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Afternoon headlines February 24, 2017

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 2:44 pm by , in Headlines

White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s announcement yesterday that the Trump administration may implement “greater enforcement” of federal laws against recreational marijuana has elected officials, business owners and pot users fearing what comes next for Colorado. The Marijuana Industry Group says that recreational marijuana legalization is a state’s rights issue, and that Colorado stands to lose billions in economic benefit if this legalized industry leaves the state. It also warns what a return to the days before legalization might mean for criminal activity. “If you deregulate the legal markets, there is very strong evidence that it will push people right back into illegal markets” says the group’s executive director Kristi Kelly. That, Kelly adds, would means more money for black market dealers, and less tax revenue for the state.

Colorado’s poorer communities such as Crowley County are already speculating what federal marijuana enforcement could mean for their economies. Crowley County Commissioner Tobe Allumbaugh said, “Crowley was certainly looking forward to having a revenue stream that we didn’t have in the past.” The county doesn’t currently allow retail sales, but recently began allowing growhouses, and projects more than $1 million in revenues in the next year alone. Through Crowley County hasn’t yet begun to rely on marijuana revenues, Allumbaugha says change in enforcement won’t put it a hole, but says it would “ crucify our plans for the future.”

Spicer’s announcement has rattled marijuana groups across the country, not just in Colorado. The national chapter of marijuana legalization group NORML is “gearing up and ready” to ask Congress to support state pot laws.

The Trump administration has not yet released specific policy proposals regarding federal marijuana enforcement.

Rolling coal – which is the term used for when drivers deliberately blast black smoke from their vehicles, such as diesel trucks – has drawn the ire of a Fort Collins lawmaker who wants to make the practice a traffic infraction City police and county sheriffs both say coal rolling has become a bigger problem in Colorado, where it has been used against other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. This week House Democrats approved a bill that would make rolling coal a traffic offense with a one-hundred dollar fine. When the bill, sponsored by Representative Joann Ji-nall of Fort Collins, was presented earlier month, one man testified that he saw two trucks on I-25 blowing black exhaust at each other, with smoke so thick that he couldn’t see. The bill is now in the state Senate with at least two Republicans in favor, as well as the Democrats, but it’s been assigned to a committee that is often unfriendly to bills not favored by the Senate Republican leadership.

Two immigration memos released this week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly aren’t likely to affect local enforcement of federal immigration law in Colorado, the state’s sherriff’s say.“That really has no impact in Colorado,” says Chris Johnson, executive director of County Sheriffs of Colorado. The memos clarify President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, and describe a plan to increase cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. But Johnson says, “They’re only going to do that along the border states. I would assume that they’re not going to pursue that in Colorado” because we’re not a border state.

But immigration lawyer James Lamb told The Colorado Independent that he isn’t convinced Colorado isn’t included in  expansion, and that broad language has made it unclear whether border states are the only targets. “Why would they limit themselves [to border states]? They didn’t in the past,” he said.

To Lamb and others who practice immigration law say they’re more concerned with what’s known as “expedited removal.” In the past, immigrants who were caught by ICE authorities within two weeks of entering the country and within 150 miles of the border were exempt from the right to an attorney, and could be deported quickly and without trial.Homeland Security memos have expanded that window to include anyone across the U.S. and within two years of entry.
Lamb says Colorado’s legal community is mobilizing for action.“We’ll file our lawsuits, we’ll sue the government on due process grounds when that applies,” he said. “We’ll do what we can.”

More than 50 volunteers huddled together in Boulder last weekend to rescue data from the digital memory hole many fear will open up during the years of the Trump administration. The group  was harvesting raw public data compiled by the government, mostly from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes for Health — information reflecting climate change patterns and carbon monoxide readings and water-level changes and so on. Terabytes worth of information.

The volunteers harvested the datasets and uploaded them to non-government servers — and that’s what set this event apart from the many other volunteer “data refuge” events that have taken place around the country in the months since Election Day.

Joan Saez, an executive at data company Cloud BIRST in Lyons and the woman who spearheaded the event, told The Colorado Independent she began to worry last summer that raw public data would go missing — maybe not as a result of censorship and deletion but simply for being de-prioritized as the result of the Trump administration’s planned steep budget cuts.
This week, Saez said she was bowled over by the amount of work the group completed. She said volunteers harvested 1.5 million NIH publications and 1,000 EPA datasets and that she and other volunteers were still taking the measure of what they had collected.

People don’t often think about the fragility of data, but librarians do, explained Susan Nevelow Mart, an associate professor at the CU law school and director of the law library where the event was hosted. “There are actually very few laws that require data be preserved,” she said.

Members of the volunteer group are still working with the data. They hope to share the tools and practices they developed with other data refuge projects around the country.

For more on these and other stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com.