Weed between the lines

Cannabis legalization a non-partisan issue

Leland Rucker | Boulder Weekly

One of the most encouraging pieces in the cannabis legalization puzzle these days is that it’s less a partisan political issue than ever. Republicans use cannabis, and even some who don’t are beginning to see that legalization is a much more sensible approach than throwing money down the sewer that is the war on drugs.

Bipartisanship is reaching into the halls of Congress. Last week, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher joined Democrats Denny Heck, Barbara Lee and Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter in sponsoring and passing an amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill that stops the Treasury Department from spending money to go after financial institutions that provide banking services to cannabis businesses legal under state law. It passed 231-192 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Two months ago Rohrabacher co-sponsored an amendment with Rep. Sam Farr that would prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Department of Justice from using taxpayer money to interfere with medical cannabis in states where it is legal and would bar federal agencies from prosecuting hemp production in states where it is legal. That one passed 210-189 in June. Both now await Senate approval, changes or dismissal.

Perhaps more significantly, 46 Republicans joined 190 Democrats in the Republican-controlled House last week to block an amendment by Louisiana’s John Fleming that itself would have blocked the Obama administration’s February 14 guidance that would allow banks to take deposits from cannabis businesses in states where it is legal.

That’s right. On this issue, Republicans actually voted across party lines for an Obama proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives. Think about that for a second.

It indicates that even Congresspeople are aware of the changes in voter attitudes regarding cannabis and the Congress-funded war on drugs. A new study from the Huffington Post/YouGov finds — no surprise — a majority of Americans supporting legalization.

This one included just 10 basic questions. One asked if they had ever used cannabis; 44 percent of respondents said yes, while 48 percent said they had never tried it, with 7 percent preferring not to answer (which probably means they have but don’t want to fess up). When asked “Do you think the use of marijuana should be legalized?,” 51 percent agreed, while 37 percent didn’t and 11 percent declined to answer.

Only 32 percent said they thought that cannabis use would lead to harder drugs. Fifty percent said it wouldn’t, with 18 percent in the “don’t know” category. And 60 percent of all respondents, including 55 percent of Republicans, agreed that “government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth,” with only 18 percent disagreeing and 21 percent who didn’t know.

Perhaps the big surprise is that 61 percent of Americans outside the state support the Colorado legalization effort, with only 27 percent opposing it. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans said they support Colorado’s efforts.

A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,147 Coloradoans released Monday indicates that the state is still in favor of legalization, with 54 percent favoring legalization and 43 percent against it.

Sixty-six percent said they agree with present laws that cannabis should be consumed only in homes or in members-only clubs and not in establishments that serve alcohol.

The problem is that there just aren’t enough members-only clubs, which means cannabis consumption right now is mostly confined to people’s homes. Tourists, parents and lots of other people need someplace to gather outside their own homes. With the city of Denver having recently launched kamikaze attacks on some private cannabis clubs, I’m not encouraged that the situation will change soon.

My first experiences with edibles beyond the old homemade “marijuana brownies” in prohibition days were with Cheeba Chews. Made by a local company, the chocolate cannabis rolls were generally of high quality, potency and consistency, and I was among many satisfied customers who haven’t found any in retail stores the last few months.

A well-researched story in the Denver Post finds that the company ran afoul of state regulations. It’s a complicated tale which involves alleged illegal business structures and exposes a hole in the regulatory system that allows businesses to operate while their licenses are still pending. The company says that it has retained a new company to bake and distribute Cheeba Chews and that they will be returning to store shelves soon.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but back when cannabis was illegal everywhere, if I rented a car, the last thing I did before turning it in was to make sure there were no traces of any weed anywhere.

Apparently, I don’t have to worry so much anymore. ABC News reports that people are dumping off rental cars at Denver International Airport and leaving their leftover weed in the car or giving it to the counter person checking it back in. Employees interviewed said that it happens quite often since it became legal for adults to possess cannabis, and that when it’s given to them, they flush it.

Assuming they are telling the truth, here’s where one of our state laws comes in handy: Anyone, even a visitor, can legally gift anyone up to an ounce of pot. Just don’t waste it leaving it for the car rental folks.

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