Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Carroll: Medical marijuana slugfest - The Denver Post

Carroll: Medical marijuana slugfest - The Denver Post

Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado — that would be the pro-cannabis lobby — isn't letting his pleasure with a House committee vote this week dull his sense of realism.

Yes, the medical-marijuana industry is generally happy with regulations approved by the Judiciary Committee in a party-line vote, but Vicente knows the legislative terrain will only get steeper.

"I feel like we're in a 12-round fight and the first round may turn out to be our best," he told me.

For spectators to the slugfest over medical marijuana, it probably feels like the 10th or 11th round, given how long the conflict has raged. But those rounds were fought mostly in other arenas — before the Denver City Council, for example. This legislative dustup is the main event, and will determine whether dispensaries survive or are driven to extinction.

If you're like me and hope dispensaries in some form survive in the interest of genuine patients who were poorly served by the previous caregiver model — and believe me, some were — the prospect of the industry taking a few lumps is not so terrible. Why? Because the amended bill overreaches, and because Colorado has a chance to get its regulatory model right.

Among other things, the Judiciary Committee loosened rules on whether dispensary owners could have criminal drug records. But why? Is it really too much to expect that owners of businesses whose product on the black market props up a brutal network of thugs and assassins come to the table with clean hands? If they merely made a mistake earlier in their lives, fine. We all understand. But find another career.

Sen. Chris Romer, a Denver Democrat and a sponsor of House Bill 1284, says a clean record is "non-negotiable" with him. He'll turn on the bill if it's not included. He's also determined to remove an amendment allowing the consumption of edible products on a dispensary's premises (its rationale being that residents of federally subsidized housing can't take medical marijuana to their homes). "We're all sympathetic to the folks in VA housing," Romer says, "but we're not doing Amsterdam hash bars. We're doing wellness clinics."

Romer remains committed to regulatory standards that squeeze out what he calls "the knucklehead retail model" run by people with no expertise and not enough capital, and recounts a recent evening spent with Denver vice cops who responded to a crime at a low-rent dispensary. "Every employee was high," he told me, and "a 21-year-old guy was running the place."

He foresees dispensaries as sophisticated "wellness" centers regulated as thoroughly as casinos, where "every transaction is videotaped." No riffraff owners or employees. The life cycle of every plant tracked and documented. And, for that matter, a local option: If cities and counties want to ban dispensaries altogether, so be it, Romer says. Those are fighting words, though, since the House committee removed that provision, too.

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