A citizens’ group opposed to a large-scale recreational marijuana industry in Colorado has hired two powerhouse lobbyists in preparation for the state legislature’s coming pot fight.
Smart Colorado formed as a nonprofit group within the last several weeks, group leader Doug Robinson said. After collecting donations, Robinson said the group has hired former congressional candidate Mike Feeley and longtime Capitol lobbyist Sandra Hagen Solin to represent it as legislators write the laws for the forthcoming recreational marijuana industry.
It will be the first time in the last several years that a citizens’ group devoted to restricting marijuana will have such high-powered representation at the Capitol. While medical-marijuana businesses have had lobbyists for awhile, anti-marijuana lobbying has often been done by law-enforcement groups or a disjointed collection of advocates.
Robinson said members of Smart Colorado — whom he described as “basically, a bunch of moms” — decided they needed to be better organized and represented to make a difference. Though Smart Colorado shares a name with the campaign committee opposed to Amendment 64, the measure passed in November legalizing limited marijuana possession and sales, Robinson said the two groups are separate.
“We have organized for one reason, and that is to keep Colorado the best state in the nation,” Robinson told lawmakers on Friday during a meeting of a special legislative committee drafting the bill on recreational marijuana. “We are deeply concerned that the way 64 is implemented could threaten this.”
Robinson said the group respects that Colorado voters legalized marijuana in November, but he said the group wants to keep the recreational marijuana industry as small and contained as possible. Group members testifying before the legislative committee said they fear greater availability of marijuana will lead to big public health and safety problems, especially with kids.
“It looks like we are heading down the path of socializing the costs and privatizing the profits,” group member Gina Carbone said.
The legislative committee, though, rejected on Friday one suggestion from Smart Colorado: state-run marijuana stores. The group said state-run stores will prevent marijuana leaks to kids. But a state task force that suggested regulations for recreational marijuana recommended against state-run stores. Such stores would likely provoke a strong response from the federal government.
The legislative committee on Friday sided with the task force’s recommendation against state-run stores.
The committee put off decisions on a number of other issues — including whether to allow pot sales to out-of-state visitors or requiring marijuana stores to grow what they sell. It is scheduled to meet again next Friday, but lawmakers also discussed adding extra, early-morning meetings to complete the work.
The committee must have bills for recreational marijuana written by the end of the month. The full legislature will then have 38 days to pass the bills before the end of the session.
Newshawk: The GCW
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author: John Ingold, The Denver Post
Published: March 15, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Denver Post