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Marijuana regulation: Meet Leonard Frieling, former judge calling for end to pot prohibition

leonard frieling.jpg
Leonard Frieling.
Yesterday, former judge Leonard Frieling co-starred in a media event at the City and County Building designed to attract attention to the petition-gathering process for the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012. But while the location was great for TV, it wasn't terrific for collecting valid signatures. Frieling says many of the people he approached were tourists -- and one was none other than Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

"I admit I didn't recognize him," Frieling concedes, laughing. "And so, I asked our honorable Secretary of State if he was a registered Colorado voter. He cracked up, and when he told me who he was, I cracked up, too."

No, Gessler didn't sign the petition; Frieling's not sure officials like him are allowed to do so. But he says he'd be shocked if the act failed to collect enough valid signatures from others to make the November 2012 ballot.

As for whether it'll pass, he's less certain. Still, he feels it's a measure whose time has come -- which is why he joined former Denver cop Tony Ryan for a day of petition passing.

Both Frieling and Ryan are members of LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a national organization that's strongly backing the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. So, too, does Frieling, a former municipal court judge for the City of Lafayette who actually quit his job in 2007 over marijuana policy.

tony ryan and leonard frieling.jpg
Tony Ryan and Leonard Frieling.
According to him, "The chief judge had gone to the city council and asked that they change the Lafayette city ordinance to provide for a maximum fine of $1,000 and a year in jail for an offense that, on a state level, was a maximum $100 fine -- and Lafayette's ordinance was a maximum $100 fine, too. And I used that opportunity to make a statement.

"I wrote a letter to the Daily Camera, saying I resigned because I refused to enforce that law -- that I wasn't going to stick my head in the sand. And the AP picked it up, and within 24 hours, it went viral. I think in excess of 3,000 e-mails came in to the City of Lafayette, and the ACLU and other organizations jumped in, too."

Before long, he notes, "the city council said, 'We don't have time for this now -- so instead of having a public hearing on it, we're going to take it off the table, and if we ever consider it again, we'll start over from the beginning.' So we were totally successful. It was the most fun I've ever had resigning anything."

Today, Frieling works as a criminal defense attorney in Boulder, and he frequently takes on marijuana-related cases. He's also active in the marijuana-reform movement, speaking to community groups and local municipalities on the subject. As such, he understands conflicting opinions about the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which assorted advocates criticize because, among other things, it focuses on regulation as opposed to legalization. Yet on balance, he feels the approach deserves support.

"Some of the people who support it may not like every word of it," he allows. "Some of the people who don't support it may dislike some of the wording, too. But what we have to avoid is becoming our own worst enemy. It's a trap easily fallen into -- and our political parties seem very good at modeling that. So one of my roles, which I think is really important -- and sometimes I'm able to be helpful in this area, only because I'm old and know people -- is trying to prevent that from happening.

"I think there's idealism, and then there's what we can really accomplish. And having made sausage myself, I can tell you that making sausage is a hell of a lot cleaner than making laws. If it wasn't, anyone who ate my sausages would be dead.

"Is it perfect?" he asks. "Nah, it's not perfect. But is it a big step in the right direction? Yes."

Hence, his eagerness to collect petitions in front of TV cameras. And while he thinks the glare of the lights may have scared away some folks who might otherwise have added their signatures, he's hopeful the coverage will tip more people to the act and its goals.

In the end, he believes, the measure's odds of success will rest on "a get-out-the-vote campaign. I think the majority of people out there either think it should be legalized, or they couldn't care less but think the cops should be doing more important things. And, as the Sixties generation gets older and sees more of the medical applications with their friends and themselves, they'll be for it, too. It's just a matter of them voting for it.

"Do I think it's a slam dunk? No. But I think there's a reasonably good chance that marijuana will end up being treated similarly to alcohol."

With or without Scott Gessler's help.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Corey Donahue jailed for disrupting Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act meeting (VIDEO)."


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37 comments
Time4ChurchCommittee
Time4ChurchCommittee

Do Judge Frieling or Officer Ryan have any inside info on the "targeting, harassment, and disruption" of medicinal cannabis patients who do advocacy work or writing? I understand this sounds totally crazy to most folks, but the domestic spying apparatus has increased exponentially since 9-11 and has indeed been turned on many law-abiding Americans for peacefully expressing their first amendment rights.

Here's something I think every American needs to see: the ACLU's State-by-State list (with an interactive map) of law-abiding Americans being targeted for surveillance for simply expressing their first amendment rights (this list is chilling and needs to be shared with everybody who cares about free speech. Our national security is threatened when our government is spying on peaceful Americans, instead of keeping a steady watch on real threats):

http://www.aclu.org/spy-files/...

With all the violent, unsolved crimes -- across our nation -- should our government be using our tax dollars to spy on fellow law-abiding Americans who pose no threat to others? Do we really need spies infiltrating the local vegan scene (when do we say, "Enough is enough!").,

Vegans??!!

And these ACLU-documented accounts represent a small fraction of the total number of abuses (in most cases of government-sponsored surveillance, the subject never knows).

Please take a look at what's happened to our society since handing over a blank-check for so-called "national security."

Time for a Church Committee 2.0 for Cointelpro 2.0? Or do we want to live in a Police State and be spied on for peacefully expressing our thoughts?

Mark J.
Mark J.

"The reason there are limits is that it is federally illegal". This bright fact of "wisdom" from one of the NORML supporters of this init. So, Scott, the feds are going to be OK with one ounce, but not with two ounces? Where did you get this idea from? Stop spreading mis-information. Speak the truth about your initiative -- it is MORE regulation, not less. The author actually admitted it wasn't "legalization" and asked for that word to be removed from the ballot title. NOT LEGALIZATION = MORE REGULATION = MORE LAWS = MORE WAYS TO GO TO JAIL, just as we are seeing with the DOR-controlled mmj program. Stop lying about your init. Federal law recognizes NO LIMITS. It is ALL illegal.

seabourne
seabourne

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If you haven’t asked your representative and senator to support policy change, what are you waiting for? Sign the petition then send a email.

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

Virtually anyone and everybody can get a medical card because everyone is sick.Try getting a job if your sick and have a medical card RX for Weed and you test positive for Weed. How about that North Metro Task Force. They tipped off Dan Tang he was going to get busted.The North Metro Task Force sent out a letter with a phone number to call; they tried to shake him down, instead he gave $400,000.00 to RTD vice-chairman Noel Busk of the Board of Directors to hold for him.The D.E.A. gave a polygraph test to Sergeant Carbone and officer Garcia, they both failed, neither got fired, Sergeant Carbone got promoted to Commander. Officer Bell and 26 other cops involved in the investigation refused to take polygraph tests, they still have their jobs.The entire North Metro Task Force is corrupt, they are shaking people down. 

YMMV
YMMV

Are there limits on how much beer I can buy??  Limits on how many cigarettes I can buy???

Alcohol and tobacco KILL people and there are no limits on how much I can buy.

Can we have some adults in charge already????

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

Thank you guys for standing up to the BS!  I spoke to a lady who makes edibles and her husband is a sheriff in a mountain community.  He said if they take away the penalties for MJ, then he will not have very many people to put in jail, and they would also lose funding!  What a great way to think about MJ...

Mary Jane
Mary Jane

Why don't you guys call it the Regulate Marijuana Like Medical Marijuana Act, and be HONEST about it? It gives preferential treatment to rich dispensary, owners, not liquor stores. All the same hogwash that the DOR is putting up now for MMCs is going to go right into effect under this new law, but now the DOR will control all mj in Colo, not just medical mj. The law limits possession to one ounce; do the alcohol laws limit possession to one ounce? Be honest, at least, geez.

MikeParent
MikeParent

40 years of insanity and the prohibitionists want more time!  Thank you Judge Frieling and Officer Ryan for standing up and saying what most of us in Law Enforcement KNOW to be true.Legalize and Regulate marijuana, EXACTLY as we do alcohol.  OR, keep it in the hands of Black Marketeers and trust that they'll do the right thing, while an American get arrested every 35 seconds for marijuana possession.LEAP, LEAP.cc   MP NYPD, ret.

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

I do not have inside info,  I know that historically, if you don't want to be noticed, don't do things that attract attention.  If you choose to be active, you expose yourself to a greater level of risk from the government.  It is the sad truth. 

To this day I believe that the FBI searched my dorm room in college over break, because of the level of my anti-war efforts in 1970.  Maybe I'm paranoid, but some are certainly being picked on, selectively, by our government.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong post, Time4ChurchCommittee. Appreciate you weighing in.

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

Some believe that regulation is better than illegal, even at the state level.  Federally, I believe that ultimately, the federal legislators want to get re-elected, and will do what they believe will gain votes, and not do what they believe will lose votes. 

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

"Federal law recognizes NO LIMITS. It is ALL illegal" Is that why the FEDS have left Colorado growers alone for the past 10 years with the exception to Chris B.???

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

My God people its a step in the right direction!!!

'NOT LEGALIZATION = MORE REGULATION = MORE LAWS = MORE WAYS TO GO TO JAIL' The only people that would still got to jail would be the large scale growers who are shipping it out of state and much with MMJ everyone growing with easily convert pay taxes and become legit.

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

True but Alcohol and Tobacco are not federally Illegal YMMV

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

Part of the approach suggested by LEAP, which I believe in, is that we are suggesting a paradigm shift in law enforcement.  Some people would be unemployed or re-employed with different law enforcement responsibilities.  Change is never free to all.  Some pay for it.  Cannabis users have done more than their share of paying.  Thanks!  Lenny

LEAP
LEAP

Do you think your friend's husband would like to get involved in this effort with LEAP?  Please email speakers@leap.cc to discuss.  Thanks!

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

That is BS, I was in jail with over 150 inmates for 90 days and I was the only one in there for weed.  Even the guards were surprised someone was in jail for weed.  There really are very very few people going to jail for weed in Colorado. 

Furthermore, no Sheriff's in the mountains care about cannabis.  The cops are much more of a front range concern.

Jah Bless the High Country. Smoke lots of dope and forget about the laws. Cannabis is the ultimate social drug of rebellion, it will never fit in a nice little box with regulations.

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

Thanks for the comment.  We're up to two ounces for the state petty offense in Colorado.  Personally, and as a LEAP speaker, I am in favor of legalizing all drugs.  The model of alcohol is not the worst approach.  I believe that IF no regulation was an option, it would not be accepted by enough people to ever get passed, so that issue is academic.  We need a model, and alcohol is convenient one.  Focus one what might be the best model is very important, and key to moving forward successfully.  Thanks!Lenny

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

i wish like in the Denver Post i could 'thump down' your comment

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

Now Mary or Cory or whoever... The reason there is a limit is because as im sure you are aware marijuana is still Federally illegal

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

But whatever amount you grow onsite, you can keep there.  So if you grow 10 lbs, you can keep it all onsite.  

Question: Do you regularly walk around with even a 1/2 ounce on you?  Besides, if you want to be able to have 2 ounces in your pocket, then stay a patient.  PS. The DOR does not control me or my grow.    

LEAP
LEAP

Hey Mike, please consider joining up with your fellow anti-prohibition law enforcers as a speaker for LEAP. You can email speakers@leap.cc to begin the discussion about what would be involved. Thanks!

LFrieling
LFrieling

The feds are easier on Colorado than on California, certainly, but they are not out of the business in Colorado. 

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

There is absolutely no connection between the limits proposed in Initiative #30 and Federal Law (but somebody liked the idea anyway).

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

True, but is that scientifically logical?  Certainly not compared to cannabis.  Some illegal drugs (and some legal drugs) are dangerous, as is alcohol.  Lenny

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I don't know that marijuana is federally illegal.  It is a controlled substance.

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

In 35 years of criminal defense, I've had ONE client go to prison for marijuana growing.  It still bugs me, even though he ended up at the 1/2 way house rather fast.  That just plain sucks.  Ain't nobody's business for my own is the policy I would like to see, but I think will not pass the electorate.  They're wrong, but that does not help.    Thanks!   Lenny

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

ABSOLUTELY federally illegal.  Quantity and state limits have no binding legal impact on federal unless the 10th Amendment applies.  As a state's rights issue, it is significant.  Limits have basically no impact on literal federal illegality, although they have an impact on sentencing.  Thanks!  Lenny

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

"The reason there is a limit is because ... marijuana is still Federally illegal" -- oh?  We have been given to understand that polling data supports the notion that voters like the idea of arbitrary limits -- the limitations on possession and cultivation in your inititiative have diddly-squat to do with the fact that cannabis remains illegal under Federal law.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I live in rural mountain Colorado, and yes I always have at least a 1/2 oz on me, a combination of bud and hash.  It's summer and I never know if I will be away for more than a day from my stash, so a 1/2 ounce - 1 ounce in the backpack and I never have to worry bout running out.

Guest
Guest

Can patients have 3 ounces if this passes?

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

Where does the initiative relate quantity and federal law?   I should not be confused, but I am.

God is Watching
God is Watching

@1e4fa59513edf4f05b9ac520ebe5f1c1:disqus   Your lying.See how effective that is? If you are going to call someone a liar, at least be man enough to back it with unbiased facts... OR just don't say the lie in the first place.

Mark J.
Mark J.

Yes, more lies from the MPP/NORML/SAFER/Sensible/DPA/Scott Greene camp. Tell the truth about your initiative. The limits have NOTHING TO DO with federal law. Why do you keep spreading lies about what your proposed law says? Why not be HONEST?

Lfrieling
Lfrieling

There are federal criminal laws that cover any quantity of pot, possession or growing or distributing.  The severity depends upon the quantity, with over 100 plants still carrying a 5 year mandatory prison sentence.  As a controlled substance, federally (and in Colorado) it is still a schedule 1 controlled substance, allegedly having no legitimate use, medical or otherwise.  Thanks!  Lenny

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