The head of the national organization that was the political brain behind marijuana legalization in Colorado said Thursday he would try to negotiate with the federal government on implementing the measure.
Rob Kampia, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said he hoped to discuss with Justice Department officials how to regulate the marijuana stores that the measure creates. The goal, he said, is to create rules that would be “the least offensive to the federal government” in order to avoid a federal crackdown.
“I don’t think they’re going to issue a memo,” Kampia said. “If we get any response from them, it will be verbal, and it will be private.”
How the federal government, which considers marijuana possession and sales illegal regardless of state law, responds to the passage of Amendment 64 will determine what the law ultimately looks like in Colorado. A spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that Hickenlooper is scheduled to speak with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter Friday.
The law gives lawmakers and state Department of Revenue officials until July 1 to adopt regulations for marijuana stores, which could start opening in January 2014. Mark Couch, a spokesman for the Revenue Department, said officials there are studying the issue but will wait for better direction on crafting regulations from the legislature.
State Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat who has been heavily involved in creating regulations for medical-marijuana businesses, said lawmakers have only begun to think about regulating recreational-marijuana stores.
“It’s not like everybody has it all figured out,” Steadman said. “That remains to be seen.”
Couch said the department will have to work quickly to write regulations after the legislative session ends in May. For comparison, it was a nearly year-long process for the department to write and implement medical-marijuana business rules.
“We consider it a very tight timeline,” Couch said. Kampia spoke Thursday at the opening day of the National Marijuana Business Conference, at the Sherman Street Event Center in Denver. The conference is a gathering of cannabis business owners — and prospective owners — from states where medical marijuana is legal or medical-marijuana laws are being considered.
The Marijuana Policy Project provided more than $1.2 million in contributions and loans to the committee backing Amendment 64, state records show. It is a major backer — through financial and political muscle — for medical-marijuana and legalization campaigns nationwide.
Ed Rosenthal, a legendary marijuana grower, author and activist from California, said the votes will be an inspiration to activists in other states. “It’s going to be really dynamic as people realize it can be done,” he said during a break.
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