Daniela Ralph from Ohio celebrates at the 420 Rally in Denver's Civic Center on April 19, 2014. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

“The White House should reverse legal pot,” other post-4/20 complaints

A national anti-marijuana legalization group has met with White House officials to encourage the federal government to reverse legalization in Colorado and Washington.

Meanwhile, a Colorado group concerned about the impacts of legalization on children issued a statement Monday decrying the “shocking” scenes of public pot smoking in Denver on Sunday, a day marijuana enthusiasts consider a holiday they call 4/20.

Both announcements are part of an effort by groups worried about legalization to rein in what many see as momentum toward broader legalization of marijuana and commercialization of the cannabis market. Also on Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives gave final approval to two bills putting stiffer regulations on marijuana-infused edibles and concentrates.

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“The messages we are sending our youth are deeply concerning,” Rachel O’Bryan, a spokeswoman for Smart Colorado, said in that group’s statement. “Getting high is being encouraged, celebrated and glorified.”

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the chairman of the national anti-legalization group Project SAM, said he recently met with representatives from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, or ONDCP, to push for the federal government to intervene in Colorado and Washington. The Justice Department has previously announced it would not block marijuana legalization in the two states as long as certain conditions were met — such as keeping marijuana away from kids and within state lines.

But Kennedy said he presented data from Colorado during the meeting that he said suggest a rise in marijuana-related problems in the state. For instance, a report card put out by the group shows an increase in marijuana-positive workplace drug test results at one lab in Colorado Springs. Another chart on the report card shows an increase in seizures by U.S. postal inspectors of marijuana being shipped out of state. The report card also noted two recent deaths in Colorado that may be linked to marijuana edibles.

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ONDCP officials have spoken critically of marijuana legalization in the past, and Kennedy said they were receptive to his arguments. Kennedy did not provide a direct answer when asked whether Justice Department officials attended the meeting, as well.

“The president and the attorney general, now that we’re getting this new information, have a better ground to say, ‘Well we gave this a chance. Now we’re going to change our approach here,'” Kennedy said.

In its statement Monday, Smart Colorado said the marijuana industry “willfully betrayed many of their key Amendment 64 supporters” by not stopping public marijuana consumption on 4/20 or doing more to keep marijuana away from kids.

“This past weekend we saw marijuana users and folks from the industry openly flouting the laws by consuming pot in public,” O’Bryan said in the statement. “If Denver can’t enforce its own ordinances because of the enormity of the task and lack of cooperation from the marijuana industry, then none of our residents or visitors are adequately protected.”

Denver was awash in marijuana-centric events on Sunday — the most notable being the large pro-pot rally in Civic Center park that culminated with a mass smoke-out at 4:20 p.m. This year, Denver police issued 92 citations for public marijuana consumption over the two-day festival — far more than the five public-consumption tickets police issued at the one-day event in 2013. Tens of thousands still lit up in unison Sunday afternoon, though, in violation of laws that continue to make public marijuana use illegal.

Marijuana industry advocates distanced themselves from the rally prior to the weekend. The Marijuana Industry Group put out a news release on Friday saying that it was not connected to any of the 4/20 events this weekend. The release included reminders that public marijuana consumption and giving marijuana to minors are illegal.

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“We are constantly working to help the public understand what is legal and safe,” said Michael Elliott, the group’s executive director. “We view the publicity around the 4/20 events as an opportunity to continue to get that message out.”

The two bills that passed the Colorado House on Monday with unanimous support have the backing of some marijuana advocates. One bill would prohibit recreational marijuana shops from selling any amount of marijuana concentrate that was made from more than one ounce’s worth of raw marijuana.

Another bill would require all marijuana edible products to be made in a unique shape or with a unique stamp or color. The goal of the bill is to make marijuana edibles easily identifiable when they are out of their packages, lessening the risk of accidental ingestion.

Both bills still need at least three votes in the state Senate before going to the governor’s desk.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/john_ingold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com