FOUNTAIN, Colo. — As their children cooed from wheelchairs and rocked softly in their arms, the marijuana migrants of Colorado clasped hands, bowed their heads and said a prayer of cautious thanks.
Parents like Marisa Kiser, center, snuggling with her son, Ezra, and Cristi Bundukamara and her son Reggie, 14, have become part of a community of families in marijuana-friendly Colorado. They moved to the state to explore an oil derived from marijuana.
They thanked God for the dinner of roast turkey and mashed potatoes, for their children and for the marijuana-based serum that has drawn 100 families to Colorado on a desperate pilgrimage to quell the squalls of seizures inside their children’s heads. They have come from Florida and Virginia, South Carolina and New York, lining up to treat their children with a promising but largely untested oil that is considered legal medicine in this cannabis-friendly state.
“Thank you for bringing us together,” said Aaron Lightle, whose wife and 9-year-old daughter, Madeleine, moved here after the girl’s neurologists suggested removing part of her brain to stop her relentless seizures. “In crazy ways, maybe. But hey, we’re here.”
Amen, they said.
Their migration is one of myriad ways that a once-illicit drug is reshaping life here in Colorado, which now stands at the forefront of the national debate over legalizing drugs. While these families are seeking treatment through a medical marijuana system that has existed for years, they are arriving at a time when the drug is becoming a mainstream part of public life, made legal for recreational use in a historic vote last year.
The Justice Department has warily allowed Colorado and Washington State, which passed a similar measure, to go ahead with their plans to regulate recreational marijuana, even though it remains illegal under federal law. The first retail marijuana shops in Colorado are poised to open in January. Strains of sativa and indica plants flourish in basements across the state. This week, the Denver City Council moved toward allowing people to smoke marijuana on their property, though smoking in public would still be prohibited.
A worker in Colorado who undergoes a random drug test is found to test positive for marijuana use, but in less than a month pot-smoking will be legal there. Can a company with a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use still fire that worker, or should it instead adjust its policy on employee drug use?
That’s just one of many questions that employers in both Colorado and the state of Washington are wrestling with as they adjust to new marijuana laws, which as of Jan. 1 will permit individuals to buy and possess up to an ounce of pot.
The issues to consider are legion: How much discretion do firms have over how to handle workers who smoke pot in their nonwork hours? Can some kinds of workers (officers of the law, public transit drivers, school teachers) be held to a stricter standard than others? And perhaps most germane, when does federal law, which still outlaws marijuana possession and use, trump state law?
Nearly 100 Colorado medical-marijuana businesses are operating without a finalized state license, the remnants of a bureaucratic backlog now stretching back more than three years.
In the language of the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, these businesses are “operational pending.” What that means is the businesses are allowed to remain open — growing and selling marijuana — while the state conducts its investigation and decides whether to approve or deny the applications the businesses submitted in 2010.
The state has made tremendous progress in clearing its backlog of pending applications — there were more than 900 of them a year ago — and hopes to eliminate the backlog this month.
But the issue has gained new attention after major Drug Enforcement Administration raids last month on medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado, including several operating under pending applications. Of the 96 pending applications for medical-marijuana stores, cultivation facilities and makers of products listed in state records, at least a dozen are tied to addresses raided or people targeted in the raids.
Any number of issues could be holding up the application process for the businesses, said Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Investigators could need to run a background check on a new owner, or an owner could be delinquent in paying taxes. A dispensary could have been caught staying open past state-mandated hours or could be under investigation for more significant noncompliance with state rules.
Postlethwait said she could not confirm how many of the pending applications are being scrutinized for serious problems, nor could she confirm whether any businesses connected to the raids are among that group.
“I would guess, if it’s been this long since they have been licensed, there is probably some issue that needs to be resolved,” she said. “What that issue was, I can’t speak to.”
Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said “operational pending” businesses still must obey the same rules and submit to the same checks as fully licensed stores.
The Denver City Council made a surprise move Monday, reversing an earlier decision that would have banned smoking marijuana on private property if it was in public view.
If the bill passes on a final vote next week, Denver residents will be able to smoke on their front yards, front porches or anywhere on their properties, regardless of whether it is visible from the street, sidewalk or anywhere else.
It is doubtful the vote will change again. But no one can be sure.
“This has been like a pingpong game,” said Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, who on Monday offered the amendment that scrubbed the previous version of the bill approved last week after more than three hours of discussion and a public hearing.
Shepherd’s reversal amendment was supported by seven members of the 13-member council.
Shepherd said the law banning front-yard smoking was against the will of the people, infringed on private property rights and was unfair to people depending on the type of property they own.
“It will lead to people snitching on their neighbors,” she said.
Councilman Albus Brooks, who supported the front-yard ban a week before, changed his vote Monday.
He said that during the Thanksgiving break, he received calls from city leaders urging him to switch. He said he thought about the implications of police having to enforce the law.
“Their concerns were about private property rights and overpolicing in some of our neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s a tough issue.
“Fear sometimes causes us to protect and doesn’t allow our city to grow.”
When federal agents swooped into a swanky Cherry Hills Village home last week as part of widespread raids tied to medical-marijuana businesses, they found a person inside holding a loaded gun, according to a court document unsealed Monday.
By the time they were done searching the $1.3 million home Thursday, agents had collected five assault-style rifles, five handguns, a shotgun and a “large cache of ammunition,” according to the document. It did not identify the person with the gun.
One person was detained and later arrested on suspicion of weapons violations, authorities announced Monday. As part of their investigation, agents had obtained an e-mailed photograph that appears to show that man, 49-year-old Hector Diaz, holding two semi-automatic rifles while wearing a Drug Enforcement Administration ball cap.
The details on the raids — disclosed for the first time Monday — come from an affidavit in the criminal case against Diaz and provide new context for the largest federal operation against medical-marijuana businesses ever in Colorado. Agents executed “approximately 15″ search warrants during the raids, the affidavit states. Sources have told The Denver Post that the raids — which a search warrant shows targeted 10 men — were part of an investigation into a single enterprise that detectives believe may have ties to Colombian drug cartels.
Federal agents raided marijuana dispensaries and growing sites in Colorado on Thursday, even though the Department of Justice has signaled it won’t interfere with state marijuana laws.
Loads of marijuana plants, cannabis-infused drinks, and other pot-related goods were confiscated in the raids by the DEA and the IRS, the Associated Press reports. It’s unclear how many sites were raided. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver said the action “comports with the Department’s recent guidance,” but did not elaborate further. The Department of Justice said in August that it wouldn’t interfere so long as states police black markets and keep the drug away from children and federal property.
Retail sales of marijuana for recreational purposes will get under way in January, after the state passed a referendum legalizing the drug last year. Dispensaries are already planning to sell recreational goods. Under existing law the dispensaries can only sell to those with medical permission.
“The Justice Department said it would respect states’ rights to regulate marijuana, and that it would not go after businesses as long as they are complying with state laws,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement. “We hope they are sticking to their word and not interfering with any state-regulated, law-abiding businesses.”
Today federal agents, assisted by local police, staged the biggest crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in Colorado since the state legalized cannabis for medical use in 2000. The Denver Post reports that the raids hit more than a dozen dispensaries in the Denver area, plus businesses in Boulder and elsewhere.
Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said the operation “comports with the Department’s recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters.” The August 29 memo to which Dorschner refers indicated that the feds would not interfere with marijuana businesses that comply with state law unless their activities implicated one or more of these eight “enforcement priorities”: 1) “preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors,” 2) “preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states,” 3) “preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use,” 4) “preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands,” 5) “preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property,” 6) “preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises,” 7) “preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana,” and 8) “preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs.”
Which of those concerns triggered today’s raids? Walsh’s office won’t say, at least not yet. “Although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation,” Dorschner said in a written statement, “there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated.”
The raids come just six weeks before Colorado’s state-licensed pot shops are scheduled to start selling marijuana for recreational use. But industry leaders seem to be viewing their competitors’ legal troubles with equanimity. “Really, I see enforcement actions happening as a sign our industry is maturing and this program is working,” Mike Elliott, president of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), told the Post, although he did add that “it’s important to remember people are innocent until proven guilty.” MMIG board member Andy Williams, who runs Denver’s Medicine Man dispensary, appeared pleased as well. “I want the bad actors gone, quite honestly,” he said.
“The Denver Post is hiring an editor to oversee the development and maintenance of a recreational marijuana website,” the photo of the ad reads.
At the time of publishing, the full job description had not been added to the Digital First Media job board, the owner of The Denver Post.
In 2012, Colorado voters made the limited sale, possession and growing of marijuana for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states that adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold. However, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.
The first recreational marijuana shops in Colorado will open their doors for the first time in U.S. history on Jan. 1, 2014. It is expected that more than 100 will make history on that day.
DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a new strain of marijuana that has desperate parents full of hope. It won’t get people high but they believe it provides relief for children suffering from seizures.
It’s about a five-step process to go from the plant to a thick, black liquid. It looks a bit like molasses but to a growing number of children it’s simply good medicine.
Tucked back in the hills of Teller County is a set of greenhouses.
“Sometimes it’s referred to as the Stanley Brothers Garden of Eden,” Josh Stanley said.
It’s where six brothers grow medical marijuana and they have a strain that has become their calling.
“Amazing, miraculous, unbelievable; all of these words come to mind,” Stanley said.
They originally named it “Hippie’s Disappointment” because it was so low in THC it couldn’t get people high. It turns out that it was a mother’s hope.
“This is a miracle,” Paige Figi said.