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Amendment 64 Advocates: Hickenlooper, Suthers, 'Should Not Ask The Federal Government For Permission'

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From The Colorado Independent's Scot Kersgaard.

As Governor John Hickenlooper prepared to speak today with United States Attorney General Eric Holder about how to proceed with implementing Amendment 64, which legalizes marijuana in Colorado, the measure’s supporters say they want to see the governor stand up for the measure that passed by a 10-point margin.

Campaign Co-director Brian Vicente, an attorney, released this statement Friday afternoon:

The people of Colorado have sent a strong and indisputable message that they want marijuana to be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. With their vote on Amendment 64, they sent the message that marijuana prohibition has failed and it is time to take marijuana sales out of the hands of cartels and gangs and place them in regulated and state-licensed stores. Within weeks, it will be legal for every Colorado resident over the age of twenty-one to possess and, if necessary, grow marijuana. The people of Colorado did not vote for widespread home cultivation; they voted for a tightly regulated marijuana industry.

Governor Hickenlooper must use today’s call to ask the Attorney General what concerns the Department of Justice has about the implementation of Amendment 64. And the state of Colorado should do everything in its power to comply with those concerns, assuming they are rational and can be addressed in a manner consistent with the overall goal of regulating marijuana sales. There is a difference, however, between inquiring about the concerns of the federal government and seeking their direction or permission. The federal government will retain the right to arrest anyone they want for marijuana, if they believe that is an efficient and worthwhile use of their resources. But the state of Colorado is free to determine its own path on this issue. And the people of Colorado have established that path.

Governor Hickenlooper should not imitate Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who held up the implementation of that state’s medical marijuana law, claiming that the state could not implement due to federal law. In fact, Gov. Brewer and her attorney general sought to compel the federal government to provide guidance through a lawsuit filed in federal court. That lawsuit was dismissed, with the federal government responding in court filings that the state of Arizona’s concerns were without basis. Implementation in Colorado, starting with sketching out plans for implementation, should begin today.

The governor’s spokesperson Eric Brown released this statement following Hickenlooper’s phone call with Holder:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers talked to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by phone today. They emphasized the need for the federal government to articulate what its position will be related to Amendment 64. Everyone shared a sense of urgency and agreed to continue talking about the issue.

Well-known Denver drug attorney and marijuana advocate Rob Corry also spoke out strongly Thursday evening and again on Friday, saying the governor and state Attorney General John Suthers owe it to Coloradans to work with federal government to fully implement the law and to avoid seeking reasons not to implement it.

“Asking the Obama Justice Department to come in and manage our state is fascinating from the man (Suthers) who sued the Obama administration over the health care law,” Corry said, referring to the lawsuit filed by Suthers two years ago arguing that “obamacare” violated states’ rights. “It seems [Suthers] has shifted… I wish he would behave a little more like a Republican, and I say that as a Republican myself,” Corry told the Colorado Independent Thursday evening.

In a statement Suthers issued after the election, he called on the Justice Department to issue guidance on how he should go about implementing legalization:

Despite my strongly held belief that the ‘legalization’ of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution.

Coloradans should be cognizant of two caveats, however. First the ability of the federal government to criminally sanction possession, use and distribution of marijuana, even if grown, distributed and used in a single state, was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich (545 US.1,2005). Therefore, absent action by Congress, Coloradans should not expect to see successful legal challenges to the ability of the federal government to enforce its marijuana laws in Colorado. Accordingly, I call upon the United States Department of Justice to make known its intentions regarding prosecution of activities sanctioned by Amendment 64 (particularly large wholesale grow operations) as soon as possible in order to assist state regulators and the citizens of Colorado in making decisions about the implementation of Amendment 64.

Corry said Suthers and Hickenlooper should lead the effort in Colorado to make the transition to legal possession and use of marijuana in the state as smooth as possible, to see it as a cutting edge and long overdue triumph of democracy and common sense.

“They should not ask the federal government for permission to do their jobs. This is John Hickenlooper’s moment to shine in history, to do something that will transcend his years in office. He should not be acting like a regional administrator for the DOJ,” Corry said.

Corry said that, although the Justice Department came out against a similar measure in California a few years ago, it was completely silent in the months before the elections in Colorado and Washington.

“Silence equals consent,” he told people at the National Marijuana Business Conference held in Denver this week. “That is not just a political argument, it is a legal argument that can be made,” Corry said.

“We did not hear one word from the Justice Department during this campaign, not one word,” Corry said. He added that the U.S. Attorney for the area, John Walsh, who lives in the Denver area, also kept silent during the campaign.

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