If Gov. Jared Polis wanted more oil and gas drilling and less regulation, he would pick an industry insider to oversee production.
To mock regulation, he would choose a ranking oil and gas executive to direct the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. He might as well appoint the owner of marijuana businesses to oversee pot. How ridiculous.
To regulate oil and gas, Polis went the other direction. He appointed Jeff Robbins in March as director of the regulatory commission. Robbins, a lawyer, represented cities and counties in lawsuits intended to impose more regulations on oil and gas. He is a professional watchdog of energy, not an industry champion.
Just as the state has reason to police oil and gas, it has an interest in regulating medical and recreational pot. The state governs everything from hair salons to cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, cars, and a variety of other services and goods.
When it comes to marijuana, state regulation should be state of the art. It has everything to do the public welfare and survival of the industry.
When the Obama administration explained its limited tolerance for state legalization, then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole made clear the federal expectation. Legalization states, he wrote, must protect the public from distribution to minors, sales by “criminal enterprises” and “cartels,” transportation into neighboring states, “drugged driving,” cultivation on “public lands,” and more.
Seven years into legalization, Colorado has problems with all of the above. The state needs someone with a serious law enforcement background to oversee the industry.
“The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments…will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems…” said the Obama administration. “This memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law…regardless of state law.”
President Donald Trump has also expressed an expectation of states protecting the public’s health and welfare from potential marijuana hazards.
Colorado voters approved “personal use and regulation of marijuana (emphasis ours)” in 2012 for adults 21 and older. Then-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed a succession of three advisers to help the state create and implement regulations. None came from the industry. Dominique Mendiola, last in the position, had served as deputy director of the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.
Polis named the fourth pot adviser last week. Don't expect the man he chose to advocate more regulation of the marijuana industry.
Ean Seeb, the state’s new Special Adviser on Cannabis, comes straight from the pot industry. A Polis advocate during the campaign, Seeb is a longtime advocate of delivering pot like pizza, deregulating investments into Big Marijuana and allowing on-site cannabis tasking rooms.
Seeb takes office after selling marijuana for more than a decade. He is the former co-owner of Denver Relief dispensary and Denver Relief Consulting. He told The Denver Post 2011 he regularly used marijuana, then described his "state of mind" as "all over the place, craziness."
Seeb is two-time chair of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which advocates for more pot sales. Seeb will serve as a walking conflict of interest. It's like the Marlboro Man monitoring cigarette sales.
The bizarre appointment came Friday, on the day Douglas County District Court Judge Theresa Slade sentenced Francisco Alexi Sanchez to eight years for driving under the influence of pot and killing 24-year-old Amada Hill.
“Another innocent life was snuffed out by someone who picked getting high on marijuana over his responsibility as a driver,” said George Brauchler, the district attorney of Douglas County.
“Another” is right. Data compiled before the five-year anniversary of Amendment 64 showed a doubling in the number of pot-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes since 2012. A 2018 study by the National Transportation Safety Board found an overall 5.2 percent increase in crash rates in legalization states.
Colorado fails to meet any reasonable definition of the “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” demanded by Obama.
Dave Condit, deputy forest and grassland supervisor for the Pike-San Isabel Forest and Cimarron-Comanche National Grasslands, told The Gazette last year his jurisdiction’s entire budget could not cover the costs of removing foreign drug cartels invading the public lands he oversees.
An investigation by Education News Colorado and the I-News Network found drug violations in Colorado’s K-12 schools increased 45 percent in the first four years of legalization, and an increase of 71 percent in high schools alone.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health ranked Colorado first in the country for marijuana use among teens, scoring the state far above the national average.
Teachers, law enforcement, parents, doctors and drug counselors consistently attest to increases in pot-related problems since the dawn of legalization.
We have a regulatory failure in Colorado that flouts expectations of federal officials and the wording of Amendment 64. Polis should have done the public a favor. He should have appointed a watchdog to advise him on pot. Instead, we got a salesman from the industry and the association that promotes it. How ridiculous.