Wheat Ridge Pushes Back Against Marijuana Grow

(Above, 420 party in Denver, 2013, AP photo/Brennan Linsley. This is the 4th in a series on Retail pot battles.) In Colorado where marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use — a result of the vote two years ago — communities are fighting to push back against the pot businesses.  As Coloradans try to gain control of their neighborhoods from an invasive marijuana industry, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, DC — where legalizing marijuana is on the ballot now — have a chance to learn a lesson.

A decision to legalize marijuana should not be taken lightly.   A decision to allow medical marijuana, as in Florida and Guam at the moment, is often an open door to the quasi-legalization of pot.

Battles are heated in Jefferson County, just west of Denver.  The city of Lakewood is currently voting on 2A, a ballot to ban marijuana.   Already Denver has more marijuana shops than Starbucks.

In the city of Wheat Ridge, just north of Lakewood and to the west of Denver, the community is standing together to keep pot out of their neighborhoods.  Residents may attend a city council meeting of Monday, October 27, and speak out about the proposed 10,000-square-foot marijuana grow, and about overall concerns regarding retail marijuana.

CentralColoradodispensaries map, shows where it is banned.
Colorado dispensaries map, shows where it is banned. Chart: Project SAM

The community is demanding a say in the creation of a 10,000- square-foot grow house and dispensary. The public is also calling to end to activities of a local head shop, Three Kings Dab Supply.

“Wheat Ridge jumped the gun with bringing in recreational marijuana. They didn’t look at the big picture,” says Jennifer Shepherd.   She added, “I, the mother of 2 young boys, have a recreational and medical dispensary next to our neighborhood playground.”  At this time there are five dispensaries or retail stores  in the city.

The city council voted to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana October of last year. District 1 Councilman Bud Starker, who voted to legalize recreational pot, says the people of Colorado did approve Amendment 64. “I think the (city) legislation that was introduced seems to balance the two interests — the will of the people and safeguarding the public,” Starker said.

There’s been a shocking trend of municipal ruling bodies who shut out public input into decisions regarding marijuana businesses throughout Colorado communities. Are they over-anxious and greedy for tax revenue? Many Coloradans didn’t realize their vote on Amendment 64 would be interpreted as a vote for recreational shops in their towns.

Jennifer Yates, a member of Parents for a Healthy Colorado, says, “There was rumor of a proposed 10,000-square-foot store, grow and MIPS (Marijuana-Infused Products) operation to be built 300 feet from my house. This site is in the walking path of a middle school.”

“Our city council and officials kept saying there is no application for this site, but I found a pre-application [after searching for the address]. I presented it to council Monday night and they finally admitted that this information is correct. It’s just frustrating that our elected leaders seemed to be dodging and dismissing what was really about to happen on that property.”   It turns out the proposed site will not be for a MIP.

Is the Money for Education?

Hundreds of Wheat Ridge community members joined together, rallying and appearing at the City Council meeting, filling overflow rooms and hallways, on September 22, 2014.

Wheat Ridge city council meeting, September 22.  Photo, courtesy of Healthy Colorado Kids.
Wheat Ridge city council meeting, September 22. Photo: Parents for a Healthy Colorado.

Pro-marijuana supporters stress that revenue taxes will go towards education.

“As far as taxes go, as an educator I don’t want drug money,” said former Lakewood High School Principal Ron Castagna. “It’s not worth it; I’ve watched kids die over this stuff.” The parents and educators of Wheat Ridge seem to think that banning the dispensaries, as many called their city council to do, would be a far greater advantage to their children.

Three Kings Dab Supply

A head shop in Wheat Ridge, Three Kings Dab Supply, is also a recent topic of controversy in the neighborhood. The shop sells bongs, pipes, and other smoking devices, as well as offers space to glassblowers to practice their craft. It promotes a space in which pot smokers can come and “bring your own dab.”

Three Kings Dab Supply in Wheat Ridge, CO, is where people bring their own "dabs."  Photo: News Channel 9
Three Kings Dab Supply in Wheat Ridge, CO, is advertised as a place where clubbers bring their own “dabs.”         Photo: News Channel 9

Complaints began when a neighbor who shares the driveway with Three Kings’ parking lot became frustrated with the amount of cars in the parking lot. Jennifer Yates, who drives past the supply shop several times a week to take her daughter to gymnastics, commented on Three Kings Dab Supply, “I noticed that most times there are only 2-4 cars in the lot, but on Friday nights, there were 15-20 cars.”

It will continue to be an on-going concern, because those who go to the club can party on the property, in a backyard, where noise and smoke can invade the neighborhood.  While the business does not distribute marijuana and may seem a lovely artistic gathering place, it is a concern for parents and their children.

Oregon: Debate Shows Flaws in Measure 91

Measure 91 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oregon.   A problem — acknowledged by both No on 91 and Yes on 91 in last’s night “Great Pot Debate” at Portland State University — is that the measure doesn’t allow cities to tax.  To test the  theory that a “weed” can be taxed and regulated, those who crafted 91 wanted taxes to be lower than in Washington and in Oregon.

Problems with the marijuana edibles in Colorado were discussed. Today Dr. Ron Schwerzler admitted he was wrong about 5 children dying from the edibles.  He may have confused facts about the edibles with three toddlers who died from neglect while parents smoked weed.  Added to the two adults who died, there are 5 non-traffic fatalities in Colorado caused directly or indirectly by marijuana. (So far 13 children have been hospitalized for ingesting edibles, 7 of them in IC Units.)   Dr. Schwertzler was correct, however, in asserting that you don’t treat one addiction with another addictive substance.

No one who was debating had the faintest idea how edibles would be regulated in Oregon.    The debate was live streamed October 21 and will repeat on  KATU TV station, Sunday, October 26, 9 a.m.

Measure 91 could set up turf battles between cities and the state over the right to tax.  In last night’s debate, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, suggested that it’s not the people, state, or the cities who would benefit, but lawyers who would fight for all sides.   Marquis sounded critical of the state’s aversion to a sales tax. Oregon has no sales tax and Washington, home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, doesn’t have a state income tax.  So instead of looking for easy solutions to raise revenues, both states have posed the idea of legalizing marijuana and using the tax for drug prevention education and other services.  Thus far, marijuana businesses have resisted regulations in Colorado.

Joshua Marquis
Photo of Clatsop County DA,  Joshua “Josh” Marquis                   Photo: Courtesy of Doug Crouch Photography.

Oregon’s law would allow individual possession of marijuana that is much more than either Colorado or Washington.

Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973.  There are about 2,000 + arrests per year for marijuana, but only 70 or so  currently in jail for marijuana violations alone.  Marquis pointed out that the crimes they committed, such as distributing or selling to children,  would still be illegal if Measure 91 passes.

Portland Pre-empts Marijuana Taxes

Last Wednesday Portland city council voted to for a 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana — to be applied if Amendment 91 passes. Votes are counted on November 4.   This action highlights one of the many flaws in Measure 91, which prohibits cities from taxing pot.  Cities like Portland would like a slice of the marijuana pie, since they will need a lot of money to regulate the industry.

Many cities — Hillsboro, Beaverton, Forest Grove– have passed a tax on marijuana, or are considering the action,  in advance of November 4.   Although Measure 91 gives the state  sole authority to tax marijuana, attorneys for some Oregon cities argue that municipal pot taxes will be grandfathered if passed before the election.  Supporters of Measure 91 argue otherwise.

 

Photo on top is DA Joshua "Josh" Marquis of Clatsop County. Photo: Courtesy of Doug Crouch Photography.  Oregon is known for hiking, biking, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls. Why change.  P
Oregon is known for hiking, biking, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls. Why change ?

A few local leaders think the pre-emptive taxes are a way to justify the marijuana businesses in cities without residents’ approval.   If this happens, Oregon will have the same political battles that have plagued Colorado and Washington.

While Oregon is counting on enacting a lower rate than Colorado and  Washington, estimates vary as to how much money can be collected.  A Portland firm, hired by the sponsors of Measure 91, estimated first-year taxes for the state to be 38.5 million.  A committee made up of state  economists estimated the figure to be about $9.3 million the first year.

Supporters of recreational marijuana propose that by creating a commercialized industry, marijuana can be taxed and regulated.  When governments introduce vice to raise revenues, they risk doing harm to significant numbers of the population.

Back to the Debate

In questions after the debate, supporters of Measure 91 objected to being “criminals,” as they consider themselves under current law, despite the fact Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973.  Inge Fryklund, a former prosecutor, argued that legalizing pot can keep marijuana away from children through regulation.  Her debate partner for Yes on 91 was Richard Harris.

No one discussed the possibility of an increase in explosions caused by hash oil extraction, already a problem in Oregon.  This problem increased threefold in Colorado by May of this year.

During the debate,  the idea that legalizing and regulating pot could take profits away from cartels and put them out of business was mentioned.   However, a Washington Post article earlier this year traced the business of cartels leaving Colorado to Central America, where they have introduced poppy cultivation.  There was general acknowledgement that Washington and Colorado still have black markets.   Why does Oregon think it could be different?

(Here’s our first story about Oregon’s Measure 91.)

Marijuana, GMO Lobbyists Pour Money into Oregon

(Second in a series on Oregon) Measure 91 to tax and regulate marijuana is not so much a vote about legalizing marijuana as it is a vote to commercialize it.   Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973!

“Commercialization’s goal is to privatize profit and socialize the costs,” explained one of our members in Colorado.

“Marijuana legalization rakes in another $800,000 from big out-of-state donors” was the headline in today’s Oregonian.  The money will fund a $2.3 million advertising campaign.

As of October 17, the out-of-state PACs and donors have given over $4 million — 24 x the amount Vote No on 91 has raised.  Yes on 91 asks Oregonians to expand its pot industry and allow recreational pot shops. — quite a stretch for the only coastal state that doesn’t commercialize its beaches.  (Medical marijuana sellers who recruit so-called patients along Venice beach in California wouldn’t find it as easy in Oregon.)

No on 91 is led by conviction, not money.  As the Register-Guard reports, almost all of its money is from in-state, and there’s a large group of volunteers.  Oregon residents and voters tend to be independent and less corporate, so they may not follow the pack.

Moms Against 91 held a press conference in  on Friday, October 17, in Oswego Lake
Moms Against 91 held a press conference in on Friday, October 17, in Lake Oswego, OR

Big Money Pushes Legalization Ballot; Monsanto Gives to GMO Opposition

Vote No on 91 has received most of its $168,200 from in-state sources.  (Oregon has another ballot issue that is also being watched nationwide, Measure 92, which would require labels on genetically-modified (GMO) foods.  Wealthy donors and corporate interests from both sides of that issue have donated millions.   Most recently, Monsanto gave 2.5 million in opposition to Measure 92.   Oregon Right to Know, in favor of Measure 92, has raised over $5.4 million, while the opposition has raised $15 million.  Dr. Mercola, Ben & Gerry’s Ice Cream are amongst the supporters. )

Unlike the GMO issue, the forces against marijuana legalization have no corporate donors.   Marijuana legalization advocates often claim that pharmaceutical companies fuel the opposition to legalization.  It’s a false notion, because the opposition comes from the public, the prevention community and parents.

Most of the money to fund marijuana originates in the deep pockets of hedge fund billionaire George Soros, donor of Drug Policy Action, and the family of Progressive Insurance founder, Peter Lewis.  Mr. Lewis died in November, but his children have continued the donations. They aren’t Oregon residents.

From Ballotpedia the Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Drug Policy Action $1,350,000
New Approach PAC $950,000
New Approach Oregon $700,000
Drug Policy Action Fund for Oregon $240,000
Philip Harvey $150,000

While Oregon’s 2 gubernatorial candidates, Gov. John Kitzenhaber and Dennis Richardson , support GMO labels, they adamantly oppose Measure 91.  Gov. Kitzenhaber is a physician.

Thinking people of Oregon, please think deeply about this issue.

Civil Rights and Drug Policy in Washington, DC

African-Americans in Washington, DC, do not embrace marijuana legalization as readily as whites in DC — by a difference of 18 percentage points. Judge Arthur Burnett, National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, observes that opposition among  blacks to legalization stems from experience.  African-American communities already suffer from a liquor store on every corner, and black voters know commercial marijuana would prey on their communities at a much higher rate.  “Do we really want to substitute mass incapacitation for mass incarceration?” Judge Burnett asks.   He spoke along with others opponents to legalization at a Press Conference in Washington sponsored by Two. Is. Enough. D.C. (TieDC).

Judge Arthur Burnett, Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., former senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
Judge Arthur Burnett, Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., former senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Vanita Gupta is the nominee to head the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. According to a recent article, Gupta, a former ACLU lawyer, endorses the complete legalization of marijuana in every state, with taxation and regulation.  No DC official is more popular in Washington than Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who contends the ACLU doesn’t understand the city (to be discussed in another article).   Washington residents should vote No on Ballot 71 to legalize marijuana and reject the posturing of outside groups.

Gupta has an impressive resume, but the 39-year old would not be where she is today if she lived by the drug policies she allegedly endorses. Had Gupta partaken in pot culture as a teen, she would not have been accepted into Yale University.  If she had spent young adulthood frequently using marijuana, she wouldn’t have become a successful attorney.

Does she understand the nature of addiction?  Does she understand why every minority group voted against marijuana legalization in California?  We cannot have a national discussion of policy without including a discussion of drug abuse and addiction.

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta, nominated to head the Civil Rights Division in in Department of Justice

Our education about the nature of addiction and what drugs actually do—at all our schools, and at every level–should be top priority.  Here is evidence that was recently published in “Press the President,” which featured National Families in Action’s review of the science that underlies drug abuse and addiction.

Five Unavoidable Statistics

1. Availability drives use. The more available a given drug is, the more people use that drug. The most effective prevention strategy is to keep availability to a minimum.

2. 137 million Americans use alcohol regularly; 67 million use tobacco; 20 million use marijuana.

3. The alcohol industry spent $3.5 billion in 2011 to market and advertise its products; the tobacco industry spent $8.4 billion. A commercial marijuana industry will do the same.

4. Age limits don’t prevent underage use: five of ten new smokers every year are under age 18, eight of ten new drinkers are under age 21. Age limits won’t stop underage marijuana use in legalization states.

5. About half of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 were located in one city, Denver. That year, marijuana use among Denver’s middle-school students was double that of middle-school students in the rest of the state; marijuana use among Denver’s high school students was 25 percent higher.

Shocking Facts for Drug Policy-Makers

– It’s not your daddy’s weed. The marijuana of the 60s and 70s contained 2-3 percent THC. Today’s marijuana contains 15 percent THC on average. Marijuana extracts such as Butane Hash Oil contain from 75 to 100 percent THC.

– Colorado pot shops are selling candies, cookies, and soft drinks infused with marijuana. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are showing up at emergency rooms because they ate them and overdosed. Some have required intensive care to recover.

– Marijuana is not harmless. A just-published review of 20 years of marijuana research worldwide finds that marijuana can impair adolescents’ intellectual development and ability to perform in school. Use that begins before age 18 can result in an average IQ drop of 8 points, enough to place a person of average intelligence in the bottom third of the IQ scale.

– Using marijuana before driving doubles the risk of having a crash.

– One in six teenagers who use marijuana regularly will become addicted; so will one in ten adults.

– Marijuana use doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.

Another View — Judge Arthur Burnett

Vanita Gupta has said “The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color.”   There’s a lot she could learn from Judge Arthur Burnett. He spent 31 years as a judge in the District. He doesn’t think legalization would keep young black men out of jail, Marijuana would be more readily available, leading more young people to harder drugs.  Scratch the surface of most homicides and rape cases, and the perpetrators were high on drugs, including marijuana. Marijuana introduces people to a culture where they get drawn into other drugs, though it might not be a gateway for everyone who tries it.

Gupta’s passion for racial fairness is admirable, but she doesn’t seem to have drug culture experience.  Drug use brings pain and misery to the users and families of users.  Gupta needs to understand the limited hope for children who begin drug use at an early age. Being a racial minority it hard enough, but why add another strike against minority youth by advocating a program that would increase their drug usage?