Amendment 64 task force can't make mountains out of marijuana molehills, advocate says

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In this space yesterday, marijuana advocate Christian Sederberg spoke positively about the Amendment 64 task force to which he was just named. So, too, does attorney Sean McAllister, who lobbied the governor's office about the importance of marijuana consumers being represented on the panel. But with his optimism comes caution over the membership and the task force's direction.

McAllister sat down with staffers of Governor John Hickenlooper in late November on behalf of Colorado NORML -- and Craig Small, a NORML representative, is among the 24 task force members. He was also concerned about the membership being dominated by law enforcement personnel adamantly opposed to A64, but he believes that's not the case. The main reps who fall into this category are David Blake, with the Colorado Attorney General's Office, Larry Abrahamson, from the Colorado District Attorney's Council, and former Denver Manager of Safety Charles Garcia, serving on behalf of the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice. Yet McAllister thinks their presence could be a positive as long as they approach their mission from what he sees as the proper perspective.

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Sean McAllister.
"I believe this task force represents the best opportunity to try to keep the federal government at bay, essentially by telling them, 'Look, we can handle our business here -- take care of this issue, properly regulate it,'" he says. "And in order to have legitimacy, it needs to have some buy-in from the Attorney General's office and the DA's offices."

At the same time, though, "I'm concerned, because those agencies and departments have a history of opposing reform -- seeking to undermine marijuana reforms in subtle ways and not necessarily respecting the will of the voters," McAllister continues. "Now, John Suthers (Colorado's AG) says he wants to respect the will of the voters, and I want him to live up to his promise. I don't want his office's participation to undermine that -- because there has been an institutional resistance when it comes to law enforcement accepting the new world order we live in."

McAllister isn't ready to hit the panic button, however.

"I'm not overly concerned," he maintains. "But in the past, these groups have perhaps overblown fears and concerns to try to block reform. And I hope they don't continue that habit of making mountains out of molehills in order to thwart reform."

Example?

"When we got medical marijuana, everybody said, 'Oh my God, the children! All the kids will be smoking pot!'" he replies. "And we got a lot of anecdotal reports about that. But the best report I've seen" -- a June study associated with the University of Colorado Denver -- "showed that marijuana use has actually gone down among teens. They also talked about crime around dispensaries, and that hasn't happened, either.

"These people who have been crying wolf for five years, telling us the world is going to end and the sky is going to fall? At every stage, they've been wrong. They've been wrong about crime, they've been wrong about teen use, they've been wrong about DUID. So, at the end of the day, these critics need to accept the fact that their concerns haven't been borne out and they lost the election -- and elections have consequences. And one of those consequences is that the voters are on the side of the reformers."

Continue for more about the Amendment 64 task force.


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