Colorado: Officials Believe Marijuana Laws will Ease Nationwide

April 5, 2010 – Local, state and federal political figures told a crowd at the Colorado Cannabis Convention on Saturday that they believe marijuana laws nationwide will continue to become less restrictive, with full legalization a real possibility.

But, the politicians said, marijuana activists will need to be both patient and persistent to make that happen.

“Don’t expect the legislature to solve all of these problems in one year,” said state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. “Don’t expect every piece of legislation to be perfect. The law usually moves in baby steps over time.”

The legislative panel — featuring Steadman; state Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver; Denver Councilman Chris Nevitt; and the district director for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. — was one of the main events of the convention’s final day. (Another was a better-attended autograph-signing session by the marijuana-infused hip-hop group Cypress Hill.)

Organizers had predicted the convention could attract as many as 100,000 people; attendance was steady Saturday, but no official head count was available. Event organizer Michael Lerner, a California media magnate whose properties include Kush magazine and, said he was pleased with the event.

“Phenomenal,” he said. “Completely incident-free.”

Polis had been expected to speak at the legislative panel but had to cancel at the last minute. Nonetheless, Polis district director Andy Schultheiss told the crowd that Polis is supportive of marijuana activists and said the congressman from Boulder has signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would give full protection from federal prosecution to the medical-marijuana industry and another that would legalize marijuana altogether for adults.

Polis also is a co-sponsor on a bill that would allow defendants in medical-marijuana states to raise a medical defense in federal court.

The bills have not yet had a congressional hearing.

“The number of members of Congress who say, like Jared Polis, that marijuana should be legalized is growing,” Schultheiss said. “. . . Social change takes time, and we are in the middle of it now.”

None of the panel members differed greatly in their opinions, and they spoke to an audience of the converted. When Miklosi said of medical-marijuana, “This can be a positive force in society,” the comment drew cheers.

Earlier in the day, a panel of lawyers was less optimistic about the immediate political future of marijuana. Attorney Rob Corry said efforts at the state Capitol to craft rules for the medical-marijuana industry amounted to an attempt to “regulate us out of existence.” Brian Vicente, with Sensible Colorado, said the bills would hurt small marijuana growers and patient cooperatives.

And attorney Sean McAllister urged medical-marijuana growers and caregivers to refuse to cooperate with police investigations.

“Say, ‘It’s medical, it’s legal and other than that you can talk to my attorney,’ ” McAllister said.


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