t think it’s the seediness of that drug. I think there’s more tourists coming out to Colorado to party with marijuana because it’s legal, so when they drink and get high, the next thing they’re looking at is girls or boys.”

There we go. It’s a widely known fact that major events, from the Republican National Convention to the Super Bowl, and, yes, probably Denver’s 420 Rally, are associated with an uptick in prostitution and abhorrent underage sex trafficking. How this ties directly to marijuana is beyond me. But the little paper out of Colorado Springs is trying hard to make its readers believe that cannabis is the devil’s plant.

How about this, Gazette. Call us back when you have proof for your outrageous innuendo.

Obama Jokes About Getting High at White House Correspondents’ Dinner [VIDEO]

Obama White House Correspondents Dinner 2016

Sign of the times: President Barack Obama made a joke about his marijuana use at last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

The glitzy annual hobnobby event featuring journalists, celebrities, and high-ranking politicians saw its expected share of Donald Trump jokes (even though the Republican presidential front-runner wasn’t in the audience after Obama embarrassed him in 2011), and Trump’s rivals on both sides of the aisle weren’t spared some jabs: Republican Ted Cruz’s recent “basketball ring” gaffe was on prominent display, and Goldman Sachs wisecracks were made.

But one of Obama’s jokes that got the biggest laughs revolved around his rising poll numbers and past marijuana use: “And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn in my final year, my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.”

While former “Choom Gang” member Obama isn’t the only US president to have admitted to smoking cannabis, he is the only one who has stated matter-of-factly that, yes, he did do it, and no it’s not a big deal. While then-candidate Bill Clinton notoriously and rather dubiously claimed that he “experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn’t like it [and] didn’t inhale and…didn’t try it again,” and George W. Bush refused to answer questions surrounding his use because, “I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried,” Obama has said he “inhaled frequently,” because, “that was the point.”

Recent polls show that nearly half of Americans admit to trying cannabis, while more than half support its full legalization. And while the plant is technically illegal under federal law, categorized by the DEA as “Schedule I,” meaning it supposedly “has no currently accepted medical use,” there is a movement within the upper echelons of government to change that, and Pennsylvania just became the 24th state to legalize it for medical purposes. Four of those states, and the District of Columbia, allow any adult to purchase marijuana for any reason, and a slew of states will vote on some form of decriminalization this November. The tide is changing and the fact that a sitting president, even a lame-duck, can make a joke (and draw laughs!) at a nationally broadcast event about his past use is, indeed, a sign of the times.

Check the video:

Denver 420 Rally Rescheduled

Denver 420 Rally Fara Paige BW

The Denver 420 Rally has officially been rescheduled.

After a disastrous 420 holiday weekend that saw a canceled event made worse by broken promises and horrible PR in the midst of blizzard-like conditions, it seems that the organizers of the rally were able to pull it together: Headliners Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne will be back in Denver on Saturday, May 21.

In an announcement sent out via Eventbrite, the “420 Rally Team” even offered their first apology:

Hello!

We’re excited to share that the 420 Rally has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2016 and will be headlined by Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne! The event will still take place at Civic Center Park in Downtown Denver. Additional information is available at www.420Rally.com.

We greatly apologize for any inconvenience the rescheduling caused – event organizers would not have postponed this event if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Your tickets have been automatically rolled over and will be valid for entry on May 21st. If you are unable to attend the new date, you may request a refund by emailing your order number to 420Rally@MassRoots.com.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at an even bigger and better festival on Saturday, May 21, 2016!!!

As we reported last week, the rally’s head honchos had gathered in a made-for-TV “private meeting” to discuss how exactly they would tackle the rescheduling, gaining headlines for considering venues like Red Rocks and Mile High Stadium for a summer re-do, both of which would be near impossible to book for a summer show this late in the 2016 game.

Looks like it was, as I suspected, “pie-in-the-sky type stuff.” Civic Center Park it is. May 21. Honestly, it’s gonna be a good time.

Here’s a quick recap of exactly what went down, in case you missed it:

In what has been a pattern of bold statements followed by baby step backtracking, the organizers of what is billed as the largest 420 rally in the world have taken a serious hit this week. First, after laughing off a week-long forecast that called for upwards of a foot of snow and blizzard-like conditions in the Denver area on Saturday, and promising–even after the snow was accumulating that morning–that the show would go on, they canceled less than an hour before it was to begin. This of course angered vendors and a good chunk of the more than 75,000 attendees who had pre-registered, many of whom were from out of state and had paid thousands of dollars in transportation and lodging expenses.

Then they announced they would not be refunding tickets. While the event is technically free, attendees were encouraged to spend $50-$150 on “premier viewing access” tickets, and everybody was encouraged to pre-register online. We documented the resulting anger right here.

Image © Fara Paige. Used with permission.

Denver’s 420 Rally Organizers Cave to Pressure: Full Refunds to be Issued

420 Rally Fara Paige

After a ton of negative publicity and widespread anger around the handling of its last-minute “postponement” last Saturday, the organizers of Denver’s annual 420 Rally have finally reversed course and are now processing refunds to those who paid as much as $150 to attend the snowed-out event.

In an email to attendees who signed up via the event-organizing platform Eventbrite, the organizers stopped short of apologizing, but explained, somewhat patronizingly, that “sometimes things don’t work out your way, often for reasons outside of your control, but that’s life and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Here’s a screencap:
420 Refund

In what has been a pattern of bold statements followed by baby step backtracking, the organizers of what is billed as the largest 420 rally in the world have taken a serious hit this week. First, after laughing off a week-long forecast that called for upwards of a foot of snow and blizzard-like conditions in the Denver area on Saturday, and promising–even after the snow was accumulating that morning–that the show would go on, they canceled less than an hour before it was to begin. This of course angered vendors and a good chunk of the more than 75,000 attendees who had pre-registered, many of whom were from out of state and had paid thousands of dollars in transportation and lodging expenses.

Then they announced they would not be refunding tickets. While the event is technically free, attendees were encouraged to spend $50-$150 on “premier viewing access” tickets, and everybody was encouraged to pre-register online. We documented the resulting anger right here.

Now the organizers are planning on rescheduling to a bigger arena. In a “behind the scenes look” granted to Denver’s local ABC affiliate, “Those in charge of Denver’s 4/20 celebration met in a downtown law office Sunday to toke up over some cookies and coffee and plan the next big thing.” It’s all pie-in-the-sky stream-of-consciousness type stuff:

Determined not to let a little snow steal the show, Denver 4/20 organizers are now hashing out a plan for an even bigger celebration in June or July.

They also have high hopes of moving the event from Civic Center Park and hosting the mega smoke-out at a huge venue

“Who knows,” said Robert Corry, attorney for the Denver 4/20 rally. “Maybe Red Rocks, Sports Authority Field, Coors Field, Fidler’s Green, Infinity Park, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.”

Think what you will of these guys trying to book a summer show at Red Rocks or Mile High at this juncture, but at least you’ll be getting your refund.

Featured image © Fara Paige. Used with permission.

Widespread Anger at Denver 420 Rally’s Last-Minute Cancellation. Tickets Won’t Be Refunded.

Denver 420 Rally Fara Paige

After promising all week that the show would go on despite warnings that the Denver area would see more than a foot of snow amid blizzard-like conditions, the organizers of Denver’s huge 420 rally announced at the last minute that the event was indefinitely postponed. To add insult to injury, event organizers are now saying that tickets won’t be refunded. Needless to say, people are pissed. The event was scheduled to begin at 10:00 this morning and the cancellation announcement was made at 9:18 AM, less than an hour prior:

While the event is free, participants were encouraged to splurge on “Limited Premier Viewing Access” and “Premier Viewing Access” tickets that ranged from $50-150 dollars. These costs, on top of travel arrangements made by out-of-state visitors who spend a ton of money in Colorado during the 420 holiday, are adding to frustration that is pouring over on social media, with folks complaining about broken promises and ruined travel plans.

Here’s an example of why many are so frustrated: Just yesterday, event organizer Miguel Lopez was saying it would take “a natural disaster” to cancel the event. Meanwhile, the official event Twitter page was posting statuses like this:

And, of course, Twitter responded:

In a Facebook post that has since been removed, organizers claimed that Civic Center Park, where the event was to be held, had been shut down due to the weather. We have not been able to independently confirm that this is the case. While Denver’s city government has yet to respond with comment, Denver Police replied with a tweet stating that we’d have to reach out to event organizers for information, implying that the city was not involved in this decision-making process at all:

We were, however, able to capture some of the comments on the post before the organizers took it down, and they weren’t pretty. Some enterprising bars and dispensaries took the opportunity to promote previously scheduled events, but comments were overwhelmingly negative and angry:

420 Facebook Comments-2-2

420 Facebook Comments-2-1

420 Facebook Comments-1

420 Facebook Comments-3

Anecdotal evidence in the form of interviews with the Denver Post indicate that visitors and vendors are furious:

Lopez now says the decision to reschedule is a blessing in disguise because visitors, some of whom paid upwards of $150 to get close to headlining performers Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne , can return on a nicer day for a “bigger and better show.”

But some people who traveled from out of state don’t see it that way.

“We had to take off from work, and then it was a four-hour flight to get here,” said Breanna Duffee, from Gainsville, Georgia. “I packed my parka and snowboots. I was pumped.”

The featured musicians are still set to perform when the rally is rescheduled, Lopez said.

He was adament that Saturday’s turn of events would not affect turnout, noting that if people who made the trip can’t honor their tickets, that’s another factor that’s “beyond our control.”

Danielle Lord drove from Wyoming with her two sons, John Lord and Bryce Amedees, to see Wiz Khalifa. She paid $150 per ticket for front-row access and backstage passes.

“I’m not going to be able to come back when they reschedule,” Lord said. “I feel like it should go on.”

James Terpening,one of roughly 250 vendors at the rally, felt the same way. The Michigan-based marijuana grower said he was concerned that bad weather might threaten the rally, but he made the 18-hour drive anyway.

This writer, for one, is disappointed that the event was canceled. The weather is pretty terrible, but perhaps it would have been better for the organizers to be a little more realistic about the whole thing. A little less bluster would have gone a long way.

Featured Image © Fara Paige. Used with permission.

BREAKING: Facing Blizzard-Like Conditions, Denver’s 420 Rally Indefinitely Postponed

Despite a lot of brave talk, it appears that the organizers of this year’s 420 Rally in Denver have finally caved to reality. With blizzard-like conditions cancelling hundreds of flights and threatening to dump up to 14 inches of snow in the metro area, organizers claimed in a Facebook post that Denver’s Civic Center Park (where the event was to take place) has closed and that the event, which attracted 125,000 attendees last year, “will be rescheduled due to weather and circumstances beyond our control.”

Rappers Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne were scheduled to perform.

Earlier this week, Miguel Lopez, the event organizer, told the Denver Post that nothing short of a natural disaster would stop the event: “There’s no reason to stop except for a natural disaster. Maybe all the people publicly consuming marijuana will keep us warm.”

In a press release sent out on April 12th, when all forecasts called for the snow Denver is seeing today, Lopez encouraged attendees to arrive “several hours” early because “there’s a very real chance Civic Center Park will reach capacity before noon.”

While the official cancellation press release says that details for the new event will be announced in “the near future,” the Post‘s Katy Canada says that more details will come by this Tuesday:

Organizers also posted a message to Facebook that has since been removed. Will update the situation as needed.

No news yet as to exactly when or how the event will be rescheduled, but you can expect a lot of frustrated pot tourists to be desperately searching for a place to smoke all that weed they’ve been buying, thanks to Colorado’s rules that restrict consumption everywhere except private residences.

We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, organizers encourage folks to check www.420Rally.com for further information.

Featured Image Credit: Vaquero Cooper via flickr Creative Commons


420: A Real American Holiday

Denver 420 Rally Freedom Sign

A version of this article originally appeared at The Stoner’s Journal.

When five California high school stoners set up a secret meeting to smoke weed, code naming it “420 Louis” after the time and location of the meet, little did they know they were laying the groundwork for what would one day become 420–April 20th, the most holy of holy days for stoners worldwide. Since that fateful April of 1971, thousands of events have taken place–primarily in the U.S. and Canada, but also in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. More than that, the term “420” has become an catch-all term for everything weed: Just take a look at your Twitter feed or Craigslist personals. The annual gatherings, though–and the date itself–have taken the most significance over the last few decades.

And while it may be missed by revelers who simply see the date (and often the time on the clock) as another reason to get stoned, the 420 message has always been distinctly political. In 1995 two major events happened that shaped the activist form the holiday would take: Both San Francisco and Vancouver witnessed their first major pot rallies on April 20th. The Vancouver event, sponsored by Cannabis Culture drew about 250 people and featured “musical entertainers and a different speaker exhorting the benefits of cannabis every 15 to 30 minutes.” The San Francisco event was held by Berkeley’s now defunct Cannabis Action Network, a group whose mission was to “spread the message that there are numerous positive uses of cannabis, specifically medical cannabis.” Both events now attract crowds numbering in the tens of thousands.

RESIZED 420 Rally Denver 2014 Fara Paige Civic Center Park -(2 of 24)
For years public 420 rallies were really a form of nonviolent protest against a war of choice that resulted in the arrest of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders and cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.

Now that a majority of Americans live in a state that has either decriminalized or straight-up legalized cannabis in some form, and with close to a dozen more states considering similar laws; and with America’s president carefully endorsing medical marijuana complemented by congressional bills in the works that would decriminalize marijuana on a national level, and the DEA announcing it may reschedule cannabis by the summer, it’s time to celebrate.

The scene last year at Denver’s official 420 rally was without a doubt one of celebration. The 125,000 people who participated in the two-day affair reveled in their newly earned freedom. People picnicked, danced to live music, queued up for funnel cakes and barbecue served from food trucks, and bought memorabilia in the form of silly sunglasses and “I WAS THERE” t-shirts. In essence it was like any other fair commemorating a holiday, be it St. Patrick’s or Independence Day. The main difference hovered in the heavy layers of smoke floating over the festivities.
RESIZED 420 Rally Denver 2014 Fara Paige Civic Center Park (19 of 24)
And why shouldn’t 420 be seen as a legitimate holiday? The end of cannabis prohibition is a joyful occasion. Not only does it offer all of the social perks we associate with holidays–gathering with like-minded friends and family, breaking bread, getting totally wasted–it also has a serious social justice angle that deserves observance: The beginning of the end of the drug war. In Colorado alone, marijuana arrests are down 95% since recreational marijuana was made legal in 2012. Arrests, by the way, that disproportionately affect minorities. Hundreds of millions in tax revenue has poured in. Colorado consistently ranks in the top ten national economies alongside California, Oregon, and Washington.

What is a holiday if not the celebration of a momentous occasion? The United States celebrates the beginning of a new year, the birth of a civil rights leader, the end of oppressive and tyrannical rule, a day dedicated solely to thanks. In a way, 420 embodies the spirit of all of these holidays. We are at the dawn of a new age of civil rights and the end of an oppressive anti-drug regime whose casualties number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. We should be grateful.

As the benefits of decriminalization become more and more obvious leading to more and more states (and possibly the federal government) following suit, 420 is evolving from protest to a proper cultural holiday. There remains a lot of work to be done and celebrants should never lose sight of that, and some issues regarding respectful public use of marijuana need to be addressed, but if America can appropriate the Feast of St. Patrick–a man known for converting Irish pagans to Catholicism–into a publicly accepted day of debauched binge-drinking, kissing, and massive parades, then we have room in our society for a day honoring true progress under another green umbrella.

There’s even some precedent with Repeal Day–a lesser known holiday in December honoring the end of alcohol prohibition. 2015 marked the 82nd anniversary, and it was celebrated in style. Let’s join their ranks, but do it better, and make 420 a respectable, long-lasting patriotic American tradition.

Featured Image by Cannabis Destiny via flickr Creative Commons

Denver 420 Rally images © Fara Paige, used with permission

The Party Starts Today: Record Marijuana Sales Expected for Six Day “420 Weekend”

420 Fest 2014 Fara Paige

As cannabis goes mainstream, the day celebrating it–April 20th (or, in weed-speak, simply “420”)–is well on its way to official-unofficial American holiday status. With massive events planned in states from Colorado to Washington, a day that started as a minor teenage rebellion in the 1970s has become a joyous, smoky symbol of liberation for millions around the country. Forget all of that sentimental stuff, though. Americans speak (and celebrate) with their dollars, and a recent analysis predicts that Americans–in Colorado and Washington state, at least–are all in on this 420 thing to the tune of some $6.6 million per day.

BDS Analytics, a Boulder-based cannabis data intelligence firm with access to point of sale data from medical and retail dispensaries in both states, crunched the numbers and found that Colorado can expect to rake in more than $5 million per day over the six day “holiday weekend” beginning today and leading up to 420, which falls on a Wednesday this year. That’s $30 million dollars in less than a week. Last year’s sales averaged a little more than $4 million per day over the course of a shorter holiday weekend, and those figures represented an 80% jump over the rest of the month’s day-to-day sales.

In short: Colorado stoners will be flexing their economic muscle this month, and the state looks to benefit greatly, with an expected tax windfall of $4.5 million.

Washington’s numbers promise to be impressive as well, with a predicted $10 million in sales over the course of the same six-day period. BDS expects “several days” of the 420 weekend to “triple or quadruple” what they were last year. Combined with Colorado’s numbers, that pushes total daily sales around the 420 holiday to $6.6 million. If other states were taken into account, that number would surely be considerably larger. BDS is actively working on expanding its data reach, but, in a phone call, CEO Roy Bingham told us that Oregon’s data, for example, “is a little more challenging than Colorado,” due to the fact that “it’s an earlier market that’s evolving rapidly right now.”

The cannabis market is booming overall in Washington and Colorado, with success being measured in the billions. Washington’s legal sales went into effect in July of 2014, and the state looks set to surpass the billion dollar mark next month according to state officials. Meanwhile, Colorado came this close to hitting a billion dollars in sales last calendar year, but BDS is reporting that, after taking record February sales into account, the state has now officially hit the Big B in a 12-month time frame:

The 12 months ending February 2016 constituted the first year-long period in which retail cannabis product sales surpassed $1 billion in CO, exceeding that threshold by $16 million. The same one-year period ending last February reached $717 million, resulting in a year-over-year increase of 42 percent.

The enormous popularity of concentrates is driving much of this growth, with sales of “individual units” growing 132% over that same one-year period, and expected to make up a growing share of 420-related purchases. But flower isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. BDS’s Director of Analytics, Tom Jones, explained to us that more buds will be sold than anything else, but their share of the market shrinks considerably this time of year. “In terms of volume there’s going to be more flower sold,” he said. “That’s because, historically, flower has kind of dominated the market. But over that 420 period the proportion of flower that is sold comes down a bit. And if you look at a percentage of everything that is sold in the 420 period as compared to the rest of April, there is less flower sold than the rest of the month and more concentrates and edibles.”

Bingham added, “On top of that is the overall trend of over a 100% increase in [concentrate] sales in the last 12 months.”

With close to a foot of snow forecast in the Denver area this weekend, it’s looking suspiciously like another holiday known for its conspicuous consumerism and jovial spirit. “420 has a similar feel to Christmas to these dispensaries because of the excitement and the celebratory atmosphere,” Jones said.

Happy holidays.

Featured image © Fara Paige. Used with permission.

No Joke: Marijuana Dispensary Wants Naming Rights for Denver’s Mile High Stadium

Native Roots at Mile High

Denver’s nickname has never felt more appropriate. Known affectionately as the Mile High City due to the fact it sits about a mile above sea level, the last few years have seen its Mile High status elevated and conflated as a booming recreational marijuana industry has developed in the city itself, as well as the state in which it resides. Now one of the largest marijuana dispensary chains wants naming rights to Denver’s iconic Mile High Stadium.

No joke.

Native Roots, which runs more than a dozen dispensaries in the state and touts itself as “The #1 Marijuana Dispensary in Colorado” released a statement yesterday, April Fools’ Day, in which it said it “has begun the process of acquiring the naming rights to Mile High Stadium, home to the Denver Broncos. They hope to rename the stadium “Native Roots Field at Mile High.” Turns out they’re pretty damn serious.

In a statement to Denver’s ABC affiliate, a founding partner of Native Roots, Rhett Jordan said, “No, this is not an April Fools’ joke — we have a ton of pride in the Broncos, we’re a large corporation in Colorado just like a Coors Light or a Sports Authority.”

They did a mock-up of the logo and everything.

Sporting retail chain Sports Authority currently holds naming rights at Mile High through 2020, but recently declared bankruptcy and is in the process of closing 140 of its 450 stores. This has called its ability to maintain the contract–thought to be worth about $23 million–into question. Native Roots says they can afford to buy out the contract.

It seems, however, that this concept, as exciting as it may be to pot enthusiasts, will simply go up in smoke. Though Native Roots claims that it “is in the process of meeting with NFL executives to determine next steps for the unique partnership,” the Broncos don’t seem to know anything about it. “Sports Authority has been a great partner for many years and we certainly hope to keep it that way,” they told CBS.

Additionally, as Alicia Wallace noted in her blog The Balance Sheet, the NFL isn’t exactly marijuana-friendly and the large Native Roots emblem that would adorn the field would most likely run against state law, which “places limits on outdoor advertising for recreational marijuana businesses and bars the consumption of marijuana in public.”

Yes, the NFL, which profits heavily off its alcohol sponsorships, isn’t exactly keen on marijuana, and has a tough substance abuse policy that routinely sends players into suspension for simple marijuana use. Celebstoner put together a list aggregating all marijuana-related suspensions in 2015, showing that nearly twenty players lost playtime and pay because they got busted for smoking pot.

These potential obstacles don’t seem to bother the dispensary chain’s executives, who seem downright enthusiastic about their grand idea. “We may breathe green but we bleed orange,” said Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Native Roots. “Just like John Denver so memorably sang in Rocky Mountain High, it only makes sense that the company which gains the new naming rights of Mile High be reflective of Colorado.”

Whether or not it actually happens, you can count this attention-seeking campaign as very successful.

Read the full press release here.

Colorado Battles the Ghosts of Prohibition: THC Limits and 3.2 Beer

Prohibition Sons of Temperance

As Colorado leads the way in the national cannabis legalization effort, the ghosts of national alcohol prohibition, now nearly a century-old, still haunt it. Two proposed ballot initiatives–one announced this week and another that has been picking up steam for months–have stirred these ghosts, but only one aims to exorcise them.

Despite its libertarian, forward-thinking reputation, Colorado has some really weird liquor laws. For starters, it’s one of only five states in America that only allow the sale of low-point beer (3.2% alcohol by volume, or “three-two beer”) at grocery stores and (sometimes) gas stations. Yes, the state that has blessed the nation with Tommy Knockers, Great Divide, and New Belgium doesn’t allow its own grocery stores to carry the full-strength version of these iconic brands.

Well, that’s where it gets a little weirder. Because you technically can buy full-strength beer (typically 4-6% alcohol by volume) and wine (13ish% on average) at some grocery stores, but they are few and far between. The state allows retail “chain stores”–think Safeway or Trader Joe’s–exactly one full-service liquor license per brand, and of course those chains put those stores where the money is, i.e. Denver. So maybe not quite so far between. These laws are remnants of 1920s-era prohibition, but have been kept alive by a coalition of special interests that include liquor stores and local breweries which claim (dubiously) that changing the rules would hurt their business as well as the state economy.

A flurry of recent activity, however, is signalling that these antiquated laws may very well finally be on their way out. Your Choice Colorado, a group funded by Safeway, Kroger, and Walmart, has launched an initiative that would end this weird mandatory watered-down beer law the same way marijuana was legalized: by taking it to the voters. Their proposed ballot language would allow for the sale of beer and wine at supermarkets.

Concerned that this change would eat into its business, The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has submitted its own ballot proposals that would extend liquor sales in the state. The loyal opposition, another coalition calling itself Keep Colorado Local and comprised of local breweries, liquor stores, and other local businesses, has also filed its own initiatives in a flagrant attempt to confuse voters come November should it come to that.

Add to this cocktail actual pending legislation and it’s as murky as a dirty martini. But the outcome will likely be the end of 3.2 beer in Colorado.

Meanwhile, on the cannabis front, two efforts were announced this week that would cap THC potency in recreational/retail marijuana.

One is a ballot initiative that would not only impose a cap on THC levels (which right now average about 18% in flower and go as high as the sixties in concentrates), but would also require unsubstantiated scaremongering claims be placed on product labels. The second is a bill proposed by a Republican state legislator that would impose an even lower cap with penalties as high as $100,000 and license revocation for violations. The Cannabist reported on both:

The first THC-capping proposal is a ballot initiative that would limit the potency of cannabis products to 16 percent THC, would require everything to be sold in a child-resistant, opaque, resealable package and would require edibles to be packaged and sold only in single-serving amounts. It would amend the state constitution and would apply only to retail marijuana, not medical…

The initiative would also require all retail marijuana products to contain labels identifying the potency and providing warnings about “identified health risks,” including “birth defects and reduced brain development,” risks to the brain and behavioral development of babies, breathing difficulties, “permanent loss of abilities,” mood swings, impaired thinking and body movement, depression, temporary paranoia, anxiety, and “potential for long-term addiction.”

The second THC-limiting proposal is an amendment to HB 1261, a “sunset” bill that reauthorizes rules that are set to expire. Specifically, the bill would extend Colorado’s rules for the sale of retail marijuana until 2019, and would, among other things, eliminate a requirement that licensees post surety bonds and would create new “retail marijuana transport” and “retail marijuana operator” licenses…

This amendment would ban recreational cannabis stores from selling “retail marijuana or retail marijuana products” with a THC potency higher than 15 percent. Knowingly violating the ban could result in a punishment as lenient as a license suspension and as strict as license revocation or a fine up to $100,000.

So, while a promising effort to undo the ruined remnants of prohibition still influencing Colorado’s liquor laws is growing, a very different force is pushing prohibition-creep in the nation’s most successful regulated marijuana market. The contradiction is astounding and, frankly, unacceptable.

In an email to MarijuanaPolitics, Marijuana Policy Project‘s Director of Communications, Mason Tvert, said that the proposed legislation and ballot initiative is not only “odd,” but also potentially unconstitutional:

Even the most potent marijuana is less toxic and poses fewer long-term health problems than alcohol, so it seems odd that these folks are so focused on limiting marijuana potency and seemingly unconcerned about alcohol use. There also appear to be some serious questions about the constitutionality of these proposals. Amendment 64 made possession of marijuana legal for adults under the Colorado Constitution. It would surely be unconstitutional for the legislature to pass a bill banning all marijuana with 1% THC or 5% THC, so why wouldn’t it be just as unconstitutional to arbitrarily ban marijuana that is greater than 16% THC? Allowing adults to consume marijuana flowers with 10% THC and prohibiting them from using marijuana that is 16% THC is like allowing adults to drink Coors Light, but prohibiting them from drinking a Wynkoop Artillery Ale, which has more than twice the alcohol by volume.

The Cannabist‘s reporting indicates that many industry leaders feel the same way. Luckily, both pushes have a long way to go and several obstacles to hurdle. Nearly 100,000 valid signatures are needed for the ballot initiative and the legislation has been laid over with a vote yet to be rescheduled.

Let’s hope both efforts to limit THC content die, their ghosts joining the others in the prohibition graveyard.

Featured Image Credit: wackystuff via flickr Creative Commons


The Munchie Mogul: Trump’s Diet is Every Teenage Stoner’s Dream

Trump Burger in Mouth DonkeyHotey

Filets-o-Fish, Big Macs, Wendy’s, Oreos, and plenty of soda. This is the actual, no-kidding diet of the Republican presidential front-runner. Yes, Donald Trump, the man who, per his family physician, would “unequivocally…be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” eats like a teenage stoner. The proof? A sparkling Washington Post piece by beloved local D.C. food critic and author Tom Sietsema in which the writer explores the culinary habits of a man well on his way to the GOP presidential nomination.

Wendy’s on his custom Boeing 757 while campaigning with Jerry Falwell Jr. in Iowa. McDonald’s with advisers during a swing through New Hampshire. Two eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and two biscuits at the Ham House during a pit stop in Greenville, S.C.

The world is his oyster, but that’s not what he’s consuming. The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination eats like a teenage boy, inhaling Filets-o-Fish and Big Macs. “It’s great stuff,” he says of his fast-food habit.

Does Donald Trump have the munchies? Judging by his waffling stance on cannabis legalization, close relationship with proud marijuana-foe Chris Christie, and the fact that he’s frequently described as a teetotaler, the answer is probably no. What’s certain, however, is that the potential next Leader of the Free World is eating like a 16-year-old lucky enough to have parents out of town on a business trip and full access to the credit card and family car.

Also, a bong.

And like any rebel teen, The Donald eschews breakfast, preferring instead carb-overload (with a healthy dose of pandering) when he’s not chowing down on Oreos and Diet Coke:

Breakfast is his least favorite meal of the day, and if he indulges, he prefers bacon and eggs, or cornflakes “right out of the fields of Iowa,” he told Fox News before the debate he skipped — in Iowa. Lunch might be eaten at his desk. “My big thing is dinner.” That’s when, he has revealed in various Q&As, he likes pasta, second helpings of potatoes au gratin and the aforementioned steak, which, unlike any serious eater, he wants cooked so thoroughly that “it would rock on the plate,” according to what his longtime butler at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach told the New York Times

Donald Trump’s most serious competitor for the Republican presidential nomination, Ted Cruz, has been working overtime lately to make a nickname–any nickname–stick to the Teflon Don. Presumably sick of the “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” label that Trump has effectively slapped on the Texas senator, Cruz has been pushing the weak and absolutely desperate-sounding “Sleazy Donald” ever since a tit-for-tat battle erupted between the two candidates regarding their respective wives.

Perhaps in light of this recent revelation, Lyin’ Ted could try a different approach:

Tokin’ Trump, Greasy Donald, The Munchie Mogul. Take notes, Ted.

Featured Image Credit: DonkeyHotey via flickr Creative Commons (image edited)

Colorado’s Second-Largest Newspaper Delusional, Totally Wrong on Pot

Reefer Madness

With a new editorial entitled “City should embrace more strict pot rules,” Colorado’s biggest and most influential marijuana scaremongering mouthpiece is at it again. The Colorado Springs Gazette, the state’s second-most-circulated newspaper, is the little prohibitionist that could, constantly ranting at its daily subscriber base of 65,000 about the dangers of cannabis legalization, facts be damned. That 65,000 figure, by the way, represents about 15% of the daily circulation enjoyed by the true force in Colorado conversation, The Denver Post, which has an entire staff dedicated to writing, successfully it seems, about marijuana culture under the The Cannabist label.

As I wrote last summer when picking apart another shady editorial, The Gazette is unquestionably a paper with an agenda:

Owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, who also owns The Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner, and has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican and “family values” causes, the Gazette recently ran a questionable and widely-ridiculed modern day Reefer Madness hysteria hit piece entitled Clearing the Haze and written by a well-known local anti-pot crusader.

Lest you think I’m simply appealing to the person here, allow me to address the article itself which is devoid of facts and high on emotion in typical Gazette fashion. This is, after all, the same paper that compared potential public “marijuana whistleblowers” to the FBI agent who blew open the Watergate scandal.

The piece begins by touting Colorado Springs’s “niche” as a place inhospitable to marijuana:

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and the City Council share a sober and rational approach to marijuana and have made Colorado Springs our state’s least attractive big city environment for growers, users, dealers and cartels. City officials should keep going, maintaining our community’s niche as a place that’s not turning into the North American Amsterdam.

You get all the meaningless buzzwords in there? Sober! Rational! Amsterdam! Cartels! Wait, what? Cartels? It seems that one little newspaper hasn’t seen the news that Mexican cartels have been hit hard by the state’s sober and rational approach to regulating and selling recreational marijuana. In fact, one could argue that Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, is in fact guilty of abetting Mexican cartels by refusing to allow the sale of recreational marijuana within its borders.

The article continues:

A city task force is preparing medical marijuana recommendations for the council, and we hope they are strict. Whatever we have done to date is working, as the local economy is hot and getting hotter.

While Denver’s economy is unquestionably “hot,” Colorado Springs is struggling. Here, I defer to the Gazette‘s own reporting from last year in which they described the city’s unhealthy reliance on its many local military installations and explained that a small burst of increasingly low-wage service sector jobs can’t keep up with its growing population:

Expect more of the same – gradual improvement – from the Colorado Springs economy during the rest of this year and into 2016, say economists who follow the local economy…

Their forecasts come as the area’s economy dodged what could have been a major setback – the Army said Thursday that Fort Carson would lose about 365 soldiers, or about 1.5 percent of the troops stationed there, as part of plans by the service to reduce active-duty personnel by 40,000 over the next two years.

But another threat remains – the Army is expected to cut 30,000 more troops this fall if automatic federal budget cuts, called sequestration, happen as scheduled Oct. 1…

Job growth in the Springs averaged 1.9 percent last year, while employment grew 3.7 percent in the Denver area. The unemployment rate in the Denver area also is a full percentage point lower than the local jobless rate.

And all of this as the city bleeds young professionals (again, from The Gazette):

Wages in the Colorado Springs area have declined since 2000 as the local economy has traded high-paying jobs in manufacturing, information technology and construction for low-wage jobs in the hotel, restaurant and call center industries. The average pay of jobs that were lost is nearly three times higher than the jobs that replaced them, resulting in a decline in the area’s wages of more than $150 million between 2010 and 2013…

The lower-wage jobs also have been blamed for an exodus of young professionals, which could hurt the local economy long term.

The paper then proceeds to tick off a number of proposals it believes would be beneficial to (seriously) “furthering our earned reputation as a community that seriously regulates pot.” These proposals range from extending a moratorium on the opening of new medical dispensaries to reducing the hours that existing dispensaries can operate. To be fair, some of the regulations are reasonable, like limiting grows to particular industrial zones. But none of it is coming from a good place. In fact, the last paragraph gives it away:

Let Denver be the symbol of recreational drugs. Meanwhile, let the Springs attract those business owners, residents and tourists who favor order over a chaotic drug market that is the butt of jokes around the world.

Yes, progressive Denver, with its top-ten ranked population of wealthy millennials and blazing housing market and thriving restaurant scene and world-class cultural destinations is the butt of jokes around the world, while Colorado Springs, obviously, with its quality newspaper, “infamously atrocious roads,” Focus on the Family” values and prohibitionist policies that not only thwart the will of its own voters, but deprive the city of potentially millions in tax revenue, while operating under an opaque budget so mismanaged that its city employees won’t see raises for the indefinite future, is supposedly the bright shining city on the hill.

Yes, it is “totally” understandable that Colorado Springs wouldn’t want to emulate the decline going down in amoral, but booming, Weed-Central Denver. Keep talking, Gazette. It’s a good look and it gives me something to do. Don’t forget your own reporting, though, about the millions your city’s schools are receiving thanks to recreational marijuana sales everywhere else in the state. Despite Colorado’s objective success legalizing cannabis, The Gazette is somehow still spewing the last gasps of Reefer Madness in this great state.

Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Ruled Against Rescheduling Marijuana

Merrick Garland

President Barack Obama today announced his long-awaited choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of conservative hero Antonin Scalia. D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland is by most accounts a safe choice in an obstructionist congressional climate. Widely seen as a moderate liberal and effective circuit judge, he is perhaps most well known to the general public for supervising the Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber cases as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in the nineties. He enjoys the support of conservatives such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, and respect from some progressives and court-watchers. Think Progress says Garland, a 19 year veteran of the circuit, is “unquestionably qualified to sit on the Supreme Court,” while SCOTUSblog‘s Tom Goldstein wrote back in 2010–during the search to replace retiring liberal justice John Paul Stevens–that his “record demonstrates that he is essentially the model, neutral judge.”

Balls and strikes. Remember that? We’re still figuring out exactly how that really works.

One murky area, however, is Garland’s stance on marijuana and criminal justice. We’ll get to the former in a second, but on the latter, Goldstein wrote:

“The most significant area of the law in which Judge Garland’s views obviously differ materially from those of Justice Stevens is criminal law. Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions. I identified only eight such published rulings, which should capture all the significant cases. Judge Garland did not author any of the opinions…In seven other cases, he voted to reverse the defendant’s sentence in whole or in part, or to permit the defendant to raise a argument relating to sentencing on remand…Most striking, in ten criminal cases, Judge Garland has disagreed with his more-liberal colleagues; in each, he adopted the position that was more favorable to the government or declined to reach a question on which the majority of the court had adopted a position favorable to a defendant. Because disagreement among panel members on the D.C. Circuit is relatively rare, this substantial body of cases is noteworthy.”

Now to marijuana:

In 2012 the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took the DEA to court in an attempt to force the rescheduling of Marijuana from a Schedule 1 substance (alongside drugs like heroin and LSD with “no currently accepted medical treatment use”). This was seen at the time as novel, with Reuters reporting “The argument is a new tack for marijuana supporters who have already won local approval for medical use in 16 states and Washington, D.C.” ASA lawyers in the case, Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration, argued that marijuana’s Schedule 1 status “was an inappropriate classification of marijuana and it caused harm to patients and prevented meaningful medical research.” They pointed to a veteran who had been denied VA services because of his medical use, as well as over 200 peer-reviewed studies indicating marijuana’s value as medicine.

They lost. The case was decided by a three judge panel, one of whom was Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Ruling that the DEA’s scheduling was not “arbitrary and capricious,” the court said, “Because the agency’s factual findings in this case are supported by substantial evidence and because those factual findings reasonably support the agency’s final decision not to reschedule marijuana, we must uphold the agency action. DEA regulations define ‘currently accepted medical use’ to require, among other things, ‘adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.'”

To be fair, Garland didn’t write the ruling; that was Jimmy Carter appointee Harry T. Edwards. But he did sign on. However, the fact that the court agreed to take on the case was a pretty big deal. One judge, George W. Bush appointee Karen LeCraft Henderson, dissented because she didn’t think that ASA even had standing.

What does this mean for cannabis and criminal justice reform activists across the country? It remains to be seen, and there’s a long road ahead. Of course, Senate Republicans could simply do what they’ve been promising to do, and not even consider the nominee. Or they could hold long, drawn-out hearings and then deny him the seat. It looks, though, like Obama has picked a nominee that will be hard for them to dismiss, and that could mean an eventual confirmation. If that happens, we’ll see exactly where Garland stands. The United States has come a long way since 2012 when it comes to marijuana policy, and many have evolved on the issue. For now, though, we can only look at existing records and those give us quite a bit to consider.

Don’t Be THAT Stoner: TSA Busts Traveler with Hand Grenade Grinder

hand grenade

Our semi-regular feature in which we examine the biggest fails in the cannabis community. Be smart when you smoke. Don’t be that stoner.

Pop quiz, Hotshot: You’re planning a trip that involves traveling by commercial air and you want to take your marijuana with you. Do you, A.) Pack a discrete disposable item like, say, a hash pen in your carry-on, B.) Smush some flower in a jar of peanut butter (or raspberry jam) and hide it in your checked luggage, C.) Realize that what you want to do is totally illegal and most likely not worth the risk of not arriving at your location, and catching a felony charge to boot, or D.) Simply throw your hand grenade replica grinder full of ground-up green stuff in your backpack?

The only foolproof answer here is obviously C. And, while A may seem like a good option, well, that’s a cost-benefit analysis you’ll have to make. A personal decision, I suppose. B is a trend from a few years back that almost never ended well for would-be smugglers, and D…well, damn. Who would even consider it, right? As you might have guessed, some brilliant traveler attempting to depart from Sacramento sure did, and the TSA busted them for it. To add insult to injury, they threw up a photo of the grenade-grinder to their highly entertaining Instagram feed for the whole world to see, with this gentle reminder:

“Anything resembling a grenade is prohibited in both carry-on and checked baggage. Especially if it’s a grenade shaped grinder with marijuana inside. This grenade-shaped grinder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Sacramento International Airport (SMF).”


The TSA claims to not search for weed (or other drugs) when examining luggage. Created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, their stated mission is to “prevent similar attacks in the future…[and strengthen] our transportation systems while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce.” They say plainly that “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs.” BUT, “In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. Whether or not marijuana is considered legal under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law. Federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.”

Take-aways:

Don’t smuggle cannabis.
If you absolutely must smuggle cannabis, don’t hide it in A GRINDER DESIGNED TO LOOK LIKE A HAND GRENADE. You WILL get busted.
Buy your weed when you get to your destination.

Don’t be that stoner, readers.

h/t Ricardo Baca over at The Cannabist.
Featured Image: Pat Pilon via flickr Creative Commons

Bern One: Dispatch from the Colorado Caucus on Super Tuesday

Colorado Caucus 2016-2

Colorado Berned one tonight. The results are still coming in, but his lead is so strong that the networks were calling it for him as we were walking out of the caucus location, Byers Middle School, just west of ritzy Washington Park. The energy tonight was palpable, and the Sanders electorate impossible to miss. Each precinct was put into separate rooms for the caucus process and, in our room, Berners outnumbered the Clinton camp 2-to-1.

Colorado Caucus 2016
A Michael Bennet staffer who was acting as the local press liaison told me that officials had expected about 1,200 voters, but turnout was easily twice that. Reports of overwhelmed caucus locations were reported throughout the night. One twitter user in Fort Collins reported that the building her precinct was using had been cleared by the fire marshal:

 

The scene inside Byers was one of gleeful chaos. Everybody knew that Trump had basically swept the South, and there seemed to be a common understanding that–despite the scaremongering–nothing could be better for either of our candidates. The caucus was scheduled to begin at 7:00, but by 6:45 the line was some four to five blocks deep, and officials promised that anybody in line by 7:00 would be admitted (“So as not to disenfranchise anybody!” said one captain to applause and cheers). As time wore on, frustrations became more evident. Several alpha-types got a little loud about it, but no real drama arose.

Colorado Caucus 2016-3
We were assigned a room sans leader, and a small group of us were left to figure it out as we went until, about 20 minutes in, a group of 60 or so additional people poured in. They had apparently been forgotten and then rescued. After a brief rundown by the big boss at caucus, we were left again, 60 folks heavier, and stumbled our way through the process. It was raw, clumsy, grassroots democracy at its best with strong-willed, respectful, and pragmatic participants.

Marijuana Politics’ blogger-in-chief, Anthony Johnson, wrote previously that recent polling in Colorado looked good for Bernie Sanders. And you know what? The results speak for themselves as Colorado was one of the four Super Tuesday states that went for the anti-establishment candidate, helping keep Bernie Sanders’ campaign alive.

Our precinct? We went 93-42 Bernie, giving him a delegate count of five. Hillary walked away with two.