Denver’s United Cannabis envisions “Ganja Co-op” for Jamaica pot growers

On the heels of Jamaica decriminalizing marijuana, Denver-based United Cannabis Corp. is proposing to create a “Ganja Cooperative” to help Jamaican farmers grow pot.

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Jeb Bush: Legal pot ‘was a bad idea but states ought to have the right to do it’

A few weeks after Jeb Bush’s teenage marijuana habit made headlines, the likely Republican presidential candidate on Friday came out in favor of states making their own decisions on legal cannabis. “I thought it was a bad idea,” Jeb Bush said today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “but states ought to have the right to do it.”

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Ted Cruz ‘foolishly experimented with marijuana’ as a teenager, aide admits

Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas, isn’t a complete stranger to sativa. The likely presidential candidate got high as a teenager, though now he calls that “a mistake,” according to the Daily Mail.

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Indian tribes converge in Washington state to discuss marijuana legalization

Representatives of Indian tribes from across the country are converging in Washington state to discuss the risks and rewards of marijuana legalization.

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Republicans at pains to turn FCC net neutrality ruling into shadowy ‘internet takeover’

The Federal Communications Commission Thursday made an historic ruling in favor of “net neutrality,” which is shorthand for protecting web users from a two-tiered fast-slow internet that would deliver different content at different speeds to people with less and more money and that would force content providers to pay internet service providers for good or bad delivery of their products to more or less households.

Net neutrality has long been a thorny issue for lawmakers, mainly because some influential (content) corporations, like Google and Facebook, are for it and some influential (provider) corporations, like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are against it. For a Congress where money shouts and the public whispers, it has been confusing. But at least for Republicans, once Pres. Obama came out for net neutrality, the matter was settled. As has become clear over the past 24 hours, Republicans like new Colorado U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, still marinating in the rhetoric of Obamacare, decided that the FCC ruling amounts to a secretive Obama “internet takeover” bound to decrease liberty, hobble business and diminish the role of the United States as leader among nations. Like most Republican positions, this one was expressed in near-caricature form by Colorado 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn.

“The FCC, led by three Democrat bureaucrats hand-picked by President Obama, approved a secret plan to fundamentally undermine a free and open Internet,” the Colorado Springs Republican wrote to constituents. “This decision ushers in a new era of government micromanagement that will discourage private investment in new networks and stifle the innovation that has allowed the Internet to flourish. With the recent failures and mismanagement of Obamacare, it is astounding that anyone would think that heavy handed regulation by government bureaucrats can manage the Internet. This is a solution in search of a problem. I look forward to serious Congressional pushback against this secretive effort which threatens America’s continued leadership in the global Internet economy.”

Lamborn is sixty years old. He received a bachelors degree in journalism and a law degree from the University of Kansas in the age of the typewriter and then practiced real estate law for a decade until in 1994, when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. He has served as a lawmaker at the state and federal level ever since.

The man behind Thursday’s FCC ruling is Tom Wheeler, the “Democrat bureaucrat” chairman of the commission. Wheeler is 68 years old. In the mid-seventies, he began establishing himself as a player in the communications technology industry. He eventually became head of the trade groups National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. He also headed internet startups and worked at a communication technology investment firm. He was an internet industry entrepreneur.

The Tom Wheeler who Republicans like Lamborn are now assailing for doing the bidding of the president is the same Tom Wheeler previously derided by supporters of net neutrality who feared he would be doing the bidding of the telecommunications industry. In other words, Tom Wheeler seems to be his own man. He is also someone deeply familiar with the issue of net neutrality and how a “free and open internet” might be destroyed, private investment in new networks discouraged and internet business and culture as they so far have unfolded quashed.

In a piece published at Wired Magazine and at sites across the web earlier this month, Wheeler detailed some of the professional experience that shaped his thinking on the issue of net neutrality.

I personally learned the importance of open networks the hard way. In the mid-1980s I was president of a startup, NABU: The Home Computer Network. My company was using new technology to deliver high-speed data to home computers over cable television lines. Across town Steve Case was starting what became AOL. NABU was delivering service at the then-blazing speed of 1.5 megabits per second—hundreds of times faster than Case’s company. “We used to worry about you a lot,” Case told me years later.

But NABU went broke while AOL became very successful. Why that is highlights the fundamental problem with allowing networks to act as gatekeepers.

While delivering better service, NABU had to depend on cable television operators granting access to their systems. Steve Case was not only a brilliant entrepreneur, but he also had access to an unlimited number of customers nationwide who only had to attach a modem to their phone line to receive his service. The phone network was open whereas the cable networks were closed. End of story.

In fact, for months, Wheeler has made no secret of which way he intended to steer the commission. He was looking to find the best way to protect the internet from broadband providers who have been edging toward blocking or slowing content. The 317-page preview of the rule is posted at the FCC website for all the world to read. Members of Congress may feel they have been kept in the dark, but investors apparently do not feel that way. When Wheeler announced his plans to write strong net-neutrality rules at the beginning of the month, broadband stocks ticked up and stayed high. And, as Tim Wu writes at the New Yorker, “with full knowledge that the rules were coming, bidders in late January spent a record $44.9 billion on broadcast spectrum — exactly the kind of infrastructure investment that [net neutrality] laws would supposedly deter.”

In his statement on the ruling Thursday, Wheeler directly addressed critics like Lamborn: “This proposal has been described by one opponent as a ‘secret plan to regulate the internet.’ Nonsense! This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: Openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

Wheeler went on at length, speaking simply and with confidence to explain his decision, surely knowing that members of Congress would be plugging their ears:

The action that we take today is about the protection of internet openness.

Now let’s make no mistake about it, broadband access providers have the technical ability and the economic incentive to impose restrictions on the internet. As the D.C. circuit said in its decision remanding this matter to us, “broadband providers represent a threat to internet openness and could act in ways that would ultimately inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment.”

Today, a majority of this commission establishes that that will not come to pass. Today is a red letter day for internet freedom… But, importantly, today is also a day that gives network operators what they require if they’re to continue to expand broadband service and competition.

The rules for a fair and open internet are not old style utility regulation but a 21st-century set of rules for a 21st-century service. Rate regulation, tarriffing and forced unbundling have been superseded by a modernized regulatory approach that has already been demonstrated to work in encouraging investment in wireless voice networks. It is important for consumers as for companies that nothing in today’s order alters the economic model for continued network expansion. The ISP’s revenue stream will be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday.

Before today, that revenue enabled companies to build ever faster networks. Nothing in what we do today changes that equation for consumer revenues to ISPs for tomorrow. And I believe that’s why Sprint, T-Mobile, Frontier Communications and Google Fiber along with hundreds of smaller phone-company ISPs are comfortable with the commission’s modern regulatory approach…

This is the FCC using all the tools in our tool box to protect innovators and consumers — to ban paid prioritization, the so-called fast lane, they will not divide the internet into haves and have-nots; to ban blocking, consumers will get what they paid for — unfettered access to any lawful content on the internet — and to ban throttling, because degrading access to legal content and services can have the same effect as blocking, and it will not be permitted to exist. These are the enforceable bright-line rules. They will allow consumers to go wherever they want, when they want. They will also protect the rights of the innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.

Wheeler is no bureaucratic dupe and there is no government takeover of the internet.

[ Flickr photo by Joseph Gruber.]

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Two arrested, including juvenile, in Colo. Springs hash oil extraction fire

Two people, including a child, were arrested in connection with a Colorado Springs hash oil fire Thursday that left one person injured.

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New CO report describes, in detail, retail pot’s first year

Nearly 5 million marijuana-infused edibles and nearly 150,000 pounds of marijuana flower were purchased in legal Colorado stores and dispensaries in 2014, according to an encompassing new report the state released on Friday.

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Wiretap: What do you get when you give to the Clinton Foundation?

The Clinton Foundation has raised a lot of money from a lot of major corporations to do a lot of good. Now, Amy Davidson writes in the New Yorker, Hillary Clinton is going to have to explain just what those corporations were looking for by picking the Clinton Foundation.

Rand Paul, this is not your father’s CPAC. At the heavily-libertarian convention, the attendees are much more concerned this year about the threat of radical Islam. Via the National Journal.

How a Kuwaiti-born Londoner became the face of the Islamic State. Via the Washington Post.

In an anti-ISIS summit in Mecca, Islamic leaders have a much harder time than Barack Obama in separating ISIS from Islam. Via the Atlantic.

Many Democrats can’t decide what to do about the Netanyahu speech to Congress. Should they stay or should they go? Via Bloomberg.

If you’re trying to sell bullets, all you have to do is get the Obama administration to recommend banning them. The ATF said it plans to restrict the armor-piercing 5.56-millimeter “M855 green tip” rifle bullet — used by the millions in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles — because of new handguns that use the ammunition and pose a greater threat to the police. If you want yours, you’d better get to your favorite gun shop now. Via the New York Times.

Lost in the debate over funding or defunding the Department of Homeland Security, there’s this: we might just be better off without it. Via the Daily Beast.

The dress, explained. Actually it’s not explained. Via Vox.

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#Coleg Notebook: Back to the war on red-light cameras

When should the cops get to take your money? After a red-light camera catches your car mid-intersection? While they’re investigating your dad’s business? Lawmakers heard lengthy and often impassioned testimony on Wednesday on two controversial government “cash cows” — traffic cameras and civil forfeiture.

Senate Judiciary Committee members considered Sen. Laura Wood’s SB 6, which seeks to curtail civil forfeiture in Colorado. An eight-year-old girl testified that law enforcement effectively snagged her piggy bank as part of a forfeiture seizure at the family’s house that totaled some $30,000.

In the House transportation committee, a man testified that he has conducted a “honk poll” on the red-light camera ban proposed by Kevin Van Winkle, R- Highlands Ranch. The man said a few cops not only honked, but also pulled over to commiserate about the loathsome cameras.

Then came the district attorneys, the sheriffs and the chiefs of police, tasked with defending the camera programs. They argued that red-light cameras and automated speed traps catch lawbreakers and provide vital intel for other cases, like hit-and-runs, of which there are an average of 17 a day in Denver.

It was the same general line on civil forfeiture, where testimony in favor argued that seizing the “ill-gotten gains” of pimps and dealers helps fund national, and sometimes international, interventions in human and drug trafficking.

“It sounds like we’re desperately trying to find funds for the failed war on drugs,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, before joining Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Loveland, in voting for the limits on civil forfeiture.

The other three members of Judiciary, Democrats and Republicans, went the other way. In many cases not because they support the war on drugs but because they want to win the war on human trafficking.

“I know some of my constituents may call me and email me and even not vote for me, but I feel good about my decision,” said Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, who voted to keep Colorado’s civil forfeiture law as-is.

The red-light camera ban made it out of committee on a bipartisan vote.

“As Democrats we’re committed to expanding the middle class. You cant do that if you’re constantly on the backs of the middle class to fund projects in slightly subversive or nefarious ways,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, who sponsored last year’s attempt at the ban. “On the Republican side I think they’re not necessarily in favor of big government and this is a way to scale that back. This is one of those rare opportunities where right and left meet for different reasons.”

 

In other news, this happened:

 And this:


In other other news, the live-stream audio out of the committee chambers continues to intermittently discontinue. Is it a violation of Colorado’s sunshine laws? Probably not. Is it (extremely) annoying and occasionally hilarious? Without a doubt.

[This traffic light photo is from Flickr. ]

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Littwin: GOP immigration showdown plan hitting full fizzle

As the shutdown showdown in Washington winds down, there’s no surprise in how it’s going to end.

The House may extend the argument for another three weeks, in order, I guess, to save some face, but the ending would look the same today as it will in mid-March.

I mean, this was always pointing toward a disaster for Republicans, who picked this fight and now are desperately trying to find a way to semi-gracefully throw in the towel before they lose any more important teeth. Here was the plan, in short: Instead of threatening to shut down the entire government in order to defund Barack Obama’s immigration orders, they would threaten to shut down Homeland Security in order to defund Obama’s immigration orders.

How bad was this plan? For it to work (it couldn’t work), Obama would have to back down (he wouldn’t back down) and Republicans would have to be willing to shutter Homeland Security while ISIS-eyes our country and plans an assault (a risk they wouldn’t take).

I don’t know if anyone ever took the threat seriously, but as ISIS produced one outrage after another, clearly hoping to provoke a land war with the West, it became obvious that the real threat wasn’t coming from the House of Representatives.

For this plan to work (it couldn’t work), Obama would have to back down (he wouldn’t back down) and Republicans would have to risk the danger of an ISIS-related assault (a risk they wouldn’t take). And so the Senate caved, and now it’s just a matter of time before Congress sends Obama a so-called “clean” bill, and we’re onto something else, like maybe another Senate snowball fight.

But we learned something — and it may be an important something — about immigration. For the most part, Republicans didn’t try that hard. As Dave Weigel points out in Bloomberg View, their hearts just weren’t in it.

In fact, Weigel quoted Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, saying just that. “Their heart,” Krikorian said of GOP leadership, “isn’t in the fight; they see it as simply a matter of base management. They don’t mind having these people amnestied and like the idea of being able to blame it on Obama.”

If you watched the Republican presidential contenders parading before conservative voters at CPAC convention Thursday, you got a taste of it. Everyone slammed Obama for being a “dictator” and for “amnesty.” (Here’s a thought: If Obama were, in fact, a dictator, could they actually get away with slamming him?) But nobody talked much about going over any cliffs. The CPAC attendees were definitely angrier than any of the candidates. And it’s no coincidence that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner skipped the affair altogether. They wouldn’t have gotten out two words between them.

OK, you have heard outrage from from the usual suspects — although the talk in Washington has been about how little Ted Cruz has had to say on the topic — but to little effect. While the polls show most people think Obama overreached with his executive orders, the same polls show Obama’s approval ratings climbing.

And how real is your threat when McConnell had promised no shutdown and Boehner spends weeks trying to find a graceful out?

The truth is, there couldn’t be a worse time to consider any kind of partial shutdown of Homeland Security. ISIS leaders want a land war because they’re pretty sure that, win or lose, they would still win. And so the provocations get increasingly difficult to ignore. The New York Times led Friday with the latest — a video of ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian works of art, some that date back to 800 B.C. The Times reported that the group emptied 30 Assyrian villages, took maybe 300 captives and demanded that Christians pay a tax, in gold.

But there’s something else, too. We must know by now how the immigration wars are going to end. There will be immigration reform, although certainly not until Obama leaves office, but probably not that long thereafter. The outcome has always been obvious — we were never going to deport 11 million illegal immigrants — but it all came into focus after Mitt Romney’s self-deport plan went nowhere. And at the same time, Obama promised he would do something. He’s done something, and there was always going to be a fight over it.

When the Texas federal judge put a temporary stop to the Obama plan, that was the obvious chance for Republicans to back away. Even Karl Rove wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal advising them to just declare victory and leave it to the courts. Instead, House Republicans stuck with a self-destructive threat that Obama was free to ignore.

That isn’t to say that the fight is over. As the 2016 race heats up, there will be plenty of talk about Obama and immigration. When we get to the debates, immigration reform will once again take center stage. Republicans who aren’t Jeb Bush will undoubtedly try to pin Obama’s orders on Bush.

And Hillary Clinton, assuming she’s the Democratic candidate, will be thrilled any time they bring that particular fight to her.

[Clown confetti shot image by JT.]

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