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Pot power players Who's Who in Colorado: The pro-marijuana team

Categories: Marijuana

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Keeping track of all the individuals and organizations duking it out on the front lines of the state's medical-marijuana debate is trickier than picking through the med strains at your corner dispensary. To help weed through the chaos, we've created this guide to the state's top marijuana power players, complete with Pot Passion Index" (in which a ranking of 1 equates to "Ban it forever!" while a 10 signifies "Pot for everybody!").

Today we're presenting the pro-pot team; tune in tomorrow for the anti-pot crew. Think of them like baseball cards for pot pundits: Eat your heart out, Topps!

Rob and Jessica Corry

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Title/Organization: Lawyers

Representative quote: From Rob: "My clients' lives literally depend on their access to medical marijuana, and we will fight in the legislative, executive and judicial branches against any government proposal or enactment that would restrict supply."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 10

Strengths: No one has been as adept at seizing the medical-marijuana limelight as the Corrys.

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Whether it's taking on headline-grabbing medical-marijuana court cases, shredding proposed weed laws with line-by-line criticisms, challenging their conservative colleagues to embrace the marijuana cause or coming out as "parents for pot," the Corrys have become a PR force to be reckoned with.
Weaknesses: Some in the marijuana movement, soured on what they see as Rob's grandstanding, argue that his credibility might be jeopardized by controversial episodes in his past.


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Brian Vicente

Title/Organization: Executive director of Sensible Colorado

Representative quote: "The issue of primary importance is making sure sick people have access to medical marijuana. But once that's in place and we have laws regulating it, I think the state is ready for a discussion about broader marijuana reform."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 8

Strengths: Vicente, a lawyer, was pivotal in getting the state's original five-patients-per-caregiver rule overturned in 2007, one of catalysts behind the dispensary deluge. Now he splits his time between decriminalization campaigns around the state and lobbying for reasonable medical-marijuana regulations. He's been more willing to seek compromises with legislators and law enforcement - in part because he believes that successful developments now could pave the way for statewide marijuana legalization in 2012.

Weaknesses: Not all marijuana activists support the concessions that Vicente's made to the other side. And lately complaints have arisen that Sensible Colorado, a drug-reform organization that's funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, isn't closely affiliated with on-the-ground activists.


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Mason Tvert

Title/Organization: Executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER)

Representative quote: "Marijuana is safer than alcohol."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 9

Strengths: Tvert is the merry prankster of marijuana, albeit one with a deadly serious goal. From hosting keg-party protests outside the Governor's Mansion to getting his recent book onto the Amazon bestseller list to standing strong alongside Vicente on the mayor's marijuana policy review panel, Tvert has been very, very good at getting one simple but catchy concept across: Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

Weaknesses: His opponents say that his attention-grabbing hijinks may one day backfire - but so far, this media-savvy maverick seems to be coated in Teflon.


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Warren Edson

Title/Organization: Marijuana lawyer

Representative quote: "There is a reason there are no limits to the number of people you can be a caregiver for. There is a reason a caregiver isn't specifically designated as a doctor or a nurse. It is left open to a broad range of individuals."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 8

Strengths: As one of the organizers behind Amendment 20, Colorado's medical-marijuana law, Edson's a granddaddy in the movement. Letting his legal colleagues Vicente and Corry field most of the media questions, Edson focuses his efforts on building a formidable medical-marijuana legal practice as well as a popular marijuana education program.

Weaknesses: Some critics claim Edson's exaggerated his role in the passage of Amendment 20 in order to help his business.


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Miguel Lopez

Title/Organization: Board member of Mile High NORML

Representative quote: "A vote you can smoke."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 9

Strengths: Lopez, the organizer behind Denver's annual 420 rally and other cannabis events, speaks with authority: He's a key member of the Denver chapter of NORML, the national non-profit that's been fighting for marijuana reform since 1970. Now he's taking a shot at the big time, having announced he's running for governor against Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. He promises to build bridges between police and weed backers, though he'd also like to see the eventual decriminalization of weed.

Weaknesses: Following in the footsteps of Ken Gorman, aka "Governor Pothead," the venerated Denver pot activist who ran as a write-in gubernatorial candidate in 1994 and 1998 before he was killed in a still unsolved murder in 2007, Lopez has some very big shoes to fill.


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Matt Brown

Title/Organization: Executive director of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation

Representative quote: "Some legislators think this is a crazy new thing, so we need to come up with a whole new approach. But there are aspects of medical marijuana that are a lot like other businesses."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 8

Strengths: Brown started CMMR several months ago to help up-and-coming ganjapreneurs get the hang of the new business, but lately the well-heeled organization has been in full advocacy mode, having hired several lobbyists to work both sides of the political aisle. In the heated debate on medical marijuana, Brown often comes across as keeping a cool head and looking for middle ground. Along with Brian Vicente, he's started a second group called Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition that pushes for reasonable industry regulations.

Weaknesses: The fact that Brown's tight with some of the biggest dispensaries around, including the Apothecary of Colorado and the Peace in Medicine Center, has some folks concerned that he's not always out to help the little guy.


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Robert Chase

Title/Organization: Founder of Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers

Representative quote: "I don't want to be a one-issue voter, and I don't think cannabis is the most important issue before us. But when the city council acts in this way, it's proof that they shouldn't occupy the office."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 11

Strengths: You have to give Chase, leader of the grassroots advocacy group CCPC, props for effort. The guy never fails to make his opinion known - waving protest signs at the steps of the Capitol, voicing detailed arguments at Denver City Council hearings, filling the online comments section for marijuana news articles. So far, Chase has been strongly critical of all medical-marijuana rules being considered in Denver and at the State Capitol, even criticizing medical-marijuana colleagues for backing any of these measures.

Weaknesses: Some marijuana advocates have distanced themselves from Chase, fearing that his strong stance on the issue might make the movement seem extreme.


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Laura Kriho

Title/Organization: Organizer behind Cannabis Therapy Institute

Representative quote: "Law enforcement is continuing the strategy they've used for seventy years: lies, propaganda and fear-mongering. They're trying to make dispensaries seem like a threat when 98 percent of Coloradans have probably never even seen one."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 10

Strengths: Since grassroots activist group CTI helped secure a legal victory this summer for Jason Lauve, a Boulder patient facing drug charges, it's become a force to be reckoned with - and much of the credit has to go to Laura Kriho, spokeswoman and all-around go-getter. Kriho, an activist who's long taken bold stances against drug prosecutions, has helped develop CTI into a multi-pronged organization that offers educational classes, pushes for Colorado-grown pot at dispensaries, and lobbies hard against what it perceives as unfair regulations.

Weaknesses: Like Chase, Kriho's been opposed to most proposed medical-marijuana regulations. But possibly because she operates largely behind the scenes, she hasn't drawn much flack from either side.


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Stan Garnett

Title/Organization: Boulder County District Attorney

Representative quote: "I'm committed to having the most progressive approach to medical marijuana of any DA's office in the state."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 7

Strengths: Long before most officials would even touch the thorny issue of medical marijuana, Garnett dove right in - noting plainly that legalizing marijuana entirely would likely be easier than trying to resolve the tension between medical-marijuana rules and federal restrictions. And while he's for state senator Chris Romer's bill tightening restrictions on doctors recommending marijuana, he believes some of the other regulations being considered by his colleagues might be unconstitutional.

Weaknesses: Garnett's position on marijuana, as well as his chill response to Boulder's Naked Pumpkin Run, have earned him many fans. But is it all just a political power play?


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Charlie Brown

Title/Organization: Denver City Councilman

Representative quote: "The L.A. city council has been working for two years, and they've been unable to come up with any kind of model. There are more than a thousand dispensaries there, more than there are Starbucks. It's just ridiculous. We don't want to become another L.A."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 6

Strengths: When Brown noticed all the pot shops popping up around Denver, he pulled on his cowboy hat and got to work figuring out what to do about it. What resulted were new citywide regs that restricted where and how dispensaries could operate and forced their owners to pay a $2,000 licensing fee and another $3,000 for the first year of that license -- but the rules are still more reasonable and less controversial than most municipal pot codes implemented around the state.

Weaknesses: While some advocates gripe that Denver's new dispensary rules have forced out mom-and-pops who couldn't afford the steep licensing fee, it's hard to quibble with regulations that still allow hundreds of dispensaries to operate and bring in millions in city revenue.



Chris Romer and Tom Massey

Title/Organization: State senator and representative, respectively

Representative quote: From Romer: "We could end up putting 10,000 people out of work because law enforcement and the medical marijuana community can't find common ground."

Standing on the Pot Passion Index: 6

Strengths: Romer and Massey decided medical marijuana would be their issue this legislative session, and they've tackled the subject with the tenacity -- talking with patients, meeting with dispensary owners and even going on police ride-alongs.

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Romer and Massey recently asked the feds to cool their heels on medical marijuana raids while they find "rational middle ground" in the debate, and a bill Romer authored focusing on doctors recommending medical marijuana has been widely embraced and will likely be signed into law soon.

Weaknesses: Romer's first attempt at new statewide rules was loathed by many on both sides of the issue and a second stab, co-sponsored by Massey, hasn't been too warmly received, either - especially since Massey didn't seem to have the gumption to attend the February press conference where it was unveiled.



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