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A man holds a sign referring to Colorado legalizing marijuana with the state capitol dome in the background at the 4/20 marijuana holiday in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking A man holds a sign referring to Colorado legalizing marijuana with the state capitol dome in the background at the 4/20 marijuana holiday in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking  

Colorado appoints a ‘marijuana czar’ ahead of legal pot sales next week

With the first 42 marijuana businesses poised to open in Denver on Jan. 1 — a number that will eventually be in the hundreds — the Mile High City is creating the position of “marijuana czar.”

Mayor Michael Hancock appointed former city attorney and interim safety manager Ashley Kilroy as the new Executive Director of Marijuana Policy.

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

On Friday, Denver handed out the first official licenses, which include eight retail stores, 30 grow operations and four infused-product manufacturers, which make things like cannabis-laced cookies and marijuana beverages.

The state has approved a total of 348 licenses for various operations, but businesses must also clear local hurdles before being able to open. Most will likely come online later in January or early February.

About 25 Colorado municipalities chose to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to convert to retail sales. Under Amendment 64, which was passed by voters in 2012, adults 21 and older are free to shop for pot, possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants.

For much of the past year, Denver has grappled with regulations laying out the details and trying to make it as clear as possible what is permitted and what’s not. For example, it’s legal to smoke pot on your private property, including your front yard and balconies that can be seen from the streets and sidewalks, but it’s not legal to smoke it on public property. And while it’s fine to smoke in your free time, employers can still fire you for violating their drug policies.

Part of Kilroy’s job as the marijuana czar will be to liaise with local, state and federal agencies on these and myriad other issues, outreach to the community — both in Colorado and in other states that may legalize pot in the future — and to share best practices for the nascent industry. Prior to her appointment, Denver’s “outreach” consisted primarily of a website filled with a list of what’s not allowed, such as taking marijuana out of state and selling it to minors.

“I am honored that Mayor Hancock has entrusted me with this new appointment,” Kilroy said in the news release. “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.”

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