This week, the Cannabis Therapy Institute, along with activists from the Colorado Coalition of Patients and Caregivers (CCPC), helped expose a series of secret meetings held by a newly-formed state sub-committee called the Marijuana Per Se Workgroup, which will recommend the per se THC levels for a new THC/DUI bill to be introduced in the legislature in 2012.
A meeting scheduled for Wed. (8/24) was cancelled after activists complained that it did not comply with Colorado's Open Meetings Laws, because no notice was given to the public. The marijuana Per Se Workgroup claims that it is not a "decision-making body" and not subject to Open Meetings Laws. However, activists have uncovered evidence that a secret vote, possibly on whether the THC per se limit will be 2ng or 5ng, was scheduled to occur, and that the mission of the Workgroup was in fact to "make recommendations" to another sub-committee.
When activists showed up for the meeting on 8/24 at the Colorado Department of Public Safety Headquarters in Lakewood, CO, they were informed that the meeting was cancelled. First, the officials claimed that everyone was at a funeral. Then they said that they had cancelled the meeting to make sure everyone "felt involved" in the process.
CDPS employee Kim English promised that the Marijuana Per Se Workgroup would provide timely notice to the public for future meetings as a "courtesy." When asked why they didn't post notice that the 8/24 meeting had been cancelled, saving activists from having to travel to Lakewood, English said it was an "oversight."
While they will provide public notice of meetings as a "courtesy", the Workgroup still believes that they are legally exempt from the Open Meetings Laws, and therefore they refuse to provide an agenda and minutes of previous meetings.
Marijuana criminal defense attorney Sean McAllister (Breckenridge, CO) is the co-chair of the Marijuana Per Se Workgroup. He has refused to investigate past violations of the Open Meetings Laws by his committee. He has told activists that if they want the group to comply with the Open Meetings Laws, they need to hire a lawyer and take the group to court.
Colorado's Open Meetings Laws, C.R.S. 24-6-402, require any "state public body" to provide timely public notice of meetings and to provide minutes from the meetings. The law defines "state public body" as "any board, committee, commission, or other advisory, policy-making, rule-making, decision-making, or formally constituted body of any state agency."
On Monday, Aug. 22, CTI heard a rumor about a secret meeting and secret vote on whether the new THC/DUI bill would be a 2ng or 5ng per se limit. The meeting was reportedly scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 24 and involved a subcommittee of the state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The CCJJ was responsible for bringing forward HB 11-1261, the
THC/DUI bill that targeted cannabis patients and was defeated in the legislature in May 2011.
Attorney Sean McAllister was on the CCJJ committee, and the Drug Policy Task Force subcommittee of the CCJJ, when they brought forward the THC/DUI bill of 2011. After the bill was defeated, McAllister pledged he would be more forthcoming with information to the medical marijuana community. On May 10, 2011, McAllister emailed to CTI, "I've pledged to everyone involved more activist/pro-pot science will be involved this time. I'll let you know when it is on our agenda again."
CTI emailed McAllister on Monday (8/22). He confirmed the meeting would be taking place on 8/24 and said that he had "announced it at the Act4CO community awards dinner" and that he's been working with "MMIG and Act4CO and others on this issue."
CTI also requested information directly from the CCJJ about the 8/24 meeting. CTI received documents from a CCJJ administrator stating that Marijuana Per Se Workgroup was formed as a new sub-committee of the Drug Policy Task Force subcommittee of the CCJJ sometime in June.
According to CDPS emails, the Marijuana Per Se Workgroup members are:
- Grayson Robinson, Arap. County Sheriff
- Christine Flavia, Div. of Behavioral Health
- Heather Garwood, Colo. Judicial Dept.
- Rod Walker, Colo. Springs Police Dept.
- Laura Spicer, Drug Addictions Counselor
- Sean McAllister, Private Defense Attorney
- Mike Elliott, Medical Marijuana Industry Group
- Mark Hurlbert, DA, 5th Judicial Dist.
Apparently, this secret sub-committee has met at least 6 times over the past two months. No notice was given of these previous six meetings, at which they took testimony from outside experts on THC/DUI, including:
- Paul Armentano/NORML Deputy Director
- Cindy Burbach/State Toxicology Lab Director
- Dr. Carl Hart/Columbia University
- Glenn Davis/CDOT, Manager of Impaired Driving Programs, DRE Coordinator
- Dr. Jan Ramaekers/ Behavioral Toxicology of Medicinal Drugs and Drugs of Abuse, Maastricht University
- Alan Shackelford/Amarimed of Colorado (written letter)
- Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen/International Association for Cannabis as Medicine (written letter).
According to Germaine Miera, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics, Colorado Department of Public Safety, "During the meeting this coming Wednesday the working group will be going over the pros and cons of all the info gathered to this point, they are then going to address areas of agreement and disagreement, and start talking about possible recommendations (which, again, will be presented to the Drug
Policy Task Force, and eventually the CCJJ)."
Coincidentally, Robert Chase of the CCPC had been alerted of these secret meetings by different channels and was researching them independently of CTI. Chase sent several emails to the CCJJ committee demanding the meeting be cancelled because it failed to comply with Colorado's Open Meetings Laws requirements to provide timely notice about the meeting to the public.
Email Robert Chase at: email@example.com if you would like copies of the letters.
*SECRET MEETING CANCELLED*
After complaints from CTI and CCPC, the CDPS at around 9:00am Wed. morning decided to cancel the Wed. meeting and reschedule it for Wed. (8/31). However, no notice was posted that the 8/24 meeting was cancelled, and no notice has yet been put on the CCJJ website of the re-scheduled meeting.
*OPEN RECORDS ACT REQUEST*
Robert Chase of the CCPC has filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for all information related to the six previous secret meetings. Officials claim there are no official notes or minutes from these meetings, but we will see what the CORA request produces.
*DOR/MMED SECRET MEETINGS*
This incident is very similar to the Open Meetings Violations that CTI exposed last August within the Department of Revenue, when they formed a secret advisory committee to develop the rules for MMCs.
Rumors are that this formerly secret advisory committee will reconvene again soon. No notice has been posted on the DORs website. We will keep you informed, and please send us any information you may have.
*READ MORE ABOUT THIS STORY ON WESTWORD*
THC driving limits: Could work group meeting today give life to seemingly dead marijuana bill?
Marijuana work group meeting canceled over open-meetings issues, not funeral
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