• November 28, 2020

Bill would have used taxpayer dollars to create marijuana tracking monopoly

 Bill would have used taxpayer dollars to create marijuana tracking monopoly

An attempt to once again fast track Colorado legislation that would have lead to a monopoly in tracking marijuana failed for a second time in the Colorado Legislature.

The ill attempt by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, already failed once in the legislative session when the senator tried to pass a nearly identical problematic bill. It failed in its first committee when Lambert was faced with so many concerns that he was forced to spike his own bill. Lambert came back with another attempt, hoping to sneak the measure through the legislature with only days left in the session. The Legislature adjourns on Wednesday.

The new measure, Senate Bill 279, would have authorized the Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University-Pueblo to identify a single company to study the feasibility of adding a compound or chemical agent to marijuana to allow it to be tracked. The story was first reported by Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Let’s forget for a moment the fact that the bill would have lead to spraying marijuana with an agent for tracking purposes. Consumers get worked up about genetically modified organisms to produce food. Imagine how consumers would feel about smoking or ingesting marijuana with some sort of chemical agent sprayed all over it. Not cool.

But perhaps the biggest problem with the bill was its anti-free market approach, a surprising proposition for a conservative lawmaker like Lambert from Colorado Springs. In an earlier story, Ashby pointed out that a single private company, PhytoTrack, would benefit from using taxpayer dollars to develop the technology. Other companies that are working on alternative tracking technologies would be placed at a significant competitive disadvantage.

PhytoTrack is owned by United Kingdom-based Oxford Natural Products. It is registered in Colorado by Denver attorney Geoff Blue, a former deputy in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Blue’s firm, Klenda Gessler & Blue, includes former Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The firm consults on legislation, working with lobbyists on strategy.

By using taxpayer dollars to benefit one company, Lambert and his supporters could find themselves in violation of the Colorado Constitution. The end game is incredibly suspicious. PhytoTrack has filed to issue 10 million shares of common stock. Using taxpayer dollars to develop the technology would be a huge boon to PhytoTrack and its investors.   

There are so many concerns over the bill that its original House sponsors, Reps. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, abandoned the latest attempt. In fact, Lambert was the lone sponsor of the new bill, as no members of the House signed on.

It makes sense that Lambert is alone on the effort. The bill would have required most marijuana businesses to pay for and use the new technology at an unknown cost. It also would have required law enforcement to purchase the equipment needed to track the agent used. That is an unfair proposal that scared lawmakers away.

Senate Bill 279 represented a government-sponsored attempt to guarantee the success of a technology startup. That is NOT the mission of government. We’re super surprised to see Lambert abandon his free market conservative principles just to benefit one company. But we’re very pleased that his colleagues in the Colorado Senate reined in what would have amounted to runaway government spending. 

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus served as the Senior Statehouse Reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette where he co-launched ColoradoPolitics.com, covering politics, the governor’s office, the Colorado Legislature, Congress, and federal, state and local governments. He joined in November 2016 from The Durango Herald. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the top state-based political and legislative reporters in the nation. He also has won over a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association. In prior positions, Marcus worked for the Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly, and The Denver Daily News, a former free daily newspaper in Denver, where he covered City Hall, politics, and had an entertainment column. Before that, Marcus worked for the Longmont Times-Call. An Ithaca College graduate, Marcus studied journalism and creative writing, before moving to Colorado from New York in 2004.

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