Marijuana keeps creating jobs in Colorado.

Weeks after The Denver Post announced the appointment of a cannabis editor, the city has hired one of its own officials to serve as “marijuana czar”. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appointed Ashley Kilroy, former city attorney and interim safety manager, as executive director of marijuana policy.

The job entails a number of duties. Kilroy will serve as a liaison with other government agencies, from local to federal, will work with other communities on their pot-related issues, and will share best practices within the industry.

Ashley Kilroy, appointed marijuana czar
Ashley Kilroy, appointed marijuana czar

“Denver is working hard to responsibly implement this unprecedented new law, which will require close collaboration and oversight,” Hancock said in a statement. “This critical role requires a measured and accomplished individual with the ability to coordinate with city and other local, state and federal offices.”

The term “czar” anywhere near “marijuana” usually evokes images of iron-fisted anti-drug policy. But Kilroy’s appointment actually comes with a mandate to improve the cannabis industry and make regulations work better.

As things stand, those rules can be confusing. Some restrictions were enacted and then rescinded, like a Denver policy that would have banned smoking pot on front porches and other private property that can be seen by the public. Even though weed is legal, employers can still fire workers for using it.

Another quirk in state law inflicts harsher punishments on 18-to-21-year-olds who use marijuana than on minors who do the same. The Denver City Council reacted to that inequality by decriminalizing penalties for users in the city between the ages of 18 and 21.

Before hiring Kilroy, the city’s community outreach on legal pot amounted to a barebones Web site with six brief explanations of state law (“It is illegal to drive high”).

“I am honored that Mayor Hancock has entrusted me with this new appointment,” Kilroy said. “I look forward to this exciting opportunity to guide the city through the implementation of the country’s first fully regulated adult marijuana market while balancing the health, safety and well-being of our residents and youth.”

Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, as did voters in Washington State. Officials in both states spent 2013 drafting regulations and processing licenses. The first retail stores will open in Colorado Jan. 1, with eight expected to start serving customers in Denver that day.

Marijuana business owners are expecting big crowds, and with only a handful of stores serving customers initially, supplies could run short. Pot tourism packages have been canceled and out-of-towners have been advised to come seeking weed at a later date.

 

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