Tag: Colorado

Sessions Informs Hickenlooper, We Have “Higher Priorities”

Despite having good news to report on the cannabis legalization front, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was visibly apprehensive when asked by Politico’s Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman to speak about his recent pow-wow with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After blazing through a myriad of timely topics, like the changing demographics of Colorado, cyber security, and Russia’s continued efforts to hack America’s political system, Anna Palmer asked Gov. Hickenlooper the question that was high on everybody’s list: “You’ve met with the Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who very clearly has a different position on pot and other drugs, what did you guys discuss?”

Authentic and plainspoken, Hickenlooper started by explaining to Palmer he wasn’t the only elected official in Colorado who opposed recreational legalization. “Well it’s not just me, almost every elected official I know opposed the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.”

Consumed by nervous ignorance in 2012, Hickenlooper explained how he and his fellow politicians feared that legalization would lead to a spike in consumption among Colorado’s youth. Colorado’s politicians were reportedly concerned that misfits and stoners with elevated THC metabolite levels would cause carnage on the highways and byways while toddlers got baked on mom and dad’s unguarded stash.

According to the Colorado Gov., “The things we were most worried about, and I said this to the Attorney General, were a spike in consumption. Especially a spike among teenagers.”

Fortunately for all, that didn’t happen.

After explaining the ramifications of today’s highly potent strains on developing brains – while omitting any alcohol-related data – Gov. Hickenlooper noted, “none” of those fears materialized.

No long-term increased use by Colorado’s teenagers, no blood on the highway in the Mile High City, and Colorado’s babies remained safe and sound.

Hickenlooper noted, “We had a little increase among teenagers the first year, since then, it’s come down. Overall consumption has gone up just a little bit. But it’s almost all been in just one demographic – senior citizens.”

willie nelson senior cannabis consumer

Pot and Senior Citizens: It’s a Natural Fit

While the governor’s noteworthy observation got a chuckle from the crowd, Hickenlooper explained that senior tokers have turned to marijuana because it provides “more effective pain relief than opioids.”

During his conversation with Hickenlooper, Sessions acknowledged the Department of Justice (DOJ) lacks the resources for a full-blown war on weed, and that the DOJ has “higher priorities.”

After telling Gov. Hickenlooper, “were not going to come in and shut everything down,” the Atty. Gen. then gave one ominous caveat. “If we have to make an example of some companies or some individuals, then that’s what we’ll do,” said Sessions according to Hickenlooper.

Jake Sherman then asked the $64 million question of the governor, “Based on the tax revenue, would you recommend other states do what you guys did in Colorado and legalize marijuana?” Quick to respond, Hickenlooper, who was originally opposed to legalization, didn’t think it was worth it, at least “not for the money.”

Hickenlooper said, “I told every other governor that, if I was in their place, I would wait a year or two – there’s no big rush.”

On a recent trip to speak before the California assembly, Hickenlooper offered Gov. Jerry Brown some sage advice that’s applicable to any state considering legalizing marijuana – establish your baseline data now.

Hickenlooper told Brown, “Make sure you’re measuring right now anytime you have a fatality on the highway and it looks like it’s human error, and that person died.  Make sure to take a blood test for marijuana, in addition to alcohol. It costs a little bit more money, but not much. Make sure you have as good a baseline as you can of how much damage is going on in the existing system before you go into a new system.”

Fun facts: In 2002, 351 drivers under the age of 65 died on Colorado’s highways. In 2016, four years after legalization, 219 drivers died in an automobile crash. Representing an 11% decrease in Colorado’s traffic fatalities, legalization has saved lives and generated revenue. Between 2014 – 2017, the state of Colorado has raised more than $141,064,563 via their 15% excise tax on recreational marijuana, $216,560,926 from their 10% special sales tax on adult use marijuana, and an additional $62,081,092 from a 2.9% sales tax on recreational cannabis.

 

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Colorado: The Scent of Weed is NOT Sufficient Reason for Vehicle Search

Kilo is the catchy name of Moffat County, Colorado’s now infamous drug-sniffing dog. Trained to sniff out cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and marijuana, Kilo can’t tell cops which drug he’s sniffed out.

Now, thanks to a job “well-done,” Kilo is staring an early retirement in the face — because of Kilo, the scent of legal weed in Colorado no longer warrants a car search.

A scapegoat for his fellow dog sniffers or a consequence of legalization, Kilo’s case and inability to enunciate just set a landmark precedent for drug searches in Colorado.

In February 2015, Kilo sniffed out contraband in Colorado resident Kevin McKnight’s truck. Kilo’s senses went off, he alerted police officer Bryan Gonzales of the contraband, and a search of the truck turned up a “pipe containing white residue from McKnight’s truck.”

The 48-year-old McKnight — pulled over after a “wrong-turn” coming from a suspected drug house — was then charged with “possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.” McKnight’s attorney motioned to suppress the search for lack of probable cause, but the initial judge decided the drug-sniffing evidence was permissible.

Last Thursday, the case came before the Colorado Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel, which decided that the search did in fact lack probable cause because “the dog could not tell officers what he was sniffing.”

The case’s presiding judge, Daniel Dailey, wrote that,

“Because Amendment 64 legalized possession for personal use of one ounce or less of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older in Colorado, it is no longer accurate to say, at least as a matter of state law, that an alert by a dog which can detect marijuana — but not specific amounts — can reveal only the presence of ‘contraband.’”

Since Kilo couldn’t actually tell the cops which substance he was alerted to, the dog’s senses could’ve very well been alerted to legal cannabis and not methamphetamine. That possibility alone makes the car search illegal.

The court concluded that,

“A dog sniff could result in an alert with respect to something for which, under Colorado law, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. Because a dog sniff of a vehicle could infringe upon a legitimate expectation of privacy solely under state law, that dog sniff should now be considered a ‘search’ for purposes of (the amendment) where the occupants are 21 years or older.”

Judge Michael Berger wrote that Colorado’s legalization bill, Amendment 64, allows Coloradans “an enforceable expectation of privacy.” That privacy now prohibits drug dogs trained to sniff out weed turning the scent of contraband into permissible court evidence.

The solution to avoid this kind of mix up for Colorado could be a simple one: stop training dogs to sniff out weed in the first place. Both Oregon and Vermont have stopped training dogs to bark at cannabis for the exact same reason.

While varying from county to county, Denver still has four cannabis-sniffing dogs on its staff; those K-9s are employed to sniff out illegal grows in the city. After this recent hearing, however, perhaps these dogs, and all Colorado dogs like Kilo, have dissolved into obsolete antiques of cannabis legalization.

The entire court document on this case can be found here.

In 2015, a landmark Supreme Court ruling found that cops can’t legally wait for drug dogs at standard traffic stops.

Image courtesy of potdogsusa

 

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Job Growth in Colorado Leaves Employers Wondering About THC Metabolites

High unemployment is not a problem in Colorado. And whether or not it’s the burgeoning marijuana industry absorbing the surplus workforce, Colorado’s low unemployment numbers have pushed employers to reconsider screening for marijuana during their pre-employment drug testing process.

It’s a “supply and demand” issue according to Curtis Graves — the information resource manager for Mountain States Employers Council informed Colorado Public Radio that employers are facing a severely restricted labor market.

“We’re finding that for employers, it’s such a tight labor market, that they can’t always afford to have a zero-tolerance approach to somebody’s off-duty marijuana use.”

A “tight market” for sure, Colorado’s current unemployment rate hovers at just 2.2% — currently the lowest in the nation. A chronic problem for employers in the Centennial State, it has caused at least some within Colorado’s construction industry to think outside the proverbial box.

Colorado Unemployment Statistics: May 2017

Colorado Unemployment Statistics: May 2017

Mr. Bretz is the owner of a roofing business based in Englewood, Colorado. Anxious to harvest a worthy crop of potential employees, Bretz recently posted a “Help Wanted” notification online. Concerned potential employees may be scared off by a drug test, he included in the online employment post that applicants will not be dropped if “they tested positive for marijuana.”

Disregarding the many states that legalized marijuana during the 2016 general election, according to HireRight only 5% of all employers say they “formally” accommodate marijuana use for any reason.

A thing of the past for some, searching for marijuana metabolites during pre-employment drug screenings is slowly becoming an archaic relic of the Drug War era – at least in Colorado. According to the Denver Post, “marijuana testing by Colorado businesses has slowly declined over the past two years as 7% dropped the drug from pre-employment tests.”

With the voters of California, Washington, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Maine, Alaska, and the District of Columbia having said yes to legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes — and representing approximately ⅕ of the U.S. population — removing the presence of marijuana metabolites as a disqualifying condition of employment seems like nothing more than common sense.

A big high five to all Colorado employers that have evolved with the times.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

 

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