From Weed to Shining Weed 

A Colorado Marijuana Reporter's Letter to Oregon

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Dear Oregon,

The fun part of being at the forefront of history is witnessing all the fuckups firsthand. Weirdly enough, when it comes to rolling out recreational cannabis in Colorado, there haven't been many. (Of course, that depends on who you ask.) The state has managed to pass three or four landmark marijuana bills in a couple years, while at the same time keeping the medical marijuana industry intact. Meanwhile, the State of Washington is busy killing theirs off. So, here are a few things to consider as you attempt to bring the legal green to the people.

1. If you're on the side of the working folk, then learn from our mistake: Protect your employed people. In Colorado, the ultimately successful Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) deliberately wrote in language saying, "Nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of marijuana...." It was included to mollify a concerned business sector, but what it really does is leave people who partake, even during off-hours, out in the cold, and subject to the instatement of an employer's optional "zero tolerance" policy toward marijuana consumption. It's a loophole created by the fact that smoking pot is still illegal under federal law—otherwise, it's illegal in Colorado for an employer to fire somebody who did something legal off-premises while not working. Pot's legal here, so when that's also the case in Oregon too, fix this.

2. Speaking of the CRMLA, one thing done correctly by the group and its supporters—read: the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has so far declined to back Oregon's current campaigns, saying it would rather see a weed question in 2016—was its name. Talking to POLITICO magazine in December, MPP's Steve Fox said other campaigns had likely failed because "they had focused on more traditional arguments, like tax revenue going to schools or the fact that dealers don't card." Instead, take a drug other people are familiar with, acknowledge that it's okay to use a substance to relax, and compare the differences in downsides. In Colorado's likeminded beer-swilling culture, the message made sense to 55 percent of voters.

3. Right now, the Colorado Department of Transportation is running a trio of surprisingly droll ads around the theme "Drive high, get a DUI," but the advertised penalty has only been a fact since the last legislative session. It was then that a bill that had previously been shot down three separate times finally passed. The difference? The previous "per se" limit, which means you can't introduce evidence in court proving why you're not guilty despite a failed blood test—like with an alcohol-related DUI—was changed to one of "permissive inference," where you can. The takeaway? One-size-fits-all legislation won't work with marijuana.

Of course, cannabis proponents hate the law either way, because the legal limit is five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. And though it's one of the higher limits in the nation, this is still not very much, meaning regular users will usually score higher than this, even on an off day. To counter, the state says the blood test can detect "active" THC.

Anyway, there's a host of other issues, and a bunch more to come once legalization rolls around. Good luck out there (and call us if you want some real weed).


Bryce Crawford is a reporter for the Colorado Springs Independent, who has been covering Rocky Mountain marijuana since 2010. Find out more at @brycecrawford or csindy.com.

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