Colorado Editorial Roundup 

A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

NATIONAL:

The Denver Post, Jan. 21, on federal government needing to be more clear about parameters for marijuana dispensaries:

Businesses crave certainty.

And there are few businesses that have less of it than medical marijuana dispensaries.

The recent move by Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh to crack down on dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools, while an understandable maneuver when considered in isolation, serves to inject more confusion into an already bewildering situation.

We think the federal government should be clearer about what parameters it expects medical marijuana businesses to follow in order to escape federal law enforcement scrutiny.

In many ways, it's frustrating to be in this position. The medical marijuana industry that has come into being in recent years is like a garden gone wild.

When voters in 2000 approved a state constitutional amendment allowing for the use of medical marijuana, this "industry" certainly wasn't what was envisioned.

No, what was pitched to voters was a question designed to appeal to their humanity: Won't you allow the very sick or dying to smoke a little dope to ease their pain? The wording talked about a half-dozen plants and a caregiver.

It was all designed to evoke an image of small-time use for individuals. What we ended up with in Colorado, thanks to a combination of factors including the actions of the legislature, is an industry.

The feds are among those deserving of blame in this matter. The so-called Ogden memo from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 opened the door to "Big Pot." In many ways, its conflicting language is a Rorschach test — people see in it what they want to see.

On the one hand, the memo says that going after marijuana users who have "cancer or other serious illnesses" and are in compliance with state law isn't a judicious use of limited federal resources. Criminal enterprises would be the real targets.

On the other, it says the absence of criminal activity and "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law aren't a guarantee that someone won't be prosecuted if the action serves "federal interests."

It was convoluted then, and it remains so today. Subsequent guidance has not sufficiently clarified the circumstances in which authorities will use their power to enforce federal laws making marijuana illegal.

As for Walsh's move demanding the closure of dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools, we do not take issue with the substance. Dispensaries should not be near schools.

However, the changing enforcement landscape where medical marijuana is concerned has created an uneasy tension between the federal government and those in the medical marijuana business.

If the Justice Department had remained silent on the matter, that would be one thing. But insofar as Attorney General Eric Holder's proclamations on medical marijuana have caused confusion, he owes it to Colorado and other medical marijuana states to clear the air.

Editorial: http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_19786117

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The Daily Sentinel, Jan. 23, on U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tracking suspects with GPS technology:

The U.S. Supreme Court demonstrated Monday that the U.S. Constitution is flexible enough to handle 21st century, high-tech issues, but it is solid enough to protect citizens' rights even when dealing with such issues.

And by the way, the court did so unanimously.

The court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before using Global Positioning System technology to track a criminal suspect. Justices said that when law enforcement attaches a GPS unit to someone's vehicle — as was done in a Washington, D.C., case that reached the Supreme Court — it amounts to a search and therefore a warrant is required.

That's exactly the correct determination. Just because new technology makes it easier to track a person's activities without going through the procedures that were once required, doesn't mean that citizens give up their Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures.

Editorial: http://www.gjsentinel.com/S=4d81ea002bc47c02a975b5302ad88499c9515a79/opinion/articles/court-finds-the-right-spot/

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STATE:

The Coloradoan, Jan. 17, on value of caucuses in state politics:

Many steps make up Colorado's election process, including one that truly honors grass-roots politics — the caucus.

This year, Colorado's Republicans chose to move caucuses up from their traditional March meeting to Feb. 7, in an effort to have a greater voice in the national presidential nomination process. But political commentators now question the importance of Colorado's voice as the Republican presidential field narrows with even earlier caucus and primary state results.

Some say Colorado can make a difference only if upcoming state votes result in a vastly different outcome from earlier showings. Others say the early process remains important as the top candidate collects delegates on his way to gathering at least half of the Republican delegates to secure the party's nomination.

National wrangling aside, Colorado's caucus system represents what politics is meant to be — local, grass-roots discussions and votes that direct the party.

The Republican caucus agenda includes:

Electing a chairman and secretary to run the caucus meeting.

Voting in the presidential preference poll.

Electing two committee representatives who will serve as local party officers and help coordinate voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts until the next caucus in two years.

Electing delegates and alternate delegates to the county assembly, and in some cases to district assemblies and higher assemblies and conventions.

Discussing and approving or rejecting resolutions related to the Republican Party platform.

Colorado Democrats will follow a similar agenda when they caucus on March 6.

Delegates represent precinct voters at the parties' county assemblies, where the parties' primary tickets are decided, along with naming delegates to state conventions.

Colorado's primary is June 26.

Caucus timing might not garner the national attention to state and Western issues some had hoped, but the process is important nonetheless.

Editorial: http://www.timescall.com/opinion/editorial/ci_19753330

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The Chieftain, Jan. 23, on Colorado Department of Corrections' decision to shut down Fort Lyon Correctional Facility:

Hold the phone. It may not be in the state's interest to shutter the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility after all.

The Department of Corrections asked for an additional $15 million Jan. 19 to house inmates at private prisons, county jails and community corrections centers when state prisons are full. It appears that DOC underestimated the number of prisoners it needs to house by about 500.

DOC officials said they based their plan to shutter Fort Lyon on a declining number of prisoners it must house statewide. Moreover, they said the Bent County institution, formerly a VA hospital, was too expensive to operate.

But now members of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee are seeking an analysis of keeping Fort Lyon open for at least an additional six months after the planned March 1 closure. JBC member Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, said recent figures show Fort Lyon is less expensive to operate than other state prisons, private prisons or county jails.

New figures from Fort Lyon employees and the DOC showed it costs $43 a day to house an inmate there. The price at private prisons is $52.69 a day and county jails charge the state $50.44 a day.

Rep. Becker was surprised by the low cost at Fort Lyon and asked the JBC staff to research it and report the findings back to the committee. He said that if the analysis supports the $43 figure, the state should reconsider closing the facility.

While we'd prefer to see Fort Lyon operated as a hospital for veterans, we also would support keeping it operating as a prison. The jobs there are important in a low-population area, and we'd ask lawmakers to consider the fact that the loss of those jobs is felt much more severely than a similar job loss in, say, the Denver metro area.

The state must keep a balanced budget, but there are a lot of state jobs in the metro area that could be shed without rattling the Denver economy.

Editorial: http://www.chieftain.com/editorial/power-on/article_7a62b3ea-4494-11e1-a863-0019bb2963f4.html

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