It’s been an eventful week for cannabis and cannabis legislation, so I thought Budding Fort Collins could take a look at a few marijuana-related stories that are developing in Larimer County, Colorado, and beyond:
Medical Marijuana Grower Sues Larimer County Sheriff Over Wrongfully Destroyed Plants
The Coloradoan reports that Kaleb Young, a Fort Collins resident who maintained a medical marijuana growing operation in Wellington (a town that recently passed a marijuana club ban), is now suing the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office for $210,000 in damages. Young claims that the Sheriff’s Office “cut, bagged, and failed to maintain” his forty-two medical marijuana plants after the police took them into evidence following a raid on his legal Wellington grow operation, resulting in dead plants and a loss on Young’s investment.
From the Coloradoan:
“Investigators with Larimer County Sheriff’s Office had tracked down Young’s financial records, property information and utility records while conducting undercover surveillance before the raid of his Wellington grow operation and Fort Collins home in fall 2010. ‘The only action (the lead investigator) failed to perform was to check the registry to determine whether plaintiff was a registered medical-marijuana patient and caregiver,’ according to the April 3 filing by Denver lawyer Rob Corry.”
If this is true, this is an example of some shoddy police work by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. The entire investigation could have been avoided if the police had thought to check the medical marijuana registry when they first suspected Young’s Wellington grow operation. Colorado law enforcement can access the CDPHE registry [PDF] if they go through the appropriate procedures (it is, after all, a confidential registry), even without a subpoena if the patient or caregiver complies. Young’s grow operation complied with all Colorado medical marijuana laws, according to the jury that acquitted him in November of 2011, so there was no reason for the Sheriff’s Office to conduct this raid in the first place.
Part of the reason the Sheriff’s Office didn’t maintain Young’s plants while they were in evidence, despite Article XVIII, Section 14(2)(e) of the Colorado Constitution, was because (emphasis mine):
“…that would have violated state and federal criminal laws. ‘Notwithstanding’ the Colorado Constitution, marijuana is illegal under federal law, according to [lead investigator Pete] Mesecher’s affidavit.”
Which brings me to the next bit of news…
Respect State Marijuana Laws Act Introduced in Congress
“Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.) introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday to protect marijuana users and businesses from federal prosecution when they are following state laws. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act would shield both medical and recreational pot users.”
If this bill passes Congress and is signed by the president, it would finally answer the question of what the Department of Justice and Eric Holder are going to do about Amendment 64, causing cannabis users, patients, and businesses to breathe a sigh of relief and allowing the Colorado legislature to move forward with cannabis regulation.
The bill was introduced by Republican Dana Rohrbacher, but it is being cosponsored by two Republicans and three Democrats, including Jared Polis, our 2nd District Congressman. H.R. 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, still has to be put to a vote in the House and pass the Senate, and then it must be signed by President Obama before it goes into effect, but the bipartisan sponsorship of the bill is encouraging.
Colorado Lawmakers Vote to Reject Vertical Integration for Retail Cannabis Shops
The Denver Post reports (emphasis mine):
“Lawmakers debating the hotly argued marijuana question came down on the side of flexibility Monday, voting to reject the state’s current medical marijuana model, which requires dispensaries to grow most of the pot they sell…
A special House-Senate committee set up to regulate pot made the decision on their final day. The committee voted to seek a bill allowing future pot businesses to specialize in just one aspect of the business if they wish, growing or distributing or retailing.”
This is a victory for entrepreneurs looking to get started in the retail cannabis industry once it gets off the ground. Vertical integration would have required recreational marijuana shops to grow at least 70% of the product they sell, a structure that is identical to the one in place for the medical marijuana industry. That’s a problem because new businesses would be forced to invest in a grow operation on top of the costs of opening a dispensary, a huge monetary barrier to businesses just getting off the ground.
The committee’s recommendations should make it easier for new businesses to get started and allow for greater experimentation with cannabis-related products. It will also allow for business-to-business sales of cannabis, creating a market that was nearly impossible in the medical marijuana framework. If businesses don’t have to be concerned with every single aspect of cannabis cultivation from seed to sale, they can choose to excel at one particular aspect, diversifying the market and making a better situation for consumers and businesses alike.
All these news articles show that things are looking up for cannabis users and businesses in Colorado and the rest of the country.
But of course, with greater availability of cannabis comes greater responsibility for its use, which brings me to our final news story of the day:
Chocolate, Nuts, and Butter Are Still Bad for Pets Despite THC Content
Our final marijuana-related article isn’t so much a developing story to watch as a somewhat fluffy (sorry, couldn’t resist) cautionary tale.
The Coloradoan reports (emphasis mine):
“[Associate vet Christie Long says:]‘Most people who smoke or eat pot know what their threshold is. Animals don’t, and dogs think cookies are great anyway. If you leave a marijuana cookie out, they’re going to eat it.’
In most cases, the drug’s effects alone are relatively harmless. But when coupled with chocolate, butter, oil or the various other THC products available, [CSU veterinarian and associate professor Timothy] Hackett worries about the combined effects of intoxication and the gastrointestinal issues that ‘people food’ can give pets.”
In other words, keep your THC-infused cookies, brownies, and butter away from pets. It’s a no-brainer: you wouldn’t feed your dog a tray of regular brownies (because chocolate and butter are dangerous for dogs), so you probably shouldn’t feed it a tray of pot brownies either. THC intoxication seems to make the symptoms more unpleasant for the animal, but edibles are no better or worse for dogs than regular desserts. Hackett continues:
“It’s nothing against marijuana. The way people buy medical marijuana is what’s really toxic because those items are already pretty toxic to a dog.”
For the record, it’s also not a good idea to expose your pet to too much secondhand marijuana smoke. Both dogs and cats have sensitive lungs, and being exposed to heavy, smoke-filled air on a daily basis can cause some harm. But if you keep your smoking area ventilated, it’s hasn’t been shown to be a problem.