This is not a good time to invest in recreational pot, as detailed by The New York Times, The Gazette and a variety of marijuana publications.
“States Keep Saying Yes to Marijuana Use. Now Comes the Federal No,” says the headline of a July 15 Times story.
The Times told of a federal “task force” convened reviewing links between violent crimes and state marijuana legalization.
Given the perilous state of legalization under the Trump administration, the Colorado Springs City Council would be wise to set aside aspirations of investing in an election to allow commercial sales.
Five days after that story, KKTV and Gazette reporters Jakob Rodgers and Conrad Swanson exposed a private meeting among the federal Department of Justice, drug policy officials, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and local police.
Suthers said the meeting was to “find out what law enforcement and other regulatory agencies’ view is toward marijuana regulation in Colorado.”
Suthers, the former Colorado Attorney General and a former U.S. attorney, could not have been complimentary in his description of the pot market. He has long opposed legalization and explains how social costs outweigh the revenues generated by taxation.
The Gazette story said Suthers told federal agencies about “huge” marijuana black market problems throughout Colorado, as cartels are able to blend with legal cultivation and distribution operations.
“Everyone in Colorado Springs known to have met with the federal officials has either expressed strong concern about legalized marijuana or opposition,” The Gazette article explained.
“It’s giving them the in to come after the industry — that’s the fear,” said Jason Warf, executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.
The fear is well-founded. Marijuana is not legal under federal law, not by any stretch. President Donald Trump can shut down Colorado’s industry with a pen and a phone. Trump told The Gazette’s editorial board last summer he was undecided on recreational pot and would let research and emerging information guide his actions.
If Trump nixes pot, based on the federal inquiry involving Suthers, no lawsuit will reverse the action. The Supreme Court of the United States settled the matter in 2005.
The Court’s 6-3 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich confirmed the federal government’s authority to criminalize production and use of homegrown cannabis in states that approve its use for medicinal purposes. Court liberals dominated the decision, with John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer joining centrist Anthony Kennedy in an opinion written by Stephens. Conservative Antonin Scalia voted with the majority but wrote a separate justification.
If the Supreme Court allows federal authorities to shut down “medicinal” pot, there can be no question about its authority to regulate “recreational” pot.
Two days after Rodgers and Swanson told about federal authorities building a case against marijuana with the help of Suthers, they reported on six of nine City Council members supporting a possible council referendum to ask voters for legal recreational sales. Among supporters are Yolanda Avila, President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, David Geislinger, Bill Murray, Tom Strand and Council President Richard Skorman.
“We need to have a big community discussion,” Skorman said. “The majority of the voters here did support it.”
The majority of local voters supported Amendment 64 in 2012, “permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit” marijuana manufacturing, testing and retail. Local government chose to “prohibit,” mostly in the interest of teenagers and the population of young people enrolled in local colleges and serving the area’s seven major military bases.
The decision to resist retail pot has given our community an edge when trying to attract young families, tourists and family friendly businesses. It has respected the wishes of military leaders battling substance abuse within the ranks.
Culturally and economically, Colorado Springs is flourishing. Tax revenues are up, new businesses are adding jobs and housing values are soaring. It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.
This is no time for the City Council to encourage a trade it has wisely avoided for the past five years.
The gazette Editorial Board
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