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More rigorous retail pot education, requirements in Pitkin County slow lane

Jun 1, 2015

Silent auction items at this weekend's NORML conference in Aspen.
Credit Elise Thatcher

Attorneys and marijuana advocates gathered in Aspen this weekend. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, has been meeting in Aspen since the early 90s. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has this snapshot of the event.

Topics ranged from government surveillance, to what happens when a friend dies while getting high. “I am a member of the NORML legal committee,” said Jeri Shepherd, visiting from Greeley, Colorado. “I first came here in 1991. I met all these awesome lawyers [and] learned a lot.” Shepherd tries to make it to the conference every year. “To learn, to connect with some of my fellow attorneys and activists,” she continued. “And I’m just glad to be here. Aspen’s a very chill town. A little rich for my blood most of the time, but I love coming up here.”

Shepherd is a former public defender and calls herself an old school cannabis lawyer, handling criminal and traffic cases. Shepherd was in the room when Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo gave a last-minute talk about how his agency is handling legalized marijuana, and separate efforts to come up with education guidelines when pot is sold. “Still in the conceptual stage, and how that even gets implemented yet, I don’t know,” said DiSalvo after his talk. “It’s just a talking point for our community.”

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.

DiSalvo started the Valley Marijuana Council last year, and would ultimately like to see a formal program for dispensaries to abide by. Like what information sellers have to tell buyers about how to safely use marijuana. It could possibly include scanners for checking a buyer’s driver’s license, “to make sure you got real ID’s. And that might go for bars too.”

DiSalvo doesn’t know if ultimately he’ll be the point person for the effort, because the Council is still very young. “But I do think that somebody needs to pick it up. And if it’s not city government hopefully we’ll come up with some ideas through the council and present it to government.”

After this weekend’s NORML conference, it might be nearby mountain communities that decide to pursue guidelines at point of sale. DiSalvo says representatives of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County approached him after a similar talk earlier in the weekend. “Summit County has asked for help,” he continued, “so we may just branch out and give them some of this information, and let them run with it.”

Another goal for DiSalvo is seeing the beginning of cannabis clubs. At his talk on Friday, he said he hopes the City of Aspen will decide to be on the forefront of allowing those. Aspen officials have said they have no plans to do that.