Marijuana fight brewing in Colorado and Cripple Creek

~ by Rick Langenberg  ~

Get ready for wild reefer times and witnessing a real volley of verbal gunfire in the next few weeks, when it comes to the issue of recreational marijuana.

This hot topic, which already triggered one of the largest crowds at a Cripple Creek council meeting in months, is hitting the national stage with a pending battle between state authorities/marijuana business operators and the presidential administration of Donald Trump.

Last week, cannabis political sparks ignited when Sean Spicer, White House spokesman, hinted of a potential crackdown against states that have legalized recreational marijuana, such as Colorado. However, he fell short of saying what this crackdown could entail.

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it (federal laws against the use and growth of recreational marijuana).” said Spicer, in response to a direction question pertaining to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws under a Trump administration

The White House spokesman stated that the president has no problems with the use of medicinal marijuana, but is troubled by the legal recreational use of marijuana, now allowed in Colorado, Washington, Washington D.C. and several other states. The marijuana industry in Colorado generated $1.3 billion in sales activity in 2016.

Still, even with this amount of revenue, Spicer indicated that times may be changing. He was referring to the current hands-off policies in states that have legalized the medicinal and recreational use and cultivation of marijuana. In a 2013 memo, the Obama administration stated that the feds wouldn’t intervene in interfering with states’ marijuana laws, as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children.  

More specifically, Spicer noted that the Department of Justice may be reviewing the current policies regarding marijuana in states that have legalized the recreational use of the drug on a limited basis for adults, and suggested a possible crackdown  

Current leaders of the Trump administration haven’t displayed that much of a tolerance level towards cannabis rights.  The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is a strong opponent of marijuana, saying that only stupid people smoke pot.

This stance has sparked many concerns and a slew of questions among marijuana proponents and even by state officials. For example, what would happen to the programs that receive retail marijuana tax money? Would this tax money have to be returned to the actual businesses and marijuana investors? Would marijuana-related businesses now get raided by the feds?  And would the administration’s pending anti-retail marijuana stance clash with their strong support for states’ rights?

Some state officials, though, are downplaying Spicer’s comments, indicating that too much Monday morning arm-chair quarterbacking is occurring, regarding an analysis of future marijuana-related policies by the White House.  

“The comments by White House press secretary were so general in nature that it’s impossible to discern what action the administration actually will take on legalizing recreational marijuana,” said Annie Skinner, a spokesman for the office of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, according to an article in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.

Marijuana industry proponents, meanwhile, question the reality of a huge crackdown against a business that is heavily regulated and that has generated huge tax revenues.

On a local level, it’s unclear how the possible crackdown would impact the two highly successful marijuana shops in Manitou Springs.

Big Marijuana Decisions Facing Cripple Creek

The hotrod issue of retail marijuana will once again take center stage this week in Cripple Creek.

The city council is scheduled to re-address on March 1 a previous proposal for amending the city’s current laws banning marijuana-related businesses to allow for a local cannabis club. This plan, proposed by Dr. John Jones of Colorado Springs, was introduced in mid-December 2016. At the applicant’s request, the plan, which also called for changing the city’s current anti-marijuana laws, was tabled at a previous meeting. Since then, the elected leaders haven’t addressed this specific plan.

According to sources, the council is quite divided on the issue of legalizing retail marijuana. In fact, the topic has sparked divided views on a community-wide basis, setting the stage for a possible city-wide vote on the matter. However, the council has the option of deciding on the marijuana regulations themselves. Moreover, it can opt to amend certain restrictions, such as just dealing with retail and medicinal marijuana use and cannabis cultivation centers; or keep the status quo law or refer the matter to the voters.

A recent public meeting in Cripple Creek attracted a near standing room-only crowd with local residents, school officials, community leaders and future marijuana entrepreneurs voicing vastly different opinions. Proponents cited the benefits of a huge potential jackpot of future revenue and the advantages of a tourism/recreation boon. Critics, though, worry about the impacts looser marijuana laws could impose on the local youth and worry about the image this could create for the town. 

One the meeting highlights involved a presentation by Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro. Manitou  Springs is the only jurisdiction in the Pikes Peak region that permits retail marijuana shops. It also is regarded as one of the more successful models to follow.

“It’s a dicey issue,” admitted Cripple Creek Police Chief Mike Rulo, who urged the council to draft a clear ordinance with definite guidelines, if they opt to legalize retail marijuana.