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Sal Pace: He led on cannabis, now he’s leaving office

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Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace isn’t running for re-election. That leaves a huge question mark over the next name that will lead Pueblo County on a number of issues, but particularly the marijuana issue.Pace has been at the front of the conversation of what a legal marijuana market should look like, how it should operate and how it ca…

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace isn’t running for re-election. That leaves a huge question mark over the next name that will lead Pueblo County on a number of issues, but particularly the marijuana issue.Pace has been at the front of the conversation of what a legal marijuana market should look like, how it should operate and how it can be better in Pueblo and across the state. The former State House minority leader and current county commissioner has had his name tied to the subject of marijuana since the beginning — he was elected to the legislature in 2008 and appointed to county commissioner in 2013. In 2016, Pace held tight to his support of the marijuana industry, opting to celebrate the downfall of potential industry-killer Props. 200 and 300 in Pueblo instead of watching results roll in with fellow Democrats.The death of Pace’s father last year and the sudden death of his sister has caused the lawmaker to take a hard look at his life, notably the time spent — and not spent — with his family. He wants more of it, and so that involves less lawmaking. “Sadly for me, it took losing my own father and sister to fully comprehend the importance of being present for my kids and wife,” Pace wrote in an editorial announcing his decision to not seek re-election. “I know that no lost experience can ever be replaced.”In a sit-down interview with PULP, Pace talks the politics and policy of the industry and where local leaders should pay close attention to as more states legalize.So, you’re not running for reelection. Was that a tough decision?Nope. I think it’s important to reevaluate your values. It’s a constant struggle determining perception versus being here in the now. Ego is really based on past experiences and future expectations. You’ve been seen as a leader for the marijuana industry in Pueblo. Do you think that will be your legacy?That’ll be for the political pundits to decide.How did this become your issue, anyway?Because too many politicians are cowards. It’s a no-brainer. Especially when you look at the overwhelming support from the public. I don’t think it’s very risky at all. I feel very confident that 20 years now from now people will laugh that there was ever marijuana prohibition. Do you think taking on marijuana policy like you did was a good political move?I don’t know if it served me well politically. I’ve enjoyed being on the front-end of policy debates. I enjoy the opportunity to shape policy. If the goal is to be popular and reelected easily, which is the normal definition in modern-day politics, then no, this hasn’t been good for politics. The emails and scowls and the threats I get daily response from prohibitionists? No. Other issues didn’t bring out the visceral response from the public. It’s no secret that there has been a vocal group against the industry in Pueblo — they still say pot has made Pueblo worse off. Is there something the pro-marijuana camp can learn from them?I’m probably talking to regulators and policy makers in other states 2-3 times per week. And I’ve met with dozens of states and regulators and legislators from several different countries. I tell people to not expect the opposition to disappear because there’s overwhelming support. Frankly, had I known (the opposition) wouldn’t respect the wil…
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Sal Pace: He led on cannabis, now he’s leaving office
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