Club 20, Grand Junction chamber join plea to Holder: Enforce pot law

When Colorado voters legalized marijuana in November, they blew smoke into the machinery of commerce — smoke that several organizations are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to clear up.

A Nov. 30 letter signed by 20 Colorado business and advocacy organizations—including the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Club 20—asks U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to make it clear whether he intends to enforce federal law, which makes the sale, possession and use of marijuana illegal.

The passage of Amendment 64, which allows individuals in Colorado 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, leaves employers in an uncomfortable spot.

“It does put business in a very strange place between the state and feds and so we need to know,” Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction chamber, said Wednesday.

Businesses not only have to deal with the state law, but many also are overseen by federal agencies or have federal contracts, that make their positions all the more ticklish, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20.

“Tell us,” Petersen said of what the group wants from Holder. “How do you know as a state how to move forward? You can make rules, but what if a higher authority, as it were, has decided you can’t ever have marijuana legally?”

The business organizations pressed Holder to act quickly, by the end of the calendar year or before.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office today is to certify the results of the Nov. 6 election, but the wording of the amendment specifies that it becomes effective on the proclamation of the governor.

The 30-day clock on the governor’s proclamation begins when the results are certified, a spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

Under Holder, the Department of Justice vigorously opposed a marijuana-legalization measure in California in 2010, the businesses noted, and pointed to an October 2010 memo from Holder in which the attorney general said officials “will remain firmly committed” to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in all states.

“Today, we ask that you and the DOJ remain consistent in your commitment to the (federal law) to provide the bright line we, as employers in Colorado, seek,” the letter says, noting that the Department of Justice “is the only party that can provide clarity on this matter.”

There was no immediate response, Schwenke said, but based on email traffic, “We do know that (Holder) received the letter.”


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Club 20 should let Hickenlooper deal with this, as he already is - and focus on helping Grand Junction’s economy become more diversified and sustainable.

A taxpayer funded lobbying group and local business group tell Obama’s Attorney General that they know better than the voters, and urge Federal intervention to stop the expressed will of the people.  Only Gary Harmon would miss the irony of this story.

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