State AG candidates argue their election cases: Phil Weiser
(Editor’s note: The Post Independent had the opportunity to sit down with the Republican and Democratic candidates running for Colorado Attorney General, George Brauchler and Phil Weiser, respectively, who were both in Glenwood Springs last week. We offer a two-part profile of the candidates and their responses to some key issues, concluding today with Weiser. Read about Brauchler in the Monday edition.)
Phil Weiser, upon completing law school, headed west.
Landing in the Mile High City, Weiser took a job in Denver serving under 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Ebel. Raising the bar, Weiser later worked as a law clerk for Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the United States Supreme Court.
In addition, Weiser served under President Bill Clinton in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and in the Obama administration as a deputy assistant attorney general, again, in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Also a professor, Weiser taught at the University of Colorado Law School and eventually took on the role of dean from 2011 to 2016.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT
“There are issues of principle, like the Affordable Care Act and the pre-existing conditions issue, or not separating families at the border, or how we treat the Dreamers, and I will go to that on issues of principle and will sue the federal government. That’s a part of the job.” Weiser said. “The challenge you have is where are these threats coming from, and in some cases it could be the federal government. … Wherever they come from you have to be willing to stand up and fight.”
COLORADO’S PUBLIC LANDS
“I do worry that if we have a wholesale policy, of privatizing all public lands, we will erode natural beauty, tourism and a lot of the elements of the state that we love,” Weiser said.
Oil and gas drilling in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve does not make sense to Weiser. However, the Democratic candidate does believe, in some contexts, that lease situations could work.
“We have a system. It’s prior-appropriation. We have established water rights. The rule of law depends on us defending property rights for people who have them, number one. Number two, we have to be smart and innovative because … population’s growing. We see climate change means we have less water, there’s less natural snowpack, we need to be more efficient in how we use, reuse, conserve and robust in how we store,” Weiser answered. “This will not be solved by trying to sue surrounding states.”
According to the candidate’s website, Weiser stated, “We need to ban bump stock devices and fight for greater restrictions on access to military-grade weapons and devices that serve no legitimate purpose in civilian life.”
“One path that often people find themselves on is they’ll start taking pills that are often given to them when they break a rib or have back pain; they get addicted, they move to heroin because it’s cheaper and more accessible, and then they end up in a criminal justice system,” Weiser said.
Weiser called for a public health approach where people receive drug treatment in an effort to keep them out of incarceration within the existing criminal justice system.
“There’s a lot of crunch on students and a lot of pressures, and one of the challenges we’ve got to look at is how do we make education affordable, and how do we protect students from being taken advantage of?” Weiser said.
Weiser, safe to say, agreed with any student who’s ever purchased a college textbook — the costs are too high.
“When I was dean of the law school at CU we lowered average student debt by $16,000 a student,” Weiser explained.
“First and foremost, our sovereignty is protected by the 10th Amendment in a principle called the anti-commandeering principle, which on marijuana means we can’t have the federal government telling our law enforcement what to do,” Weiser said. “We’ve also made the decision to regulate marijuana, as a legal product, and tax it which, in many counties … go to Eagle County … they’re going to have mental health treatment supported by a tax on marijuana.
“I am going to defend that every way I can because I believe it’s what the people of Colorado want, and it’s the right policy.”
Weiser also said he believes “deeply” in the decriminalization of marijuana and not putting users in jail.