Marijuana Enforcement Division head Laura Harris's retirement timing "poor to awful"?

Categories: Marijuana, News

Laura Harris.
In May, Governor John Hickenlooper signed several marijuana bills he said were "charting new territory" -- so new that emergency rules have been issued as placeholders until permanent regulations can be written and approved. But one of the people expected to be central to this process -- Laura Harris, head of the renamed Marijuana Enforcement Division -- has announced that she's retiring effective August 1. One activist fears the fallout of her decision could make an already messy process even more potentially chaotic.

"For those folks who are advising this industry or are part of this industry, the timing is poor to awful," says marijuana attorney Warren Edson. "You've got emergency rules, a new [recreational marijuana] industry being born, a relatively new [medical marijuana] industry being tweaked to run more efficiently, and not a whole lot of time to do it."

Meanwhile, Edson continues, "you've got the state and a bunch of counties and cities looking for some kind of leadership about how to adopt all of this. And now we've arguably lost one of the most accessible government heads of the industry -- someone who's been out there saying, 'Here's what we're going to do.'"

No question that Harris has been the target of criticism, particularly due to a damning audit of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Released in March, the document (on view below) blasts the MMED for ineffective oversight, as well as poor management of funds exemplified by this graphic showing nineteen consecutive months of net losses during fiscal years 2011 and 2012, much of it on Harris's watch; she took over in late 2011.

medical marijuana license cash fund graphic.jpg
But when it came to communicating with MMJ stakeholders, Edson gives Harris high marks. He calls a January meeting to review proposed changes to medical marijuana regulation as surprisingly pleasant, with Harris proving open to discussion about proposals such as "removing live-feed cameras from dispensaries and simplifying the manifest process so the industry wasn't having to send quite as many documents and the state wasn't having to deal with receiving so many documents," he recalls.

Likewise, he praises Harris for considering what he sees as some common-sense alterations in rules, such as "moving part of the hash-making process from MIPs [Marijuana Infused Products] to OPCs [Optional Premises Cultivation].... Currently the OPCs -- the grows -- can only use ice, water and screens when making hash, but when you get into BHO or extraction, those are under the MIPs. Leaving them in both would be a massive change, but it's also kind of fair."

With Harris on her way out, however, there's no telling whether her successor will follow her lead on these or other matters. And plenty of more immediate issues have been left in limbo.

Continue for more about Marijuana Enforcement Division head Laura Harris's impending retirement, including multiple documents.

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Retire that years-old stock photo of a shitty bud bar, please.


Harris, who previously oversaw tobacco and liquor enforcement for the state, was brought in to clean up the division, but shortly after taking her position, the MMED received a failing audit, to which she replied, "We have control over this division at this point and will continue to have control".  Now, shortly after that audit, she's quoted in an e-mail stating, "I found that the personal toll of this job was too much".

Will anyone be able to do this job for long? Or will it be a revolving door of leaders who quickly realize this task is far more unrealistic than they thought?

Maybe instead of creating a whole new enforcement agency and regulatory scam, they should have dismantled the MMED after AM64 passed, instead of re-naming them the MED, and give the responsibility to our liquor enforcement division, who already knows how to stay within budget. Why not incorporate weed rules with alcohol rules, and have the same agency regulate it? Why model our new regulations after failed regulations, when we could regulate it like alcohol? I think there is a bigger story here, but like most bureaucracies, the lies and cover-up stories will be all we hear about.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Everything would be a lot simpler and more efficient if they stopped treating it like it was radioactive Plutonium.

But the Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Cartels and the clueless stoners they manipulated were willing to surrender anything and everything to get their sticky fingers into the cash trough.

The whole scam will continue to FAIL, and deserves for fail. The best thing other States can learn form Colorado's MMJ debacle is to use it as an example of what NOT to do.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Monkey "...the lies and cover-up stories will be all we hear about."

Thanks in no small part to the Propaganda Mill known as Westweed.

fishingblues topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Gosh Donk, if everyone would simply follow your sage advice, the world would be near perfect.  Why don't you run for emperor of the world?

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