Is California Ready to "Regulate Cannabis Like Alcohol?" Will we learn from Colorado's mistakes?

This article was written by Chris Jetter, a prominent activist in Colorado fighting for the reality of regulating marijuana like alcohol:

In 2012 Colorado voters legalized recreation cannabis. The Amendment 64, codified as Article 18, section 16, of the Colorado Constitution. The civil rights protected in the Colorado Constitution include, voting rights, rights to bear arms, prohibition of slavery, and freedom of speech and press, and now the right to possess and consume recreational marijuana, or how it should be spelled, cannabis. Marijuana, after all, is a slang and derogatory term for cannabis.

First, it’s regulate like alcohol.

(1) PURPOSE AND FINDINGS. (a) In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes, and individual freedom, the people of the state of Colorado find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons twentyone years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

Article 18, Section 16 includes subsection 3. Personal use.

(3) PERSONAL USE OF MARIJUANA. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be an offense under Colorado law or the law of any locality within Colorado or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under Colorado law for persons twentyone years of age or older:

(a) Possessing, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.

(b) Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.

(c) Transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is twenty one years of age or older.

(d) Consumption of marijuana provided that nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.

(e) Assisting another person who is twentyone years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this subsection.

Examining these two portions of the constitutional amendment it makes clear several items. First, it IS regulate like alcohol. Despite the fact that there are many more different forms and different ways to consume cannabis than alcohol.

But for simplicity let’s get down to basics. For example, lets scale it down to just forms of liquid cannabis. Products like Dixie Elixirs, Keef Kola, and Marqua. If these liquid forms of cannabis, products that would be consumed in the exact same way as alcohol is, it would be regulated like this. Liquid cannabis would be available and licensed at all the places alcohol is now. Liquor stores, wholesale distribution, bars, night clubs, convenience stores, sporting events, private clubs, special events, political events, weddings, restaurants, even, gasp.... church functions.

So let’s talk about restaurants for a minute. They routinely serve liquid forms of alcohol. In fact, it's not unusual for a family of four, two adults, and two children to be seen dining at say Outback Steak House, with two alcohol beverages on the table. Now as good law abiding citizens and responsible parenting it's likely that this group will leave after the meal with one of the two parents driving. Below the legal limit of intoxication and no one has a concern in the world. Hardly a brow is raised.

So why is it that you, a responsible adult can't sit down at the bar at Chili's Bar and Grille, and order a Dixie Elixirs while eating your burger at lunch? As a responsible adult you should maintain your limits and not get over intoxicated whether it's weed or alcohol. And as a responsible adult over 21, you should have the freedom to choose a safer alternative over alcohol in the same setting, and by the way it IS regulate like alcohol. Chili's Bar and Grill should be able to obtain a cannabis license and sell liquid forms of cannabis.

The public is numb to alcohol. It's served at every venue, at every single social event. Weddings, sports, anniversaries, corporate events, political events, even children s events. You can throw your 5-year-old a birthday party at Chuckle Cheese and be assured that there will be alcohol available for adult consumption. You can take a gang of teenagers to Elitches Amusement Park and score a beer if you are 21 plus. So why not liquid forms of cannabis for adults 21 plus? Are cannabis consumers second rate citizens and therefore citizens must be protected from their irresponsibility? Did I mention it IS regulate like alcohol?

Alcohol is regulated like this: Let’s say you and I are to attend a wedding. You, already at the venue, forgot to pick up that special bottle of wine. Knowing that I'm on my way, you ask me to stop by the liquor store and purchase that bottle of wine for you, and I do. Upon arriving at the wedding venue I seek you out and hand you that special bottle of wine, along with a receipt. It's a $25-dollar bottle of wine and you give me $30 and tell me to keep the change. I oblige and move on with my day. Did I just make an illegal alcohol transaction? Do I need a liquor license to facilitate that transaction? Am I required to disclose the transaction on my taxes at the end of the year?  Was it a criminal action? Of course it is not.

However, the exact same transaction involving cannabis in Colorado has resulted in criminal actions on many occasions since the passage of Article 18, Section 16 was codified into the Colorado Constitution. Criminal charges that are not (a) In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources; Criminal Charges that are (c) Transfers of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is twenty one years of age or older. Criminal charges that are (a) Possessing, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana. Criminal charges for (e) Assisting another person who is twentyone years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this subsection.

It's as if Amendment 64 only expressed the opinion of 55% percent of the voters in the State of Colorado. Instead of cannabis being illegal on the state level it's now illegal in all new kinds of forms on the city and county ordinance level. Criminal charges for distribution of under an ounce of cannabis is still being handed out for cannabis that is not tracked within the Metric seed to sale tracking system implemented by the State of Colorado. So we could draw a conclusion that cannabis is not being sold legally in Colorado. Cannabis is being sold "taxidly" in Colorado. In other words, if the state isn't getting their cut in licensing and taxes YOU must be a criminal element and not a legitimate source of cannabis.

The Colorado Constitution protects: (3) PERSONAL USE OF MARIJUANA. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be an offense under Colorado law or the law of any locality within Colorado or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under Colorado law for persons twentyone years of age or older:

(a) Possessing, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.

(b) Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.

(c) Transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is twenty one years of age or older.

Furthermore, the constitution also protects: (e) Assisting another person who is twentyone years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this subsection. So what exactly is assistance? I can assist you to grow, transport, process, and even consume cannabis. If I'm assisting you with growing cannabis does that mean I absorb all of your expenses associated with assisting you? For example, if I assist you to fix your car, does that mean I'm required to buy parts for your car? Would I be required to carry your financial burden to get said parts? Let’s apply it to cannabis. If I'm assisting you to grow cannabis, protected by the constitution, am I required to buy your pots and soil? Am I responsible for your financial burdens in obtaining that equipment, driving time and gas? Am I responsible to pay the electricity bill to grow those plants under? The answer is unequivocally, no! My assistance may be any one or all of those things. My assistance might just be my knowledge of how to do the job right. I may assist you by purchasing your equipment growing your plants, with my knowledge, and asking you to reimburse me for all the pots, soil, and electricity that is required to assist you. After all I'm not asking for a paycheck for my labor or a fee for my consulting of the growth of those plants. At that time, I would be remunerated, or paid a profit for doing a job.

What do you call a group of people that control drugs with guns? A cartel, right? What do you call a group of people that control drugs with guns and badges? The Marijuana Enforcement Division. In fact, almost all of the employees at the MED are former police officers and drug agents. All of these individuals are well versed in law, both local and Federal Law. In fact, these individuals were once sworn to uphold both state and federal laws. Not only that but the credo of "nobody is above the law" still echoes strong from courtrooms and prosecutors in every courtroom in Colorado. If that is in fact true then every superintendent, mayor, county official, including the Governor of Colorado and the Marijuana Enforcement Division are co-conspirators of one of the largest marijuana distribution rings ever witnessed by the Federal Government. A cartel that has collected 144 million dollars in illicit drug tax dollars in 2015. They have co-conspired to distribute 122 metric tons of cannabis in 2015 alone. If those numbers washed ashore in the Gulf of Mexico with the same number of co-conspirators it would be a major drug bust detailed in your daily news feed.

So who is really above the law anyway? It seems unlikely that the Federal Government is going to hand out indictments to any of these government employed individuals anytime soon. Even though the evidence is not only clear and documented in the state tax coffers but reported monthly around the globe in papers, TV, and electronic media. What happened? The Federal Prosecutors didn't get the news?  Not only that but these co-conspirators were able to bank their ill-gotten booty in state bank accounts as well Federal bank accounts with impunity. Likely interest bearing accounts no less, while cannabis companies are barred from having banking accounts due to Federal Law, Schedule 1, and illegal drug. So are these companies exempt from Federal Taxes? After all it's illegal therefore they can't collect tax right? Absolutely wrong. In fact, the Federal Government takes extra taxes from cannabis companies under e-208 filling. Tax code for illegal drug dealers in the United States. Tax code that does not allow you to write of any overhead expenses, no depreciation of equipment, or leased work space like normal businesses do. So which one is it? Are we business men contributing to the tax base of our country and our state coffers? Or are we criminals that sell illegal drugs in the face of the Federal Government? If you are a cannabis company, you are both as long as you hold a license and pay taxes. Firmly squeezed into that dark shade of gray. Twisting in the wind and depending on what agency is approaching you and what beef they may have; they will be sighting State or Federal codes to extort money from you or label you a criminal element all together and arrest you. On one hand when the state demands its tax dollars they will gladly point to detailed state laws that have been crafted to extort up to 30% tax of retail cannabis sales and bank it into state coffers. On the other hand, if you are a cannabis club in the state and are offering personal assistance and not providing any tax dollars like the ones in Colorado Springs or Denver, then you will be banned and shut down. Probably under newly crafted zoning laws or ordinances passed by your local city council, essentially recriminating your constitutionally protected state rights to consume cannabis, that are a blatant violations of Federal Laws. But again, that appears to be our constitutional opinion, as it is not being upheld as envisioned, written, or ratified. Again, cannabis in Colorado is being sold "taxidly", not "legally" If you do not hold a license or pay taxes, you are still considered a criminal element whether you are assisting someone or not.

It was regulate like alcohol, not regulate like medical marijuana. So why did our law making co-conspirators down at Capitol Hill regulate it like medical marijuana? Because they are lazy! They concocted this seed to sale tracking scheme to protect their newly crafted cash cow of medical marijuana in 2010. Insulating them from Federal prosecution by looking like when the new amendment, amendment 64 passed, they were too lazy to actually review the alcohol code and implement regulations that are similar to alcohol. Case in point, seed to sale tracking. I have not reviewed one piece of alcohol code that calls for tracking of "hops to sale" for alcohol. There is no tracking of wheat bundles that are tracked from seed to beer sales. I have yet to see a brewery required to track its by-products that are discarded after brewing. Even lab testing alcohol products does not match the stringent regulations of testing cannabis products to enter the marketplace. I have yet to see a "child proof" packaging on a Coors can or a Phat Tire Beer. Your exit bag at a local liquor store is a brown bag not a complex puzzle to keep our kids from being exposed to alcohol. And badges, alcohol doesn't have any stinking badges. There is no State of Colorado alcohol industry badge required to work at a liquor store or brewery. No one in the alcohol industry is paying between $70-$200 for the privilege to work in the alcohol industry. So why exactly do individuals entering in the cannabis industry have to? Why the extensive criminal background checks and scrutiny to work within the cannabis industry? Because YOU are considered a criminal first and a business man second when applying for entry into the highly regulated and over scrutinized cannabis market in Colorado.

How long will cannabis consumers and businesses be treated like second rate citizens and tax payers? As long as they are willing to take the abuse. The legal industry tip-toes on licenses handed out by the co-conspiring law makers and routinely threatened by the same co-conspirators if said cannabis business steps out of line. If the state can't handle the threat on their own, then they simply drop the dime and bring in Federal Intervention that will surely prosecute you to the fullest extent of the Federal Law. By the way, the Feds have a 98% conviction ratio to cases handed out. If you are compliant on the state level the extortion continues from taxes, to bond requirements, bloated license fees, application fees, minimum capital requirements and limited license availability. While cannabis industry groups, more interested in pulling up the latter, than consumer rights, lobby along with the co-conspiring law makers making it harder for others to enter the marketplace and gobbling up market share. Jeopardizing the basic fundamentals of a free and open marketplace. That ultimately affects the quality of cannabis and the inflated costs to produce cannabis. Therefore, not reducing the inflated black market money associated with it, merely shifting it into government bank accounts.

 

So which is it? Are cannabis companies’ criminals and lawmakers co-conspirators? Or, are we legitimate business men and women contributing to our economy? It CAN"T be BOTH. No one is above the law.

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