Attorney general candidate speaks about the opioid epidemic, guns, natural resources
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a biographical error.
CRAIG — Dean of the University of Colorado Law School Phil Weiser, who is vying to become Colorado’s next attorney general, says he is running to stop the opioid epidemic and protect the state’s natural resources.
Weiser won the Democratic nomination after state Rep. Joe Salazar conceded in late June following the primaries.
Weiser said he is running because he wants to continue public service to thank the nation that has given so much to his immigrant parents, Weiser said.
His grandparents were Holocaust survivors, liberated from a Nazi concentration camp by American forces April 14, 1945, the day after his mother was born in a concentration camp. He said his grandparents’ story of survival and resilience inspired him to commit to serving others.
He studied law at New York School of Law and served as law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. He was eventually appointed deputy assistant attorney general by former President Barack Obama, then became dean of the University of Colorado Law School.
Weiser said the opioid epidemic is a top issue for him. During his campaign, he said, he has spoken with people who have been harmed by opioids, adding that action to combat the epidemic needs to be taken soon.
Saying pharmaceutical companies that have profited from disseminating false information must be held accountable, he advocated lawsuits against such companies, asserting he is the only candidate running who is committed to to suing the companies. The settlements won in such suits would be used to help secure drug treatment for opioid addicts, he said.
He also said opioid addicts should be send to rehabilitation centers for treatment rather than jail for punishment. After talking to Moffat County residents concerned about the issue, Weiser said he believes more rehabilitation centers can benefit the region by helping addicts overcome their addictions.
Asked how he will handle federal pressure on legal marijuana, Weiser said he will stand up to the federal government with every tool he has. Colorado voters made a clear decision when they voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, he said, adding that not jailing marijuana users was a wise decision. He noted that many have received harsh sentences for marijuana use in the past.
He said the state has also benefitted from the revenue generated by the taxation of marijuana purchases, part of which is being used to grant college scholarships. As an example, he cited some $425,000 awarded in scholarships last year in Pueblo.
Addressing the gun issue, Weiser said the state has an obligation to children to manage gun safety and ensure people who shouldn’t have guns cannot acquire them. Noting state law requirements for background checks prior to gun purchases, he said would enforce that law to the fullest, adding he wants to improve upon the legislation by banning bump stocks, the gun modification used in the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting Las Vegas shooting, that claimed the lives of 58 people. Weiser said he believes bump stocks have no legitimate use.
“This is an important issue,” he said. “The attorney general plays an important role in defending, enforcing, and supporting the development of laws that are common sense measures to keep people safe.”
Another issue of importance he mentioned is the need to protect land, water, and air. Moffat County’s neighbor to the south, Grand Junction, is dealing with air quality issues, he said, and the Colorado River needs better management.
He also advocated the protection of public lands. The current administration, he said, is threatening all three of these important Colorado vital assets.
Colorado’s environment shouldn’t be negotiable, Weiser said. We have a moral commitment to the next generation to protect their health. The next attorney general needs to work with leaders across the state to protect land, water and air.
Diabetics in Colorado who use insulin to control their blood sugar levels won’t pay more than $100 per month for the drug starting in January thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday.