Colorado Editorial Roundup
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Oct. 2, on national cannabis policy:
Even though recreational marijuana is legal in both Colorado and California, you can’t board a California-bound airplane at DIA with a pot stash because possession is still a federal crime and air travel is governed by federal authorities.
But the police force at Los Angeles International Airport recently posted a written policy that small amounts of weed may be brought into the airport. As long as people carrying pot don’t come into contact with federal TSA agents, they have nothing to fear. And if they do, the TSA will refer them to the local police, who will turn them loose because they’ve committed no crime under state law.
Since Congress has failed to eliminate the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act — and there’s no indication that it will anytime soon — this is what national cannabis reform looks like. It happens in dribs and drabs — a slow burn, if you will — as government agencies and society at large adapt to a new landscape.
Along these same lines, the DEA has rescheduled one cannabidiol derivative called Epidiolex. The drug, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June for the treatment of rare forms of epilepsy, forced the DEA to consider how it would classify Epidiolex since marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. The DEA classified Epidiolex as a Schedule 5 controlled substance, the lowest level, defined as a drug with a proven medical use and low potential for abuse, like some cough syrups containing codeine.
What this means is that the drug’s manufacturer now has a green light to start selling the first FDA-approved drug derived from cannabis. The announcement, according to CNBC, helped pot stocks soar and gave the manufacturer, GW Pharma, an 8 percent bump in shares last week.
As long as marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, it remains a concern for the states that have legalized it. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the Obama-era Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which temporarily protected medical marijuana states from federal crackdowns.
Colorado’s own U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner found common ground with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts over this issue. They introduced a bill in the Senate called the STATES Act (Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States). It’s designed to eliminate the possibility of federal interference in states that have legalized marijuana in some form — without going so far as taking cannabis off the DEA’s list of controlled substances.
It would be better for Congress to comprehensively overhaul the nation’s marijuana laws than to see the states contorting to find ways to let the industry advance amid executive-branch uncertainty.
President Trump has hinted that it may be time for the United States to end the federal prohibition on pot. Sessions, however, has made it clear he won’t change his stance until the law changes. Even if it doesn’t, there’s ample evidence to show that the country’s attitudes are changing, making this a question of when, not if, marijuana joins the ranks of the country’s accepted vices.
The Denver Post, Oct. 2, on dockless electric scooters causing headaches:
Getting slapped upside the head by an angry pedestrian — as Eric Lazzari was while riding a scooter downtown Denver — isn’t the only way dockless electric scooters are causing headaches in Denver.
They crowd the sidewalks where they are parked awaiting customers or clog the right of way where they get left by riders not following the rules.
The motorized scooters move too fast for the sidewalk, but are banned from bike lanes and the roadway by law.
Helmets aren’t readily available for riders, most of whom have no experience riding the machines when they insert a credit card and zip off either for fun or for serious transportation needs. Accordingly there has been an increase in scooter related injuries.
So, are these devices that were dropped on our city with little notice by profit-making entities worth the headache?
We certainly hope so. Because the little lime-green nuisances hold the potential to overcome some of Denver’s biggest transit woes — getting folks over that last-mile, first-mile hurdle that discourages them from getting out of their single-occupancy vehicle and using transit.
Many things keep two-thirds of commuters in their cars alone while they drive to and from work in Denver — speed, convenience, the need to transport children or stop at a grocery store, the cost of transit, parking problems at rail or bus stations and a sense that riding bikes (or scooters) is unsafe in Denver. Not to mention the incompatibility of riding in dress clothes or adverse weather.
Dockless electric bikes and scooters can alleviate some of those impediments.
The city is working on it with a Ditch Your Car pilot program that offers riders pre-paid cards to access these unconventional modes of transportation.
Dedicated parking spaces for the dockless devices are being painted at transit stops, and city officials were admirably quick in developing a Dockless Mobility Pilot Permit Program and using public works right of pay to keep abandoned devices from clogging our sidewalks.
But much more needs to be done in the way of safety.
Doctors at both Porter Adventist Hospital and Rose Medical Center report an uptick in injuries related to the devices, and all it takes is one inexperienced rider zipping through traffic, or a driver distracted by a cellphone for this experiment to turn fatal.
All of this is to say, the city should proceed with caution.
Yet, perhaps the greatest solution to all of these issues is creating more dedicated bike lanes, and a corresponding change in the law to allow motorized bikes and scooters to operate in those lanes.
Commuters are more likely to get out of their cars if they feel safe, and cyclists or scooter riders are safest in dedicated lanes. If these soon-to-be-in-the thousands of motorized scooters and bikes turn out to be as popular as the companies investing in them think they will be, it’ll be one more reason to invest transit dollars on bike lanes instead of widening roads.
In November Colorado voters have the opportunity to approve Proposition 110, a sales tax increase that would fund billions in state-wide transportation projects but also will direct money to the municipal level for roads, bridges, bike lanes, and transit. For Denver it could mean $846 million over the next 20 years, and that’s in addition to the $431 million voters approved in 2017 for the mobility portion of the Elevate Denver bonds.
It’ll take money and ingenuity to dull Denver’s collective transportation migraine.
Greeley Tribune, Oct. 2, on an asphalt plant’s latest twist and local control:
The saga behind the proposed Martin Marietta asphalt and concrete plant near U.S. 34 in Weld County certainly took a strange turn last week when the company announced it was leasing for only $10 its newly built but non-operational facility at U.S. 34 and Weld County Road 13 to a railroad company it had previously purchased.
Citing a federal law, that company— Rock & Rail — then said it didn’t need approval from the county to start operations and that it plans to do so within a month.
The move is an end-around the permitting process at the county level, though Weld officials initially approved the plant before area residents sued to keep the plant from operating.
Regardless of how someone feels about the plant and the fight surrounding it, credit has to be given to Martin Marietta. They must have seen the legal speed bump ahead of them some time ago and started to develop a creative plan to work around any trouble that might crop up. For the moment, it appears as though they have.
In a larger sense, though, what’s interesting to us about the conflict between Martin Marietta and the neighbors who took legal action to stop the plant from becoming operational is what it means for our area moving forward.
If one examines how and where Greeley, Windsor, Johnstown and Loveland are growing, they quickly should realize this won’t be the last time those interested in commercial and industrial development will butt heads with area residents. If it didn’t happen because of this project, it surely would have been another in the near future.
So we’re watching how our elected officials are handling this case because it might lend some insight into how they will react to similar situations moving forward.
We also think this case is interesting because of the role local control played. Most often, local control is something we support. Though we don’t like that a federal law is dictating what we have to do locally in this case, it should be noted our county commissioners, the most local governing body who ruled on this case, supported the plant and approved its permitting.
In essence, it took a federal measure to enable Martin Marietta (or Rock & Rail, in this case) to do what our local officials signed off on.
It’s just one of the many quirks that make this conflict intriguing. And we don’t think that’s the last twist we’ll see. We will be interested to see the next move from the neighbors who oppose the plant.