Colorado Reps Create First State Cannabis Caucus

Colorado Assembly and Cannabis Caucus members Leslie Herod and Chris Hansen

Inspired by Congress’ Cannabis Caucus, Colorado lawmakers have launched the first-ever cannabis caucus in a state legislature.

While Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in 2012 and implemented a tax-and-regulate program 14 months later, the debate over various aspects of the law and its impact has continued. From job creation to law-enforcement priorities and public education to health care, the Colorado Cannabis Caucus will facilitate discussions among lawmakers about how to address matters such as social consumption, product testing and the use of medical cannabis on public campuses.

The staff of Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) was the first to show interest in creating the caucus. They talked up the idea up with other lawmakers, while Denver NORML focused on recruiting and providing educational materials. The first six members, all Democrats in the state’s General Assembly, also include Leslie Herod and Chris Hansen of Denver, Matt Gray of Broomfield, Jonathan Singer of Longmont and Dylan Roberts of Steamboat Springs. Its first meeting took place at the state capitol in Denver on March 16. Discussion focused on leadership, taxation, regulations, enforcement and the need for consumer advocacy.

Letter from Colorado General Assembly members: “It’s time for members of Congress from Colorado and other states where marijuana has been legalized to step up and defend the rights of their constituents.”

Creating a formalized structure makes it easier for constituents and advocates to have influence. This streamlined system enables them to suggest policy ideas to many lawmakers at once, reducing the burden of persuading legislators individually. NORML stresses the need for state-level elected officials to create incubators for thoughtful debates and policy discussions.

On February 6, 33 Democratic members of the state’s General Assembly sent a letter to Colorado’s Congressional delegation, urging them to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from interfering with state marijuana programs.

“It’s time for members of Congress from Colorado and other states where marijuana has been legalized to step up and defend the rights of their constituents—many of whom rely on these policies for their health and welfare,” the letter stated. “To accomplish this, marijuana must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act. States need to be given the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference. Congressional action is necessary to protect the sovereignty of states like Colorado and ensure that marijuana businesses and consumers will be free from undue federal interference.”

A number of legislators in other states are looking to follow Colorado’s lead and establish their own cannabis caucuses. It’s another crucial step in building the foundation to responsibly end prohibition in a pro-consumer and pro-civil liberties manner.

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