Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2016
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Cyrus McCrimmon


Andrew Freedman is Colorado's director of marijuana coordination.

DENVER - Marijuana legalization brought unexpected challenges to Colorado,
and it was rarely clear what part of state government was supposed to
solve them, or how.

Businesses were selling marijuana-infused, animal-shaped candy attractive
to children. Residents growing pot at home were selling it illegally in
other states. Growers were applying pesticides to cannabis plants even
though none was specifically approved by the federal government for such

Enter Andrew Freedman, Colorado's pot czar, who is bringing together the
state's bureaucracy, marijuana industry, law enforcement community, and
public health advocates to fix problems no other state had faced.

Now Freedman, a Tufts University and Harvard Law School grad who still has
a 781 cellphone number, is seen as a contender to be one of the three
regulators who will oversee the recreational industry in Massachusetts, or
advise that group as a paid consultant.

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Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who appointed Freedman to his
current post, called him "probably the most knowledgable person in the
United States in terms of how do you create a regulatory framework for
recreational marijuana."

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attempted to buy some weed. Here's how his day unfolded.

And with four new states - Massachusetts, California, Maine, and Nevada -
now grappling with legalization, Hickenlooper said he advised Freedman to
offer his help. "There are lots of lessons to be learned, and no one can
communicate those lessons more successfully than Andrew can," he said.

In Colorado, Freedman, 33, has kept a running list of those thorny
troubles in black ink on a window in his office since he started the job
almost three years ago, adding and subtracting problems as they're
identified and then resolved.

"We see problems. We solve problems. We're fast-acting. We're responsive
to data as it comes in," he said.

Freedman became Colorado's chief marijuana coordinator in January 2014,
when retail stores here first started selling it.

One of his early challenges was to help transform the way marijuana was
seen in state government, aiding in a cultural shift, he said.

"There were a lot of people in several departments who disagreed with the
voters, so at the beginning there was a hesitancy to even come to the
table," he said.

The solution was emphasizing that the will of the people trumps everyone's
personal beliefs. And, according to Freedman, the reticence faded about
six months after retail stores first started selling marijuana.

Another challenge: figuring out which agency would be in charge of solving
which problem.

In an interview in his Denver office across the street from the state
Capitol, Freedman said after almost three years agencies have a good idea
of "what their swim lanes are."

And an overarching difficulty in creating a regulatory framework for a
brand new industry: not locking in a bad decision. "There is an enormous
amount of responsibility to really think very hard that we're not making
mistakes that we'll regret for 20 years before we can undo it," he said.

In a telephone interview, Hickenlooper recalled a slew of troubles with
pot-infused edibles.

There was, for instance, no clear way to distinguish a regular piece of
candy from a marijuana piece of candy when they were out of the package.
And there were instances of consumers overdosing because it wasn't clear
just how much of, say, a brownie was a single dose.

"Andrew was able to persuade the industry that it was in their self
interest" to have state government impose new safeguards on edibles, the
governor said.

"He didn't get all the industry, but he got 80 percent of the industry to
support it, which was enough to convince the Legislature."

Freedman's road to being pot czar was circuitous. After Tufts, he took a
year off and traveled the world, teaching English in India, working at a
peace camp in Israel, volunteering at a women's rights center in Thailand.

During law school, he helped out on Hickenlooper's campaign and, after
graduation, was hired as the lieutenant governor's chief of staff.

Later, he helped manage a statewide ballot campaign about education. And
then Hickenlooper's chief of staff asked Freedman to apply to be the
state's first marijuana czar.

"I was really shocked because I was like, 'I didn't weigh in on
legalization at all,' " he said. "And she was like, 'Exactly. We
need an agnostic in this post.' "

Though the industry has bristled at some of the policies that the
Hickenlooper administration has pushed, top voices in the legalization
community speak highly of Freedman.

"We see problems. We solve problems. We're fast-acting. We're responsive
to data as it comes in," Andrew Freedman said.

Lawyer Christian Sederberg, a founding partner at Colorado's largest
marijuana-focused firm, regularly works with him on big-picture issues and
said Freedman's been "a champion of good government."

Sederberg said Freedman - and the agenda of Hickenlooper he implements -
hasn't been pro-or anti-industry, but rather focused on making
legalization "work in face of all these unique challenges."

And, Sederberg said, the policy is fundamentally conservative, placing
public safety concerns above economic development of the industry. He
agrees with that hierarchy, but said it has informed how Hickenlooper and
Freedman have worked with the industry.

One of his former bosses says the boyish, bespectacled Freedman has an
extra challenge in an already difficult job.

"The biggest challenge Andrew has is he looks about 13 and when people
first see him they think, 'Wait a minute - this guy is running state
government regulation of marijuana in Colorado?' " said former
lieutenant governor Joe Garcia, who served from 2011 through May. "But it
doesn't take long for them to realize he's a person of substance, he's
smart, and won't get pushed around."

So what about some of those smoldering problems?

After Freedman reached a compromise with the industry and state lawmakers,
the Colorado Legislature passed a law banning drug-infused edibles in the
distinct shape of an animal, fruit, or human.

That, along with other measures - every individual serving of a marijuana
candy or cookie must now be imprinted with a warning symbol that includes
an exclamation point and the letters THC - is seen as helping to reduce
the public health and safety troubles with edibles.

Diversion of home-grown marijuana to the black market remains a problem,
but Hickenlooper recently proposed a series of measures to restrict big
household operations. Those are expected to be taken up by legislators
next year.

And the pesticides? There were lots of meetings, back-and-forth with the
industry, an executive order, new rules promulgated, and new lines of
authority created.

The state Department of Agriculture now says which pesticides are OK to
use on marijuana and the state Department of Revenue now swoops in to
destroy cannabis grown with those that are banned.

Colorado had provided a measure of confidence to tokers of a product that
was illegal just a few years earlier. And it's one of several problems now
erased from Freedman's window.
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