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Thursday, October 11,2012

Colorado's Amendment 64: How the amendment affects the state's budget

Amendment 64, marijuana and how big money affects small business in Colorado

By Cecelia Gilboy

Editor's Note: See Boulder Weekly's official endorsement of Amendment 64 here.

Amendment 64 isn’t about legalizing marijuana. It’s about money.

Yes, you can vote for it because you want to legally possess an ounce. But that’s already decriminalized — you’re just saving yourself a potential $100 fine.

The ounce you buy at a store will be taxed. From these taxes, $40 million will be directed to schools. By buying that ounce, you’ll help Colorado’s children and teachers.

Maybe you’d rather grow your own. But even if Amendment 64 passes, that won’t exactly be legal. State law would allow you to grow six plants. But don’t try to grow seven — that’s illegal. So critics contend that Amendment 64 won’t reduce the number of people jailed for marijuana.

But Amendment 64 would still save Colorado law enforcement $12 million a year, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Even Boulder has victims of robbery, assault, rape — victims who would appreciate that $12 million spent stopping their assailants, not busting marijuana users.

Cultivation is punishable by five years — and Amendment 64 can’t protect you from federal law. Luckily, the feds don’t care about your closet grow. But what about commercial facilities growing for retail weed stores — like those proposed by Amendment 64?

“There’s this fear that the federal government will punish us,” acknowledged Christian Sederberg, a lawyer instrumental to Amendment 64.

Fellow medical marijuana (MMJ) lawyer Brian Vicente, co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign, believes they’ll react “the same way they’ve handled medical marijuana, which is largely hands-off.”

Some disagree that the feds have been “hands-off.” Especially those whose businesses were shuttered by the feds. More than 50 Colorado locations were closed by what some call an aggressive attack by the Obama administration.

Why? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats received $15 million from the pharmaceutical industry in the 2008 election cycle. And pharmaceutical companies lose profits to MMJ: “Getting off pharmaceuticals” is the most common story heard at most dispensaries.

They could lose more from legalization. They’ve developed drugs containing THC, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved to reschedule to Schedule II — just for them. The DEA website explains that drug companies’ THC is equivalent to the synthetic, FDA-approved THC. So their natural THC is like synthetic THC, which is legal, which mimics natural THC, which is illegal. What?

The government still classifies any THC you grow as Schedule I, like heroin. But in the last 14 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent $2.3 billion lobbying the government. You haven’t.

If you can procure THC in legal marijuana, you won’t buy it in pricey capsules. So the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t love Amendment 64. And in this election cycle, campaign contributions have included more than $28 million from them.

No one knows how the federal government will react. Obama has been vague. While Romney feels health care is best left to the states, he can’t be expected to feel similarly about marijuana. So sick patients may be at risk: Federal raids could jeopardize their access to medicine.

“Destroying a cancer patient’s medicine looks bad, politically,” said one concerned owner. “Destroying weed grown for stoners does not.”

But won’t medical marijuana still exist? Amendment 64 claims to not affect dispensaries; it just gives owners the option to fork over their Medical Marijuana Center (MMC) licenses and apply for a retail license. But MMCs could go out of business: Patients may not renew their MMJ license. Why pay a doctor and state fee when you can shop elsewhere for free?

If patient numbers dwindle, dispensaries are doomed. Medical marijuana law, which proponents promise will be unaffected, only allows dispensaries to grow six plants per patient. So if a dispensary’s patient numbers drop, so will their allowable plant count. Without enough plants, they can’t grow at their warehouse’s scale. If retail marijuana is then raided, there will be no medicine for suffering patients.

Is this weedless apocalypse possible? The attorneys I met with did predict that the feds would wait, rather than reacting immediately. But if the feds get involved, says Mason Tvert, co-director of the campaign, “they could say, ‘You can’t issue non-medical marijuana licenses.’ But they won’t sit back, let businesses get licensed, and then raid them.”

Again, former dispensary owners might disagree. Many were licensed — only to be shut down.

The licensing process was the only way the state could legally fund the Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Non-medical marijuana regulation would be similar.

“They have to pay for their own programs,” Sederberg explained. “They can’t be a drain on the state.”

The Department of Revenue’s former Director of Enforcement Matt Cook (who emphasized that he was not speaking for the department) estimated that the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED) collected $8 million from the marijuana industry. And spent it. The MMED is broke. It spent $750,000 on tricked-out off-road SUVs (more vehicles than they had staff to drive them). And it spent around $2 million, Cook confirmed, on a futuristic, live-streaming video room where officials could observe everyone in the industry at work. It was never built.

“They might have completed the first step,” Cook explained, “and never made it to the second.”

An inside source clarified: “The MMED never paid the rest of the money in the contract, so the military contracting firm kept the money.”

These expenses, some believe, explain why hopeless dispensaries were allowed to proceed: The state kept its non-refundable application fee of at least $8,750.

“The inspectors would look at these mom-and-pop operations,” said one owner, “and know they couldn’t make all the upgrades required. But they’d let them try anyway.”

One requirement was state-of-the-art surveillance systems, installed by the few companies approved by the MMED (which got fees from the companies). The cameras were needed for the live-streaming video room that was never built.

When the MMED and these costly requirements were created, some alleged that deep pockets within the industry had lobbied to eliminate their smaller competition. I asked Tvert who had lobbied for HB 10-1284. His list included one group that no longer exists: Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation. A search reveals that the pro-regulation group formed briefly around 1284’s drafting was funded by businesspeople and hired professional lobbyists to meet with lawmakers.

Lobbyists will act again if Amendment 64 passes, the attorneys acknowledged. Application fees are capped, but licensing fees are not; they could “weed out” smaller businesses.

“Hopefully,” said Vicente, “they’ll be less expensive.”

And hopefully, they won’t be spent on fantasy Big-Brother video-streaming rooms or off-road monster trucks. Those decisions will again be left to the DOR.

But this time, if Colorado makes history, the country will be watching. We’ll see a federal reaction that may violate states’ rights. If the feds don’t stop us, Colorado may soon have more money for improving education and stopping violent crime. We’ll have untold revenue and “green jobs” from the new hemp industry. We may inspire the country to imagine dollars better spent — on children, teachers, people. Not enforcing laws that hurt us. Not lobbying lawmakers for corporate interests. Maybe then — when money doesn’t equal political speech — we’d write laws thoughtfully, considering all interests.

And we’d finally write a law that’s truly about legalizing marijuana.

Gilboy owns Colorado Quality Collective, which provides consulting services to medical marijuana businesses.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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Amendment 64 will not help our children.  It will just make marijuana more available in more forms than it already is. Anyone who thinks this amendment is good for children is obviously using too much marijuana.


Amendment 64 does NOT legalize marijuana for kids. Only adults over 21 will be able to have it. With the current law marijuana is unregulated and kids dont need an id to buy it.


Legalizing marijuana would save lives as well as cause a reduction in cases of domestic violence. This would be the result of fewer people choosing alcohol as their drug of choice. See the preface of the book "marijuana is safer" it is a free download.


Anyone who thinks a64 doesn't protect our kids is obviously a drug dealer. Why would drug dealers wanna see this amendment pass? They don't. Think about it. They'll lose all their business to regulated stores. Where an Id is required. I remember when I was in high school alcohol was always harder to get then weed.


I don't care about your kids. Tell them not do take drugs.


I really don’t know what the hell you guys are talking about. If you people know that, this is going to affect the amendments, they why don’t you just shut it up. I think the govt. is just playing around with all of you. Windows 10


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Amendment 64 will help children because if it passes, marijuana will be regulated - therefore harder for underage people to obtain - like cigarettes and alcohol.  Amendment 64 will also help all of us by freeing up the police and justice system to address real problems.  If you are really concerned about children, there are many, many ways to support them that don't require limiting the freedom of adults.  But perhaps the best result of passing 64 would be increased freedom from harmful, costly pharmaceuticals. 


As Americans we should at least have the freedom to choose to use the safest of all the drugs. The only non-toxic drug and the safest of them all is marijuana. In this society of the free it is ludicrous that marijuana is not legal for adult consumption.



No on Colorado amendment 64 - PLEASE!

I am pro marijuana! The illegal prohibition should END! Not with amendment 64. A $5 (FIVE) MILLION dollar out of state funding pushed that 'sensible' conversation which was filled with lies. Mason Tvert and B. Vincent are paid mouth pieces.  

Amendment 64 isn’t about legalizing marijuana. It’s about money. Tell me a freedom fighter that said "collect taxes, fees and fines and demand regulations to allow extortion under a new name"?  I hope all Republicans realize a yes on 64 is a yes for bigger government. The State uses 8 million a year of Medical Marijuana fees to fund the MMJ law enforcement. That is more big government and costly regulations. 

The possession of an ounce is already decriminalized with a potential $100 fine. The local county and city gov makes the local law and can choose to not allow marijuana like many do not allow MMJ. Amendment 64 won’t exactly make Marijuana legal. To grow your own you need a locked room for six 6 plants which CAN NOT all be in bud at the same time.  Your landlord does not have to allow the grow. Amendment 64 won’t reduce the number of people jailed for marijuana because that still takes money for a lawyer.

Yes, I believe that marijuana should be as legal as growing and sharing tomatoes. 
Do not let the MAN make you think that 64 is about anything other than paying the TAX man!
Even California saw all this come to light before they voted down so called legalization for tax money.

A yes on 64 does not change employment drug testing demands. The wording of amendment 64 in Colorado potentially allows legislation for marijuana dui's because accurate testing does not exist. The estimation of funding it would provide CO would not be realized for potentially 6 years. Colorado voted yes on MMJ and it took until about 2009 for dispensaries to begin to open. 64 creates an instant nanny state by not knowing how the Federal government would lift the prohibition and does nothing to reduce the failed 'war on drugs'. 64 does not give Colorado hemp farming only a promotional statement that the State legislation should consider and 64 sets a THC level for Industrial Hemp.

Think of all the dispensaries that have been forced to close, raided, denied banking, with huge fee's and a lawyer on call and now that is every house that innocently tries to grow 6 plants. The only thing 64 changes is if caught with paraphernalia. It is not to protect parents and their under 21s just like it won't reduce the 'under ground' or Cartel . Follow the money. Also note that the GOP is using marijuana to attract voters and that I have to laugh at ...or I'll cry.  Because every one knows all pot smokers are liberal tree huggers. {hand gesture for head explosion}. 
Say No to 64 because it is not written to provide freedom. No where does Colorado amendment 64 say that it will be taxed like alcohol. No tax amount is specifically mentioned.


You're just another guy protecting the middle man and special interest. Freedom fighter my ass. This amendment is a step in the right direction and will create jobs. Your argument make no sense if you're pro cannabis. It sounds like your a wolf In sheeps clothing. Grow a pair and say what you really mean that you want cannabis to stay illegal. By voting yes on A64 it actually helps sick people access their medicine. They wouldn't have to spend all that money on a doctor visit or stupid license. You freedom suppressor. Let every one over 21 enjoy this wonderful God given plant. Vote yes on a64.


Anon: You sir are the ignorant fool in this case. Your eye is aimed on legalization alone and not of the consequences. If anything it will TAKE AWAY jobs rather than create them. The jobs that will be taken away will be those already working in the marijuana dispensaries. How would it create jobs by bringing the product to already up and running stores? Everything that TruthB has stated is as close to home as it gets. There are downsides to legalization, don't just ignore that. Saying it helps sick people get access is just straight up bullshit. Without spending all that money on a doctor? $75 is too much for you once a year? Jesus, that's ridiculous, you know you're going to be paying a higher tax rate on pot than you are now, right? All the money you've spent on a doctor is just going right to the tax man. -Signed, A Dispensary Worker, Also Pro-Marijuana.


By all means, if you support the cartels, then vote no on 64. If you are pro-marijuana but anti-cartel, then a yes vote on 64 would seem more justified -- at this time. The goal of federal prohibition ending before large chunks of state prohibition are dismantled is just not achievable this election cycle. The new 21st Amendment is not up for a vote! Please consider the recent case of veterans suffering from PTSD who are being denied access to regulated MMJ by the State of Colorado health board tasked with adding new qualifying conditions for MMJ patients. The State is _clearly_ not listening to the people, and so it is time to update the contract with the government by applying Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution. Removing a lot -- not all, but a lot -- of criminal penalties for adult marijuana purchases is progress away from prohibitionism. Removing individual adult database registration requirements with the State is also progress. If you think that the status quo on marijuana policy in Colorado is unacceptable, then a YES vote on 64 is the only direct way to make some changes this November in the direction of individual liberty with regards to this substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.



Consider INVESTING in the full legalization movement with stock symbol MJNA (Medical Marijuana Inc) -- With the most recent polls surging in Washington (37 and 24 point leads -- ALL with majority leads) and Colorado (11 and 5 points leads), there's no telling where this will go in November.



Well done! An informative peice without all the deseptive campaigning both sides like to through at us. The first line says it all,"Amendment 64 isn't about legalizing marijuana. It's about money".