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Colorado Puts New Limits On Home-Grown Marijuana

Posted on: April 18, 2017 by in Drug Crimes
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After more than three years of legal recreational marijuana in the state of Colorado, and in an effort to obstruct illegal marijuana trafficking, both the Colorado House and the Colorado Senate have approved new legislation that lowers the legal limit for residential marijuana growers from 99 plants to 12 plants per household. Medical marijuana patients and their caregivers can ask the state for an exemption that will allow them to grow up to 24 plants.

The legislation substantially reduces the ability of Coloradans to grow marijuana at their private residences. Law enforcement authorities say that large-scale pot distributors and international crime organizations are taking advantage of the current 99-plant limit. The legislation is part of a wider effort this year by Governor John Hickenlooper to enhance law enforcement in the “gray market,” where cannabis is cultivated legally but is distributed and sold illegally.

Several rural regions of Colorado have been sites where large-scale cannabis cultivation operations have grown with virtually no oversight. Some Colorado sheriffs and police departments have hesitated to take action because of a lack of precision in the language of the state’s marijuana regulations, and the neighbors of some of the cultivating operations have said those operations are growing unchecked. The new legislation should provide the state’s law enforcement officers with the tools they have needed to keep marijuana growers in compliance with the law.

WHY DO SOME BELIEVE THE NEW LEGISLATION IS IMPORTANT?

Supporters of the new legislation believe that the reduction of the residential growing cap to 12 plants will help the police deter black market growers and protect residential neighborhoods with children. Police Chief John Jackson of Greenwood Village, who heads up the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, said in support of the legislation, “The current limit of 99 plants is a massive loophole in our state law that attracts criminal elements from across our nation in search of a quick buck.” Chief Jackson added, “Police deserve to know where these growing operations are as they masquerade themselves into these family neighborhoods.”

Violent crime has dropped in Colorado since marijuana became legal here, but recent sting operations conducted by Colorado law enforcement agencies found that some residential pot growers move their marijuana across state lines – where the profits may be far more lucrative. Supporters argue that the new legislation – House Bill 1220 – will reduce the ability of these operations to continue their criminal activity.

Colorado House Majority Leader K.C. Becker told the Colorado Statesman, “Stopping diversion to the black or gray market is a significant benefit of the bill. We hope the bill can stop cartels, or really anyone who thinks they have an opportunity to discreetly grow in homes in Colorado.” Unanimous support for the bill in both the Colorado House and the Colorado Senate came after police associations, local governments, patient groups, and the governor’s office agreed to a compromise.

Proponents of the legislation point to another benefit of House Bill 1220. As the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to crack down on states where marijuana is legal, HB 1220 helps Colorado legislators resist federal intervention by demonstrating that the state is actively and successfully regulating its cannabis industry without federal oversight.

WHAT WILL BE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THE 12-PLANT RULE?

Anyone convicted of violating the new law can be penalized with a $1,000 fine for a first offense. Subsequent offenses for 13 to 24 plants will be a misdemeanor offense, and subsequent offenses for more than 24 plants will be considered a felony. Anyone who is charged with violating HB 1220 – or any of this state’s other marijuana laws – should contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney. By the time you read this, Governor Hickenlooper will most likely have signed HB 1220 into law. It will take effect beginning in 2018.

In a related development, Governor Hickenlooper is one of four governors who recently appealed to the Trump Administration to cooperate with the states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer told reporters they can expect “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws by the Trump Administration, although it is unclear precisely what greater enforcement might mean.

Along with the governors of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, Governor Hickenlooper addressed a public letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The letter insists that marijuana legalization has expanded the economies of the four states and that a federal pot “crackdown” in 2017 “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market.”

In Colorado alone, pot retailers, growers, product manufacturers, and packagers have created thousands of jobs. In 2015, they generated an extra $135 million for the state of Colorado – resources that support law enforcement and drug education programs.

SHOULD POT USERS STILL WORRY ABOUT BREAKING THE LAW?

In Colorado, if you are 21 years old, you can purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Only patients approved for medical cannabis use may possess more than an ounce at a time. Nevertheless, marijuana users still have some legal concerns that they cannot afford to overlook – such as the possibility of being prosecuted for driving under the influence of marijuana. A first conviction for driving under the influence in Colorado is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, participation in court-ordered drug education classes, and up to 96 hours of community service.

Anyone who is charged with marijuana-DUI, with possessing more than an ounce of pot, or with selling marijuana to a minor will need the help of an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney. Legal marijuana is still in the “experimental” stage in Colorado, so specific marijuana laws and regulations are evolving and changing rapidly. Location is a factor as well, since the state gives local jurisdictions a great deal of discretion and authority to regulate legal marijuana in their own communities.

Has the “experiment” with recreational marijuana been a success so far for the state of Colorado? A billion-dollar-a-year industry has emerged since in this state since cannabis became legal. Certainly, a number of details and problems remain to be ironed out, but overall, most knowledgeable observers agree that so far, the state of Colorado’s experiment with legalizing marijuana has been a success.

Denver District Attorney Is Pushing An Anti-Marijuana Agenda To Other States

Posted on: November 25, 2016 by in Drug Crimes
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When term-limited Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wrote an “official” letter prior to the November election in opposition to California’s Proposition 64, the ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in California this year, he sparked a great deal of controversy and criticism. Morrissey said that a California anti-legalization group had asked him to write about “the negative impacts of legal weed.” He told KMGH News, “I’m not doing anything but answering the questions.”

But were Morrissey’s statements about legalized marijuana entirely accurate? And why would a term-limited officeholder paint for other states a biased, negative picture of marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado? Here’s part of what Morrissey wrote: “In the city of Denver since the legalization of recreational marijuana the number of crimes in Denver has grown by about 44%, according to annual figures the city reported to the National Incident-Based Reporting System. In 2015 in Denver alone crime rose in every neighborhood in the city.”

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel Murphy concludes, “Morrissey has chosen to conveniently ignore the tax benefits of legalized marijuana and has focused on studies done by a federally funded agency that fights the illegal drug trade. His letter, besides being done under the auspices of the City of Denver policy (on letter head of his office) is full of misstatements and fear mongering.”

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Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group working to reform marijuana laws at the state level, agrees. Tvert told KMGH News, “I don’t think there’s any evidence that suggests that there’s been an increase in crime associated with marijuana. The DA is politically campaigning to paint a negative picture of the marijuana laws in Colorado that doesn’t actually exist.”

WHO IS DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY MITCH MORRISSEY?

Mitch Morrissey has been described as a “political animal” who aspires to higher office as a no-compromise, tough-on-crime crusader. For example, he chose to re-prosecute Clarence Moses-EL when Moses-EL was released from prison after serving 28 years of a 48-year sentence for a rape that he did not commit. After DNA technology became more reliable and DNA became easier to test, Moses-EL raised $1000 from his fellow inmates to have the DNA in evidence tested against his own DNA. However, in the interim, the Denver Police Department “accidentally” destroyed the DNA evidence despite it being labeled “Do Not Destroy.”

Some years later, another man confessed to the crime, and he repeated his admission to investigators. Finally, after decades, investigators determined that the blood types of Moses-EL and the blood found on the victim were not a match. A Denver judge reasonably and rightly vacated the rape conviction and released Moses-EL on bond. What did the District Attorney’s office do? Mitch Morrissey, wanting to look tough on crime, retried Clarence Moses-EL.

Fortunately for the defendant, but not for the taxpayers of our state, Moses-EL was finally acquitted of all charges in November 2016 after a week-long jury trial. The not guilty finding on charges of first-degree sexual assault, second-degree burglary, and second-degree assault concluded a lengthy, indescribably painful, and completely unnecessary personal tragedy in the life of Clarence Moses-EL.

From the day he was arrested, Moses-EL always claimed that he was an innocent man, but in the end, he said that he would rather spend 48 years in prison than accept a plea bargain for a crime that he did not commit. The man who confessed to the crime, L.C. Jackson, cannot now be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired, according to Denver’s Chief Deputy District Attorney, Bonnie Benedetti.

WHO IS FORMER COLORADO GOVERNOR BILL OWENS?

While District Attorney Morrissey was busy campaigning against California’s Proposition 64 (it was approved by more than 56 percent of California’s voters), two other prominent Colorado political figures were fighting marijuana legalization in the state of Arizona. Former Governor Bill Owens dismantled no-fault insurance in Colorado back in 2003 with promises of lower rates for motorists, but those lower rates never materialized, and the main effect of his actions has been making it easier for insurance companies to deny coverage to injured Coloradans.

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Colorado’s no-fault law had been in place for decades, and it helped substantially reduce litigation for accident claims. That litigation now overcrowds Colorado civil courts. Owens has not only been a “shill” for the insurance industry, but he was also the “family values crusader” who divorced his wife after impregnating a staff member and promoted her to a key leadership position in the state, an incident that apparently disqualified Owens from consideration for a Bush administration cabinet position.

WHAT DID BILL OWENS AND WELLINGTON WEBB DO IN ARIZONA?

Along with former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, Owens appeared in a television ad for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group that opposed Proposition 205, a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona. Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman and State Representatives Jonathan Singer and Millie Hamner called on Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy to remove the ads, describing them as misleading and inaccurate.

“They are saying these things that are really far afield from the truth,” Senator Steadman told the Associated Press. “We’ve been building schools and repairing schools with the excess tax revenue that was dedicated to school construction. Those dollars are flowing.” However, extra money for schools won’t be available in Arizona. Voters in that state defeated Proposition 205 by a 52-to-48 percent margin, possibly in part because they were influenced by politicians from Colorado.

Of course, everyone in the United States (including disgraced political hacks) has the right to an opinion and the right to freedom of speech. That’s not at issue. What’s troubling is when veteran politicians who should know better make an effort to skew the election process and to sway the voters with the influence of their prestigious political offices, information they probably know is inaccurate, and motives that are questionable.

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It’s also a problem when politicians use an official state letter head and the auspices of their offices to promote disinformation, because they are presumed in such instances to be speaking for their constituencies. Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel Murphy says, “If Mr. Morrissey had any desire to present the truth, he would have declined this possibly paid endorsement and chosen to remain silent.”

How is Marijuana Legalization Working?

Posted on: September 29, 2016 by in Drug Crimes
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If you live here or visit frequently, you know that in 2012, Colorado voters approved a state constitutional amendment which legalized the sale and possession of recreational marijuana for adults beginning in January 2014. Has the legalization of recreational marijuana been a plus or a minus for the state of Colorado? A billion-dollar-a-year legal recreational marijuana industry has emerged since legalization arrived in our state.

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The consensus among Colorado lawmakers who spoke earlier this year to the Boston Globe is that there have been no widely felt negative effects on the state since marijuana became legal. House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst told the Globe, “the sky didn’t fall. Everything seems to be working pretty well.” A majority of Colorado voters seem to agree. In a November 2015 survey, 53 percent said legalizing pot has been good for Colorado, although 39 percent disagreed with that view. State Representative Jonathan Singer said legalization has “allowed marijuana to pay its own way,” with the cost of regulation paid for by dispensaries and consumers.

In fact, marijuana retailers, cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, and product packagers have popped up in many parts of the state. They’ve created thousands of new jobs, and the taxes and fees they’ve generated amounted to an extra $135 million for the state in 2015 alone – money that goes to drug law enforcement and to drug education programs. However, while recreational marijuana legalization has brought significant benefits to Colorado, there may also be a considerable downside.

WHAT DO POT’S OPPONENTS SAY ABOUT LEGALIZATION?

Law enforcement spokespersons in Colorado paint a more confusing picture of rapidly changing statutes and ordinances that are difficult to enforce. There’s no quick and reliable way to determine if a driver is too impaired by pot to drive or to determine if food and beverage items are “infused” with marijuana. And Colorado’s public health officials fear that pot could eventually be another Big Tobacco, sidestepping regulations, exploiting technicalities in the law, and luring young new users to the product with cartoons and other clever advertising and marketing tools.

Post-legalization, recreational marijuana sales and possession are strictly regulated in the state of Colorado. If you are 21 years old, you can buy and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Only those approved for medical marijuana use may possess more than an ounce at a time. A radio frequency identification (RFID) chip is attached to every marijuana plant that is intended for sale.

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Prior to sale, whether the pot is to be sold in its “natural” form or infused into other products like snacks and beverages, it must be tested for contamination and for potency and sold at the retail level in packaging that is child-resistant. Surprisingly, almost half of the retail recreational marijuana sales in Colorado are sales of products infused with pot. The products include cookies, chocolate bars, mints, bath and body oils, and more.

AFTER LEGALIZATION, WHAT PUBLIC HEALTH TRENDS ARE EMERGING?

Dr. Larry Wolk is the executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Dr. Wolk told the Boston Globe that since marijuana became legal in Colorado, no significant or concerning large public health trends have emerged, but there have been isolated reports of people getting sick after consuming too much marijuana in edibles such as candy bars and cookies. Dr. Wolk added that while marijuana-related hospitalizations are rare, it happens more with visitors to Colorado who may not be familiar with high-potency pot.

Another complicated facet of the legal recreational marijuana picture in Colorado – especially for those on the business end – is the tax situation. All marijuana sold legally in Colorado, even medical marijuana, is taxed at the basic state and local sales tax rate. Additionally, marijuana sold for recreational purposes is taxed by the state another ten percent along with any additional local taxes.

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But there’s more. Colorado also imposes a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers of recreational marijuana – a cost reflected in the final retail price. The tax picture is just one of the many complications of being in the pot business legally. Another is banking. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal statutes, there’s virtually no access to legal and local banking services for those in the pot business.

WHAT LEGAL WORRIES REMAIN FOR POT USERS?

However, marijuana consumers have other worries, like being charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. A first conviction for driving under the influence in the state of Colorado is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of $600 to $1,000, up to 96 hours of community service, and participation in court-ordered substance abuse classes. Anyone facing the charge will need the help of an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney. If you are charged with possessing more than an ounce of pot, selling to a minor, or violating any other marijuana law in Colorado, you’ll also need to speak with a Denver criminal defense attorney.

For law enforcement in Colorado, recreational marijuana legalization has created two new problems. One is that more people are driving under the influence of marijuana on Colorado’s streets and highways. The other is that cannabis-infused foods and beverages are proliferating. There’s no way to know the potency of these products, but the bigger problem is the inability of children to tell the difference between normal foods and beverages and those that are cannabis-infused.

Dr. Michael DiStefano told the Globe that more kids are being admitted to the ER at Children’s Hospital Colorado since legalization went into effect. Chief John Jackson of the Greenwood Village Police Department – and a former president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police – said legalization was touted as a way to let police agencies focus on serious criminal issues, but after more than two years, Jackson said, “we’re not seeing that.” And cannabis-infused edibles, Jackson said, “pose a problem.”

Smart Approaches to Marijuana is a national nonprofit that opposes marijuana legalization. Jeffrey Zinsmeister, the executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, believes that “the signs from Colorado are not good.” Marijuana opponents cite a federal drug survey estimating that Colorado has the highest level of any state of 12- to 17-year-olds using marijuana.

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Marijuana opponents also say that when adults are able to consume marijuana legally, it’s use is “normalized” in the developing minds of young people. And Andrew Freedman, the director of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s Office of Marijuana Coordination, told the Boston Globe, “I worry about normalization, I worry about commercialization, and I worry about availability.”

Drug Counseling in Denver

Posted on: February 13, 2014 by in Drug Crimes
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Substance abuse and drug counseling can put a person on the right track toward better health, wellbeing, and happiness. The goal of the treatment is to help the person achieve and maintain abstinence from the addiction. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be successfully managed.

It’s important for the individual to find an experienced drug addiction center or counselor in Denver to help them through the process of managing their addiction. Fortunately for those in the area, there are a number of qualified professionals in Denver, CO that offer drug counseling services.

What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

In the simplest terms, a substance abuse counselor offers advice for people that suffer from drug addictions and behavioral problems. They provide support and treatment to help their clients recover from their addictions. Most counseling positions in the field require the person to obtain a bachelor’s degree and certification, but requirements vary by state and location.

What to Expect from Counseling Sessions

Often, counseling is offered in either an individual session or a group therapy session. The counseling can take place in several different types of facilities, such as healthcare facilities, private practices, community organizations, correctional institutes, rehabilitation centers, detox centers, and social agencies to name a few. People seeking counseling for their drug abuse are not limited to one specific type of counseling session or setting.

A substance abuse counselor will conduct counseling sessions and administer periodic drug tests. They will develop an appropriate treatment plan for the individual and keep detailed records of the treatment and progress. They may also implement aftercare and follow-up procedures once the client is ready to leave the treatment facility or end their sessions.

A good substance abuse counselor will be able to establish rapport with their clients, be a good listener, and not have a negative attitude toward the person’s situation or addiction. The counselor should also be organized and show up on time for their sessions.

The following behavior tasks should be performed by a credible counselor in an attempt to help the patient recover from their addiction:

  1. Help the patient admit they suffer from addiction.
  2. Inform the patient about addiction and different recovery tools.
  3. Monitor progress by administering drug tests and encouraging the patient to report any relapses.
  4. Encourage, motivate, and offer moral support.
  5. Help the client develop their own support system to aid in recovery.

The road to addiction recovery can be long and difficult. Every person going through substance abuse counseling is an individual and should be treated as such. Each case should be handled differently. A compassionate, experienced counselor will know how to treat each patient as an individual to help them recover from their addiction.

Choosing a counselor or treatment center is an important decision. There is no reason to go with the first option you find. Do your research and check reviews and ratings online of the counselors you are considering. People involved with Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can also be a great resource and they can potentially refer you to a good substance abuse counselor.