Pubdate: Sat, 22 Mar 2014
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2014 The Denver Post Corp
Author: John Ingold


Officials in the State Regulatory Agency Exit for the Industry.

At least three influential officials at the state agency that 
regulates marijuana businesses have found work doing cannabis 
industry consulting after leaving the division, the latest sign of 
the industry's growing allure in Colorado.

All three officials say they adhered to strict - but not always 
mandatory-ethical standards in switching from the regulators to the 
regulated. And an ethics expert said the moves are not necessarily a 
conflict, noting that such public-to-private switches are common in 
many regulated industries.

But the moves do show the increasing legitimization - and 
commercialization-of the marijuana industry. And they have caused 
concern among remaining state officials, who say the moves could send 
the wrong message to the public.

Ron Kammerzell, the senior director of enforcement at the Department 
of Revenue, said he would prefer a cooling-off period for employees 
before they were allowed to work in the marijuana industry. He said 
it would be good public policy and would promote the integrity of the 
industry. "It's more a perception issue than it is in reality an 
actual problem," Kammerzell said.

State law requires outgoing legislators to take a two year hiatus 
before working as lobbyists, but such restrictions are less common 
for state employees.

Employees in the Department of Revenue's lottery division must wait 
at least a year after leaving their jobs before going to work for a 
vendor or service provider under contract with the lottery. All other 
state employees must wait six months before going to work for a 
business that has contracts with the state - but only if they were 
involved with those contracts while working for the state.

"It's not so much a question of ethics, but it is a question of 
public policy," said Luis Toro, the director of the watchdog group 
Colorado Ethics Watch. "Sometimes agencies can become ineffective if 
it's more lucrative for employees to go work for private industry."

Matt Cook - one of the three officials now working as a consultant- 
said having former regulators advising marijuana companies how to 
comply with state laws can make the regulatory system run smoother. 
And, with the governor's office predicting that medical and 
recreational marijuana stores in Colorado will do close to $1 billion 
in sales in the next fiscal year, the marijuana industry's allure is 
difficult to ignore.

"It's all about opportunity," said Cook, who is often credited with 
writing Colorado's medical marijuana business rules at the Department 
of Revenue and now consults with both marijuana businesses and 
governments on regulatory issues. "Certainly this is a new and 
emerging industry, not only here but on an international basis. So, 
obviously, those who have knowledge have the opportunity to share that."

Cook said he has been careful in his new line of work only to explain 
state law to the businesses he works with and not suggest he has 
influence at the Marijuana Enforcement Division, the arm of the 
Revenue Department that regulates pot shops. Cook retired from the 
Department of Revenue in 2011.

Attorney Jordan Wellington-who worked as a policy analyst at the 
division and was instrumental in the writing of Colorado's 
recreational marijuana business rules - went to work for the 
marijuana-specialist law firm Vicente Sederberg this year after his 
short term contract with the division ended. As a condition of his 
employment, Wellington said he won't represent clients before the 
division on rule violations, and he said he won't reveal any 
confidential information he learned while working at the division.

"I don't want to do anything that would put them in an uncomfortable 
or awkward position," he said.

Laura Harris, who was the director of the Marijuana Enforcement 
Division until her retirement last year, said she waited about six 
months before starting work at the law firm Dill Dill Carr Stonbraker 
& Hutchings as the firm's administrator and as a consultant. The firm 
- - whose offices are on the same floor as the Marijuana Enforcement 
Division's - represents marijuana businesses. Its managing partner, 
H. Alan Dill, is also a part-owner of the building and is the 
division's landlord.

Harris said she doesn't see her current work as a conflict - in part 
because she wasn't working at the division when it signed the $1.3 
million, five-year office lease. This month, the firm Denver Relief 
Consulting - which has links to a marijuana store by the same name - 
announced that Harris had joined its team.

"I don't view that as a conflict of interest at all," she said. "I 
think all of us came out of state government with that finished. I 
certainly haven't tried to exercise any undue influence on the agency 
from my position here."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom