Marijuana: 2 guvs petition feds to reclassify pot, but John Hickenlooper not ready to do so -- yet

john hickenlooper at inauguration small.jpg
John Hickenlooper.
This week, governors in Rhode Island and Washington asked the federal government to concede that marijuana has medical uses. A Colorado official is required to send a similar message by year's end -- but would John Hickenlooper consider following the lead of these fellow governors and do the deed himself? Not yet -- and while his spokesman leaves the door open to such a prospect, odds appear to be against it.

According to the New York Times article linked above, Washington's Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee, a Republican turned independent, petitioned the feds on this subject so that their respective states can regulate medical marijuana distribution without prompting a crackdown of the sort that's taken place in California and elsewhere. Their joint letter was sent to Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Colorado must take a similar tack within the next few weeks. As we reported in October, House Bill 1284, the 2010 measure that established the regulatory structure for medical marijuana in Colorado, contains a passage that enumerates the powers and duties of the state licensing authority. Under the heading "The state licensing authority shall," the seventh of them reads:

IN RECOGNITION OF THE POTENTIAL MEDICINAL VALUE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA, MAKE A REQUEST BY JANUARY 1, 2012, TO THE FEDERAL DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION TO CONSIDER RESCHEDULING, FOR PHARMACEUTICAL PURPOSES, MEDICAL MARIJUANA FROM A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE TO A SCHEDULE II CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE.

And who is the state licensing authority? An earlier section of the bill hands this role to "the executive director of the Department of Revenue or the deputy director of the Department of Revenue if the executive director so designates."

That means Barbara Brohl, who Hickenlooper appointed executive director of the DOR on June 30, must make such a request -- and DOR spokesman Mark Couch told us she will fulfill her statutory obligation by doing so.

Given the actions of Gregoire and Chafee, however, we posed the following four questions to Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown:

1. Would [Governor Hickenlooper] consider taking an action similar to the governors in Rhode Island and Washington and personally petition the government to reclassify marijuana as a drug with acceptable medical uses?

2. Would he consider adding his name and influence to the letter Barbara Brohl is required to send to the Drug Enforcement Administration?

3. If not, why does the Governor believe such actions are unnecessary?

4. Is the Governor unconcerned about possible federal action against the medical marijuana industry, which is now enshrined in state statute in the wake of a constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters?

To that, Brown responded with this statement: "The governors in Washington and Rhode Island raise a valid conflict that needs to be resolved. Colorado law requires we make a similar ask of the federal government by Jan. 1. We will do that. We will also continue to consult with other governors on this issue and with Colorado's attorney general before deciding whether anything else will be done."

This last line may be a key to the likelihood of Hickenlooper taking a more prominent part in any petition. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is arguably the state's most vocal critic of the medical marijuana industry. In February 2010, for instance, he wrote a letter to representatives considering MMJ regulation in which he went on record as "vehemently opposing any legislation that embraces the clinic or dispensary model for distribution of medical marijuana."

What recommendation would Suthers give Hickenlooper in this case? We shared the following two questions with Attorney General's Office spokesman Mike Saccone:

1. Would the attorney general recommend that Governor Hickenlooper petition the federal government to reclassify marijuana as having medical uses, as did the governors of Rhode Island and Washington?

2. If not, what would be his reasons for recommending against such an action?

Here's the response from Suthers: "We believe the governor should comply with Colorado law, which requires the executive branch to ask for the rescheduling of marijuana. We cannot comment on what legal advice we have given or will give to the governor on this matter."

That leaves the door open, too -- but not very wide.

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More from our Marijuana archive: "John Suthers's office fires back at marijuana activists over demand to sign ethics pledge."

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17 comments
BingoBob
BingoBob

Marijuana dispensary owners be aware!  I don't think there are enough states that recognize medical marijuana to make the feds budge at this time. 

Malcolm Kyle
Malcolm Kyle

An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

Most of us are aware by now that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high, 'no matter what.' So why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future. If you remotely believe that people will one day quit using any of these 'at present' illegal drugs, then you are exhibiting a degree of naivety parallel only with those poor deluded wretches who voluntarily drank the poisoned Kool-Aid in Jonestown. 

Even if you cannot stand the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and over a trillion dollars on this dangerous farce. Practically everybody is now aware that Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. So why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself  to be a poison in the veins of our once so proud & free nation? Do you actually think you may have something to lose If we were to start basing drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies? 

Maybe you're a police officer, a prison guard or a local politician. Possibly you're scared of losing employment, overtime-pay, the many kick-backs and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks? 

Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem. 

Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Why would a businessman who made his fortune selling alcohol -- and the untold damage it has caused society -- support relaxing laws on marijuana ?

He may look goofy, but he ain't stupid.

Cdude
Cdude

With roughly 77 percent of americans supporting medical marijuana, it would be stupid for any politician to ignore the issue.  The governor of a medical marijuana state should definitely be in support of resolving the state-federal conflict with medical marijuana as well as the state attorney general.  Spotlight is on you, hickenlooper and suthers, are you with the people or against?

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-50...

Colforbin
Colforbin

fuck lickenpooper. he's a fuckin pussy.

Scott Greene
Scott Greene

I dont think he will but it would be nice!

DonDig
DonDig

It is time for the economically motivated prohibition of cannabis to be ended.  Moving it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 would be a dream come true for the Feds: they can still incarcerate people as much as they like, protecting the jobs of correctional officers etc, and patients can get it when needed, creating another cash flow through additional regulation.  All of this regulation is unnecessary in this case, but I suppose here in the land of the terminally-complicated-by-corporate-interests that may at least be a step in a better direction for the moment.  God forbid we should actually do something beneficial with our vast resources like feed and mentor the homeless and unfortunates and crack down on alcohol fueled domestic violence.

Non
Non

Oh Look,

High Country Caregiver has an opinion!

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

With the results of the latest study saying beer sales are declining in medical states, I doubt the Hick will support this. His "friends and family" at the Wynkoop and other establishments are not too fond of their sales declining. IIRC the Wynkoop even had an ad campaign that mocked MMC ads. 

It must be good to be friends with the Governor. 

Sharpshooter
Sharpshooter

Yeah, I wouldn't hold my breath for Governor McLiquor Pusher to ante up in favor of the smoky treats. The booze lobby is one of the major anti-marijuana crusaders, along with Big Pharma and tobacco.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I don't think the Federal Government will reclassify marijuana.  When it boils down to it, the Feds and most of America think of marijuana as bundles that come across the boarder.  Lots and lots of Mexi weed floods America.  I'd say 90% of weed out there is still smuggled, humped and trucked in from Mexico.  Sure there's lot's of kind bud these days too, bud the Feds can't reclassify a product when the majority of it comes across the boarder and causes problems on both sides.  Full Legalization would be different, but these incremental baby steps, like asking the DEA nicely are not moving the US towards Real Legalization and will get us no where.  Thanks for not being a pot clown Hickenlooper and falling into this poo poo foo foo political pawn play legalization crap.

Monkey
Monkey

I think this is the way it will go if anything, class 2. That way, like you said, they can still arrest everyone but cash in on the pharmaceutical companies as well. The black market is a big part of the American economy, the government will make sure the cash-cow of the black market drug trade remains intact. Drug laws create criminals and America needs criminals. If they could have outlawed water in 1970 they would have but flowers that make mexicans rape white women was an easier lie.

Ian Williams
Ian Williams

 I'd blame Mason Tvert and the '05 S.A.F.E.R. initiative (that passed) when he, like yourself, decided to take an issue that could be solved through unified understanding and instead polarized it to the point of literally calling the at-the-time Mayor of Denver during an election year a "Drug Dealer"...

SAFER started the fight with Hick, and if someone with the social graces of Tvert did that to me, I probably wouldn't be too fond of siding with him in the future either...

The community burned this bridge, 7 years ago. I hate to say I told ya so, but I did.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

"Told [me] so," implies that you actually told me something about this before, which you did not...

When did I "take an issue that could be solved...etc?" 

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