Rare meeting of the minds over pot

Jocelyn Augustino
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Normally polar opposites, U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) and Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) re-introduced the “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act,” which would ensure state laws regarding marijuana will not be pre-empted by the federal government.

“I strongly oppose marijuana legalization, and I did not support Amendment 64, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of Colorado voters. They passed this initiative, and I will support their voice and this legislation,” Coffman said in a news release.

Amendment 64 passed by a wide margin in Colorado, making it legal for those older than 21 to possess small amounts of pot for recreational use.

Several lawmakers quickly expressed concern about the federal government’s ability to override the voter-approved initiative and the state’s right to exercise the will of the citizens. The “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act” is an effort to address that concern, clarify Congressional intent and provide guidance for the courts.

Home-rule cities around Colorado are making their own pre-emptive strikes to varying degrees, trying to protect their interests from both the state and federal governments. For example, Littleton passed a temporary moratorium on sales and pot clubs, Lone Tree banned clubs and Columbine Valley banned all sales and clubs outright.

Littleton Councilor Jerry Valdes held firmly against his council’s moratorium, echoing Coffman’s concern about usurping the rights of the voters.

“Did we put a moratorium on alcohol when it was being discussed it was going to be more available?” he asked. “For some reason, I think just because it’s marijuana, we’re reacting this way.”

DeGette said she was proud to join with Coffman on the federal effort.

“In Colorado, we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers,” she said in a news release. “My constituents have spoken, and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

In addition to their hometowns, the two legislators represent portions of the south metro area, including all or parts of Englewood, Littleton, Columbine Valley, Bow Mar, Centennial and Highlands Ranch.

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