Colorado’s government is going to get some help from the National Governors Association (NGA) to help incorporate clean energy practices in the marijuana industry.
NGA announced on Tuesday that it would be lending assistance to five states through a “two-year policy academy” that looks at the specific needs of each state and provides resources to bolster business.
For Colorado, NGA’s program will identify “regulatory constraints and opportunities for clean energy practices in the related cannabis and outdoor recreation industries.”
The goal of the policy academy is to look for “baseline data” and use that to create “action steps for pilot initiatives” that could then be expanded upon.
It’s not clear what kind of clean energy best practices will be examined in Colorado, but a 2018 state government report pointed out that improving energy and water efficiency, ensuring that indoor grow climates are sustainable and incentivizing businesses to adopt clean energy sources would be beneficial to that end.
As part of our five-state policy academy with @pewtrusts on business #regulations, #WeTheStates are working with #Colorado to identify regulatory constraints and opportunities for clean energy in the cannabis and outdoor recreation industries. @GovofCO https://t.co/1ZyXB0QYql
— NGA (@NatlGovsAssoc) November 26, 2019
Pew Charitable Trusts, which has researched strategies on how state governments can improve business, will also be involved in the training sessions.
“One of our top priorities is ensuring we have an economy that works for all,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in a press release. “Colorado leads the nation in cannabis innovation, outdoor recreation, and in building a clean energy economy.”
“While these burgeoning industries have benefited from our unmatched natural beauty and our communities’ innovative and forward-looking mentality, we understand the link between Colorado’s bipartisan policies and related regulations and our long-term success,” he said. “This collaboration will help us get to that next level.”
#WeTheStates are partnering with five states to work toward refining and improving #business #regulations in areas as diverse as land-use planning and the outdoor and cannabis industries. Read more here:https://t.co/1ZyXB0QYql pic.twitter.com/g1luxrKnpd
— NGA (@NatlGovsAssoc) November 26, 2019
NGA said it will also be assisting Alaska to streamline “licensing and permitting functions across five state departments,” but it’s unclear which departments were selected and if they’re involved in implementing and enforcing the state’s legal cannabis regulations.
The organization isn’t only concerned with business, however. This summer, NGA led a panel on roadway safety where governors discussed impaired driving from marijuana. At the time, Polis made the case that providing for cannabis delivery services mitigates the risk because people can have their products delivered safety to their homes instead of going out to make purchases and potentially consuming before driving back.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
Montana Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Marijuana Legalization Initiative
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit seeking to invalidate a marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the state’s November ballot.
With weeks before the election, opponents asked the court to quash the measure, arguing that because it involves appropriating funds, it violates state statute on citizen initiatives.
The court didn’t weigh in on the merits of the challenge; rather, it said the petitioners with the campaign Wrong for Montana (WFM) failed to demonstrate “urgency or emergency factors” that would justify moving the case into its jurisdiction instead of going through trial and appeals courts first.
It left the door open for the opponents to take its challenge through the traditional process. Marijuana Moment reached out to the attorney for the plaintiffs for comment on potential plans to go that route, but he did not respond by the time of publication.
“We express no opinion on the merits of WFM’s constitutional challenge, nor to its right to pursue this challenge in district court,” the justices wrote. “However, WFM’s claim does not present an appropriate basis on which to invoke this Court’s original jurisdiction. Even if it did, WFM has wholly failed to establish that urgency or emergency factors make litigation in the trial courts and the normal appeal process inadequate.”
Dave Lewis, policy advisor to the pro-legalization New Approach Montana, said in a press release that this “was an easy decision for the Montana Supreme Court.”
“At best, this lawsuit was a frivolous longshot,” he said. “At worst, it was an intentional effort to create confusion right before the election.”
The measure in question would establish that adult-use marijuana system. The lawsuit did not target a separate, complementary initiative that would specify that only those 21 and older could participate in the legal market.
It is the case that state statute says citizens “may enact laws by initiative on all matters except appropriations of money and local or special laws” and that the initiative does allocate cannabis tax revenue to certain programs. But prior measures that have appeared on the state’s ballot have done so as well.
Under the proposal, half of the public revenue generated from marijuana sales would go toward environmental conservation programs—a provision that earned the campaign key endorsements last month.
The initiative is already on the ballot and voting has started, so presumably if the court had sided with the plaintiffs, the votes simply wouldn’t have been counted or implementation would have been prevented. It is also possible that a court could rule that monies raised by legal cannabis sales under the initiative would simply into the state’s general fund instead of toward the specific programs delineated in its current text.
“We’re receiving strong support from voters across the state,” Lewis, who is a former Republican state senator and former budget director for three Montana governors, said. “Instead of making a coherent argument against the initiatives, our opponents tried to deprive Montanans of their constitutional right to a citizen initiative process.”
“Our opponents are desperately throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something sticks,” he added. “They’re resorting to fear tactics and misinformation because they know that a majority of Montana voters are ready to vote yes on legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adults 21 and over.”
In neighboring Nebraska, the state Supreme Court did rule last month that a measure to legalize medical cannabis that had qualified for the November ballot could not proceed because it violated the state’s single-subject rule for ballot initiatives.
Recent polling indicates that Montana voters are positioned to approve the legalization proposal. Forty-nine percent of respondents in a survey released last week said they support the policy change, with 39 percent opposed and 10 percent remaining undecided.
Read the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling on the marijuana challenge and the original lawsuit below:
Marijuana Expungements Hinge On Result Of Arizona Prosecutor Race
One candidate for Maricopa County attorney says she’ll make clearing past marijuana convictions ‘universal and automatic’ if elected. The other has not said she would do anything to support expunging criminal records.
By Meg O’Connor, The Appeal
Arizona could soon join 11 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. In two weeks, residents will have a chance to vote on Proposition 207, a ballot initiative that would allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, reduce the criminal penalties for other marijuana possession offenses, and pave the way for hundreds of thousands of people to expunge past convictions. If it passes, the state’s top prosecutors could play a huge role in upholding the law and facilitating—or thwarting—people’s petitions to clear their criminal records.
“In Pima and Maricopa [counties], Democrats are running in support of expungement and talking about how they will direct folks in their office to process mass expungements,” said Stacy Pearson, a political consultant for the campaign to pass Prop 207. “I think who is in office is critically important. How these prosecuting agencies respond to petitions is going to be key.”
Legalizing recreational marijuana and providing a path to expungement would be a major shift for Arizona, where possession of even a small amount is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $150,000 fine. Though a proposition passed in 1996 prevents people from being sent to prison for their first or second marijuana possession offense, people were often instead diverted to the Treatment Assessment Screening Center (TASC)—a program facing a federal civil rights lawsuit for allegedly being a money-making racket that extorts poor people by threatening them with felony prosecution. Adel scrapped TASC and switched to a different felony diversion program, and the TASC lawsuit is moving toward a settlement.
Still over 100 people are currently incarcerated for marijuana possession in Arizona, and more than 15,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession statewide in 2018. ACLU reports on arrest, charging, and sentencing data have found that people of color are disproportionately affected by marijuana criminalization: Black Arizona residents are about three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white residents, and Black and Hispanic people prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office face longer sentences for marijuana possession than white people.
“These laws have impacted people of color far more than white folks despite white people using marijuana at comparable rates,” said Jonathan Udell, the communications director for Arizona NORML and an attorney at Rose Law Group. “Arizona is the one state where possession of any amount of marijuana constitutes a felony. That has all kinds of impacts on people. Literally just possessing a small amount of a plant can ruin the rest of your life.”
Besides suffering the criminal penalties, like prison time and steep fees, a person with a marijuana conviction on their record in Arizona can have difficulty finding a job (and the healthcare that comes with it) and housing. Immigration status, eligibility to receive public funds like welfare benefits and student loans, and voting rights can also be threatened by a felony conviction.
Whoever is elected Maricopa County attorney this November will have a significant effect on the way marijuana continues to be prosecuted in the state, and could either help or hinder the effort to expunge past criminal convictions. (The county is home to Phoenix and 4.5 million of Arizona’s nearly 7 million residents.) Julie Gunnigle, the Democratic challenger for the top prosecutor role, has pledged to do everything she can to help people expunge marijuana possession convictions if Prop 207 passes, while the incumbent county attorney, Republican Allister Adel, has said only that she would enforce the new law if it passes and did not respond when asked if she would do anything to support the expungement process.
If Prop 207 passes, Arizonans can submit petitions to expunge past marijuana convictions to the court. Certain marijuana offenses would be eligible for expungement, and anyone who applies for expungement will be considered qualified unless proven otherwise. The onus is on the prosecutor’s office to contest the petition. If it doesn’t contest the petition within 30 days, the conviction is expunged, Pearson, the political consultant, said.
Through her campaign manager, Gunnigle told The Appeal she supports Prop 207 and thinks the opportunity for expungement included in the initiative is especially important. She said she is committed to creating an expungement process that “is both universal and automatic.” And if the measure passes, Gunnigle said she would dismiss any pending cases involving possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
“On day one, I would dismiss every pending low-level marijuana case, and make office policy that no personal-use amounts of cannabis will be charged and [that] no objections will be filed when those convicted of such offenses move to set aside their convictions,” she said in a March questionnaire from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. In a second questionnaire in August, Gunnigle said, “I will do everything possible to support people seeking to expunge old marijuana possession convictions.”
Adel’s campaign spokesperson did not directly respond when asked whether she supports the measure, and whether she would dismiss any pending cases involving possession of less than one ounce of marijuana if it passes.
“Proposition 207 is not retroactive,” the spokesperson, Lorna Romero, said instead, “and if it is to pass it will be the law going forward, and one that the office will follow and implement according to the letter of the law.”
The “letter of the law” does leave a few openings where, should Arizona county attorneys choose to do so, prosecutors could still seek harsh penalties for marijuana possession. After Arizona legalized medical marijuana in 2010, former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery tried to get around the law by threatening to prosecute medical marijuana patients for concentrates. In 2013, Montgomery brought charges against a medical marijuana patient over one piece of THC-infused candy. Advocates fear the wrong county attorney could continue to flout the will of the voters should Prop 207 pass. Before she was appointed to the county attorney role last year, Adel said Montgomery had “served our county well” and that she’d “be honored to build upon that legacy.”
Prop 207 would also allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants at their home. It’s possible that the marijuana plants you could legally grow in your home could produce more marijuana than the one ounce you are legally allowed to possess.
“There’s some open-ended legal questions there,” Udell from NORML said. “That raises some concerns in my mind. … I think if you had someone like Allister Adel in office, there’d be more of a chance that she could go after people for stuff like that.”
Gunnigle said it is up to the state legislature to pass laws to close the loopholes if Prop 207 passes, but that she would decline to prosecute “personal use cases of marijuana, including concentrates.”
Even if Prop 207 doesn’t pass, Gunnigle has pledged not to prosecute people for personal possession of marijuana. She told The Appeal that if she is elected, she would “issue a memo directing all prosecutors not to charge personal use marijuana cases” on her first day in office, and “review and dismiss all pending cases that were previously charged.”
Adel’s campaign did not directly respond when asked whether she would do anything to ensure the legal loopholes are not used to prosecute people harshly for marijuana. She has also not said whether she would decline to prosecute all cases of personal possession of marijuana.
“Maricopa County [Attorney] Allister Adel believes in a ‘treatment first’ approach where we need to look at the offender and not the offense,” Romero told The Appeal. “For low-level drug possession crimes, her priority is to get the defendant services they need to treat addiction. These types of crimes are ideal for the Felony Diversion Program she established.”
Under that felony diversion program, people can get their drug possession charges dismissed—as long as they successfully complete the program. In August, Adel also implemented a new policy allowing anyone who was arrested for simple marijuana possession to avoid prosecution if they obtain a medical marijuana card. Critics have pointed out that the policy only helps those who can afford a card.
A ballot measure to legalize recreational weed in Arizona failed by a slim margin in 2016. Now, it seems more likely that the measure could pass. Several recent polls have shown majority support for Prop 207. A recent poll from Data For Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute found that a majority of likely voters in Maricopa County are more inclined to vote for a county attorney who supports ending prosecution for marijuana possession offenses and expunging previous possession convictions. (The Justice Collaborative Institute and The Appeal are both independent projects of The Justice Collaborative.)
Justin Strekal, NORML’s political director, said prosecutors worked to expunge convictions right away in some jurisdictions where recreational marijuana has been legalized. “In other jurisdictions,” Strekal said, “that justice is delayed, and the collateral consequences of having criminal records continues to hold people back.”
“That’s where the impact of having partners in local office is absolutely critical,” said Strekal. “It can mean the difference between life and death for these individuals when holding on to these criminal records can prevent people from getting a job that could get them healthcare.”
The Appeal is a non-profit media organization that produces news and commentary on how policy, politics, and the legal system affect America’s most vulnerable people.
Colorado Governor Tells Texas Not To Legalize Marijuana So His Own State Can Get More Tourists
The governor of Colorado is jokingly discouraging Texas from legalizing marijuana, saying it would mean less tax revenue for his own state from cannabis tourism.
Gov. Jared Polis (D) was responding to a Marijuana Moment report on a new economic analysis that showed how Texas stands to generate billions in tax revenue and tens of thousands of jobs if it enacted the policy change.
That analysis might be true, the governor tweeted, “BUT it would reduce tourism to Colorado, so make sure to consider Colorado first in any Texas decisions.”
Yes BUT it would reduce tourism to Colorado, so make sure to consider Colorado first in any Texas decisions https://t.co/5Gh8bNBKu0
— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) October 20, 2020
Polis has been known to quip about the marijuana tourism dollars his state receives from non-residents.
Shortly after he was sworn in last year, the governor said “we get a lot of extra business from people coming into our state” and so “from the economic perspective in Colorado, I’d love other states to go slowly so that we can continue to see all these benefits for Colorado.”
“For years, I’d been sort of countering this sort of dire picture of Colorado,” he said. “But again, if they think that it’s bad, it’s better for us to have less competition at this point. So I mean, if I’m looking at it as governor, I would hope they halt their efforts and send all their business here.”
That said, despite his interest in preserving cannabis tourism for Colorado, during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in May, he jokingly entertained the idea of using hypnosis to convince Ohio’s governor to advance legalization in the state.
While he’s been quick to note the economic benefits of regulating marijuana sales, Polis has also emphasized the need for restorative justice in the industry. Earlier this month, he exercised new clemency powers to grant nearly 3,000 pardons for people convicted of low-level marijuana possession.
Meanwhile, Polis isn’t alone in touting the fact that his state sells legal marijuana to people who live in places where it is still prohibited.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), during his State of the State speech earlier this year, talked about how his state’s new recreational cannabis market “gives us a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana.”
Indeed, the state has continued to see record-breaking cannabis sales month after month, including tens of millions of dollars worth to out-of-state residents.