About the time you think things couldn’t get any crazier in the American crazyquilt approach to cannabis: Last Thursday two lawsuits were filed against the state of Colorado to shut down legal marijuana, alleging that all legal marijuana businesses are illegal under the federal racketeering act. The next day, two U.S. congressmen introduced bills that would set up a regulatory approach to cannabis on a federal level.
That’s right. At the very same time federal legislators are trying to sort out the inconsistencies between state and federal cannabis statutes, lawsuits are being filed to try and stop legislation approved by Colorado voters in 2012. You can’t make this shit up.
The federal legislation from Colorado’s Rep. Jared Polis and Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer would provide a system of regulation and taxation for marijuana in states where it is legal. Polis’ H.R. 1013 would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and move enforcement from the DEA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Blumenauer’s H.R. 1014 would create a federal excise tax on marijuana of 50 percent on the first sale from producer to processor, apply an occupation tax on owners and workers and provide civil and criminal penalties for failure to comply with tax regulations.
“We want the federal government to be a responsible partner with the rest of the universe of marijuana interests,” Blumenauer said of the bills, “while we address what federal policy should be regarding drug taxation, classification and legality.”
Both have been assigned to committees, which will determine whether they finally go to the floor. Though not likely to get too far, the bills are part of a strategy to keep hammering Congress to do something about the disparity between the federal government and the more than 30 states that allow medical or recreational marijuana. At least in part due to their efforts, industrial hemp is finally being separated from the Controlled Substances Act — it should never have been there in the first place, of course — and it will take more of the same to get this done.
And then we have the prohibitionists, who at least in this case don’t mind being labeled as such, since both suits were filed by a Washington, D.C.- based organization called Safe Streets Alliance, that according to its website is devoted to two things: “Protecting the most vulnerable in our society from violent predators” and stopping the legalization of marijuana.
“With the passage of Amendment 64 in November of 2012, the citizens of Colorado not only broke faith with the Constitution,” its website states, “they broke faith with the parents and grandparents in their sister states who are committed to doing all they can do to insure that their children and grandchildren grow up healthy and drug free.”
One was filed in federal court by Phillis Windy Hope Reilly and Michael P. Reilly, who own 195 acres in rural Pueblo County. A grow operation owned by Alternative Holistic Healing LLC is being built on land to the west of their property. According to the complaint, “although the Reillys do not live on their land, they often visit on weekends with their children to ride horses, hike and visit with friends in the closely knit neighborhood.”
Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, the Reillys are claiming that the grow is an ongoing criminal operation under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was designed to go after crime families and organizations. The suit alleges a conspiracy, so it includes anyone who does business with Alternative Holistic Healing LLC as well as the state for licensing the criminal operations and even Gov. John Hickenlooper. Besides spoiling their views, they allege, it might bring a criminal element into their neighborhood, which today is mostly open space.
The second suit we’ve mentioned before in this space. It was filed by a Holiday Inn in Frisco that is upset about a dispensary opening in a building in an adjacent parking lot. This is the same Holiday Inn that, while asking for zoning changes, complained to the city that some occupants don’t like to talk with their children about something as unpleasant as a marijuana store. In January, the city turned the hotel down flat and reminded the owners that cannabis is legal in Colorado and that parents do their children a disservice by not talking to them about it.
How a group like Safe Streets Alliance believes that our neighborhoods will be safer with people getting their marijuana on the black market is beyond me. Perhaps a clue is that at the press conference announcing the lawsuits, a lawyer for the organization said that every person who grows or sells marijuana in Colorado should be in prison.
So the next time you’re in Frisco, remind the Holiday Inn that there are consequences for actions like these by not spending your money there. And take a moment to sign the Marijuana Policy Project/Change.org’s Boycott the Holiday Inn petition.
You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://news.kgnu.org/weed