Sal Pace
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Sal Pace
Sal Pace
Member of the Colorado House of Representatives
from the 46th district

January 7, 2009[1] - November 6, 2012
Dorothy Butcher
Leroy Garcia
Personal details
Born (1976-12-14) December 14, 1976 (age 42)
New London, Connecticut
Political partyDemocratic

Sal Pace (born December 14, 1976) is a former American legislator who served as a state Representative in the U.S. state of Colorado, where he rose to the position of House Democratic Leader. He also served six years as County Commissioner from Pueblo County, Colorado. Pace is credited with writing much of the world's first cannabis regulations while serving in the State House; and he is a recognized national cannabis reform activist and consultant. In Pueblo, he transformed the community into the "Napa Valley of Cannabis" of Colorado. Pace voluntarily chose not to seek re-election prior to his final term expiring in January 2019.[2]

Pace has led on cannabis politics and policy before the national paradigm shifted across the US. Pace is among the most recognized public leaders for crafting the world's largest cannabis market in Colorado.[3] During his time in the Colorado General Assembly, he played a leading role in developing Colorado's medical marijuana model, earning him recognition as the "face of regulation" from local news media.[4][5] Pace currently serves on the national board of the Marijuana Policy Project, the primary organization passing state-by-state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for both medical purposes and adult use.[6] His legislative accomplishments, including drafting much of the first-in-the-world medical marijuana laws and helping shape the first-in-the-world adult-use marketplace, have left an indelible mark on the cannabis industry, policies and politics. He has been featured in Fortune Magazine,[7]The Financial Times of London,[8] and the New York Times[9] among hundreds of other media outlets. As a County Commissioner, Pace pushed legislation to allow for outdoor and greenhouse cultivations, which transformed Pueblo County into the "Napa Valley of Cannabis". Pace also created the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund, which uses marijuana tax revenues to offer a college scholarship to every high school graduate in Pueblo County.[10] He also helped found the Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) at Colorado State University-Pueblo[11] and establish a national coalition of local elected officials, Leaders For Reform, to support Federal cannabis reform.[12]

Outside of cannabis, Pace has been well known in Colorado political circles. He was chosen by Governor-elect Jared Polis to serve as a co-chair of his Transition Committee[13] and has been a delegate to the Democratic National Committee.[14]

Pace has been a vocal advocate for passenger rail in Colorado; and chaired the Southwest Chief Passenger Rail Commission, which is credited with raising $71 million to save the Chicago-Los Angeles Route.[15]

He is a member of the Democratic Party. Elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2008, Pace represented House District 46, which encompasses western Pueblo, Colorado from 2008 to 2012.[16] During his time at the statehouse, Pace was elected as the Colorado House minority leader. In 2012, he ran against incumbent congressman Republican Scott Tipton in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, although Tipton was ultimately re-elected.[17]

In his post electoral career, Pace has said he plans to continue to consult in the cannabis space, something he has done since 2017 outside of Colorado, and continue to frequent Grateful Dead themed concerts with his wife and children. He holds a licensing deal to sell Grateful Dead branded ultimate discs.[18]


He and his wife, Marlene Valdez Pace, live in Pueblo, Colorado with their three children.[19][20]

Early life, education, and academic career

Pace, a native of Connecticut is the youngest of nine children, moved to Colorado after high school. He attended Fort Lewis College, where he majored in political science and was appointed by the State Board of Agriculture to serve on a search committee for a Fort Lewis College president. He then attended Louisiana State University, earning a master's degree in American Political Theory.[19]

Pace has taught American government at Pueblo Community College and CSU-Pueblo.[21] He has also served on the Pueblo City Schools (D60) Strategic Plan Core Team, as an organizer for Enable America, as a Colorado Democratic Party Regional Director in 2002, and is a member of Sons of Italy of Southern Colorado.

Public service

Pace served as a legislative aide to State Representative John Salazar in the Colorado House of Representatives, where he worked on water and health care legislation. When Salazar was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Pace continued to work for him, as a District Director, a Congressional staffer, and as the manager of Salazar's 2006 re-election campaign.[19][22]

Life after politics

On his way out of office Pace joined the Jared Polis transition team as a co-chair and also joined the national board for the Marijuana Policy Project. Also, according to the Pueblo chieftain, "Pace, who has become an expert on marijuana issues, told The Pueblo Chieftain Friday that for more than a year and a half he has served as a marijuana consultant in the capacity of public policy, licensing and regulatory only. He denies that this is a conflict of interest."[23] Other reports indicate that Pace has partnered with the largest companies in the cannabis space, including LivWell Enlightened Health. In one application, Pace is lauded in the application as "one of Colorado's architects" of marijuana policy. "He has been integrally involved with the crafting of much of Colorado's first-in-time, highly regulated medical marijuana and adult use programs," the application read. By his own count, he has served as a marijuana policy consultant to groups in a dozen states in the last year. He would not disclose his earnings for that work.[24]

Pace also designed some ultimate "frisbee" discs with the legendary band's logo on them, and he and his wife have created a limited liability corporation. The couple and their children travel to a number of Dead and Company concerts selling them.[25]

Pace, The Face of Marijuana Regulation

Pace drafted much of the Colorado medical marijuana model in his two terms in the General Assembly. His career, since 2009, has had a heavy focus on cannabis policy; including running the first bill to recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.[26] In the short timeframe since the Ogden memo, there have been few elected officials with greater knowledge of the policy, trends, politics, and regulations than Sal, and hence, was dubbed, "the Face of Regulation".[27] He regularly speaks to elected officials and regulators from communities across the United States and several nations, including the Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus[28] and serving as national advocate.[29]

U.S. Rep. Earl Bluemenaur, D-Ore. Bluemenaur, chair of Congressional Cannabis Caucus was quoted about Pace; "Sal Pace has brought a pioneering effort both in the Colorado cannabis program and his leadership nationally. I count Sal as a valuable and essential ally in my work for cannabis reform."[30]

Pace created the first ever designated funding stream from medicinal cannabis funds in the world in 2010, when he amended the implementing legislation in Colorado to direct tax revenues to fight addiction of alcohol and tobacco. Since then, Pace has created numerous "firsts" in cannabis policy. He led the effort to create Colorado's Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University Pueblo and created the first college scholarship program funded from cannabis.

Pace also founded a national organization of local elected officials to respond to Jeff Sessions' Cole Memo Rescission. In 2018 the group formed with 110 members in 11 states.[31]

He also led the political campaign efforts to keep cannabis legal in Pueblo County, beating back a multi-million dollar prohibition effort.[32]

Father of the "Napa Valley of Cannabis"

Today, cannabis is the second largest tax-paying industry in Pueblo County[33], with credit largely going to Pace for fathering the industry. Pace has been championing the cannabis industry as an economic boon for Pueblo County since he started serving as the state representative for the area in 2008. After two terms in the Colorado House, he was elected to the post of Pueblo County commissioner in 2013, the year before retail marijuana operations began in Colorado. Since then, Pace has continued to call Pueblo the "Napa Valley of cannabis," embracing outdoor and greenhouse growing operations and viewing cannabis as a viable option for his community's agricultural growth.[34] Pace is regularly interviewed for his role leading in Colorado's marijuana policy. With half of all construction dollars in Pueblo coming from cannabis production, following Pace's pro-cultivation development policies, the area is often dubbed "the Napa Valley of Cannabis." By all accounts, the pro-cannabis political climate was led by Pace.[35] "There are about 4.6 million square feet of marijuana gardens dotting the dusty landscape in Pueblo County. Greenhouses climb into the sky in a county that also has some of the largest licensed outdoor grow facilities in the country. Since marijuana became legal in 2012, Pueblo County has licensed 143 legal marijuana cultivations, and another 55 are pending. The area has been called the Napa Valley of the pot industry."[36] The Financial Times[37] and Boston Globe[12] quote Pace as attributing allowing outdoor and greenhouse grows in Pueblo, making Pueblo the first community nationally to license outdoor and greenhouse marijuana cultivation.

Leaders for Reform

Sal Pace announced the organization, Leaders For Reform, on January 31, 2018 with a full-page ad in the Washington Times. The group, of local elected officials, formed with 110 members in 11 states.[38]

Role in National Cannabis Reform

Pace serves on the national board of the Marijuana Policy Project, the primary organization leading state-by-state reform efforts, such as legalization campaigns in Colorado, Nevada or Michigan.[39] Pace has been tied or involved in Federal efforts to reform cannabis tax code (280E),[40] pushing back on Jeff Sessions' rescinding the Cole Memo,[41] hosting members of the Congressional Cannabis caucus, and speaking up for legalization in other states.[29]

2016 Pueblo Props 200 & 300

While five other states were considering legalizing marijuana for adult use, Fortune magazine and 60 Minutes both cited the Pueblo County fight during the historic 2016 election, as a referendum of whether "pot is losing its buzz."[32] Pace led the political campaign efforts to keep cannabis legal in Pueblo County, beating back a multi-million dollar prohibition effort in 2016. According to the Boston Globe, "Backers of the Pueblo repeal effort say retail marijuana shops and farms have brought increased vagrancy, crime, and an undesirable reputation as the pot capital of southern Colorado....County Commissioner Sal Pace, the chief opponent of the ballot effort, likes that his community is seen as a center for marijuana innovation."[42] Ultimately, prop 200 was defeated by a 57-43 margin.[43]

Legislative career

2008 election

Pace ran for Colorado's 46th House District. He won the nomination at the Pueblo County Assembly, keeping his only opponent off the ballot, while receiving greater than 70% of the delegate vote. Pace faced no opposition in the August Democratic primary,[44] or the November 2008 general election.[45]

2009 legislative session

After winning a term in the legislature in November 2008, Pace was elected Assistant Majority Caucus Chair by state house Democrats.[46]

Pace ran legislation to create the Fountain Creek Watershed District as well as legislation to protect farmers in the Pinon Canyon area of Southeastern Colorado from eminent domain by the Federal Government.[47]

Following his election, Pace requested that the state auditor investigate the bidding process for a new Colorado Department of Corrections headquarters, in which Pueblo's bid was rated last of five bids, despite being the least expensive.[48]

For the 2009 legislative session, Pace served on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee.[49]

Pace sponsored legislation to remove Social Security benefits and severance pay as reasons for lowering state unemployment benefits.[50] Just prior to the start of the 2010 legislative session, Pace was named vice-chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.[51]

2010 legislative session

After Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 elections, Pace was elected as House Minority leader by his peers; a position he held until 2012.

Pace left an indelible mark on Colorado and national cannabis policy by passing more amendments to the implementing bills for Colorado's strict medical marijuana regulatory model than any other legislator. He left a mark on various policies ranging from pesticide restrictions all the way to production management.[52]

Pace also created the first designated funding in the world from cannabis, and saved the Circle Program, which treats co-occurring addiction disorders at CMHIP, via medical marijuana tax revenues. The same amendment also helped save SBIRT, to treat addiction, using the same cannabis funds.[52]

Pace also passed parole overhaul, which eliminated many technical violations, while investing $20 million annually into mental health and addiction treatment.[52]

2010 election

In the general election, Pace defeated Republican Steven Rodriguez by 69% to 31%.[53][54]

2011 legislative session

Following the 2010 election, Pace was selected by his peers as House Minority Leader for the next general assembly beginning in January 2011. This was a post he held until November 2011.[55]

In 2011, Pace led opposition to the proposed Fiscal Year 2011-2012 state budget, which included $250 million in cuts to education, closing the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility and eliminating an addiction recovery program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.[56] Pace announced that he would not seek reelection to his House district 46 seat in 2012, and would instead enter the race for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.

2012 legislative session

In 2012, Pace passed a bill to eliminate the estate tax on farming and ranching land,[57] and he sped up the air-quality approval process for the Pueblo steel mill and cement plant when the businesses faced a backlog at the state regulatory agency.[58] Pace resigned his position as House Minority Leader in 2012 to more-fully devote his attention to his campaign for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.

2012 Congressional election

Pace's race was touted as a primary example by Time Magazine of the role that so-called SuperPacs can play in winning an election. Having been in a statistical tie in the polls near October 1, the GOP money machine targeted the seat. Without Democrats matching, Pace ultimately lost.[59]

In mid-October, the group popped up in Pace's district, which is about the size of New York State, and promised to spend $1.3 million there in the campaign's final three weeks. In one day, Pace spokesman James Dakin Owens said, "They basically matched us dollar for dollar for everything we had raised in the campaign. It was an 800-pound gorilla that just jumped in." [60]

In May 2011, Pace announced plans to challenge freshman Republican Scott Tipton in the newly-redrawn Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.[61] His campaign has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the United Steelworkers, and the Blue Dog Coalition, among others.[62] The race was considered a toss up,[63] with both candidates statistically tied in early polling.[64]

In the 2012 General Election, Representative Pace faced Republican Congressman Scott Tipton. Tipton was declared the winner having been reelected by a margin of 53% to 41% with the remainder of the vote going to third-party candidates.[17][65][66]

Pueblo County

Pace currently serves as a County Commissioner in Pueblo County, Colorado. As one of three Commissioners, each elected County-wide, he represents the 165,000 residents of Pueblo County.[67] Pace was selected by the Pueblo County Democratic Vacancy Committee as the replacement for Former County Commissioner Jeff Chostner's seat.[68]

After his efforts to save the Southwest Chief Rail Line connecting Los Angeles to Chicago, Pace receive the highest national recognition from Amtrak, the President's Safety and Service Award.[69]

He recently helped pass an expanded Southwest Chief and Front Range Rail Commission, which will become Colorado law in July, 2017 [70]

Pace created the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund, which continues to provide a scholarship to all graduating seniors attending local colleges using cannabis excise tax revenues.[10]

Pace also helped to lead the largest local job boom in decades, by shaping Pueblo into the regulated cannabis farming capital of Colorado, leading to over a hundred million of outside investments into Pueblo, and thousands of new jobs.[71]

Pace helped to shape the Institute of Cannabis Research at CSU-P, solidly placing Pueblo in the best position to benefit from the impending research boom to occur from medicinal cannabis and relevant research.[72]

Pace led efforts to fund numerous programs from the taxation of regulated cannabis, from Runyon Field improvements to drug prevention counselors in middle schools.[73]

He also forged the successful ballot issue 1A to fund, without raising taxes, community enhancement projects utilizing expiring corporate tax incentives. Future funded projects include Pueblo's Amtrak stop, Riverwalk expansion, a downtown baseball stadium & youth sports complex, a community center, park improvements, road work, and several other community investment projects [74]


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  29. ^ a b "UPDATED - Sal Pace: The truth about Colorado - VTDigger". VTDigger. 2017-06-26. Retrieved .
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  48. ^ Ashby, Charles (14 November 2008). "DOC chief stands by Colorado Springs for new headquarters. The house is in session until May". Pueblo Chieftain. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved .
  49. ^ "House Democrats Unveil 2009 Committee Chairs & Assignments" (Press release). Colorado House Democrats. 18 November 2008. Archived from the original on 3 January 2010.
  50. ^ Ashby, Charles (29 January 2009). "Legislative Briefs". Pueblo Chieftain. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved .
  51. ^ Hoover, Tim (5 January 2010). "McFayden named to replace Curry as speaker pro tem". Denver Post. Retrieved .
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  54. ^ "Our Campaigns - CO State House 046 Race - Nov 02, 2010".
  55. ^ "Sal Pace steps down as Colorado House Democratic leader". Denver Business Journal. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  56. ^ Malone, Patrick (11 April 2011). "Pace to lead House charge against budget". Pueblo Chieftain. Retrieved 2012.
  57. ^ Colson, John (22 May 2012). "Hickenlooper signs bills at South Canyon gun range". Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 2012.
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  60. ^ Scherer, Michael. "Dark Money: The Rise of Outside Spending in 2012". Time – via
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  62. ^ "Press Kit - Endorsements" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  63. ^ "Poll shows Pace, Tipton in statistical dead heat". Real Aspen. 3 Oct 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  64. ^ Livingston, Abby (8 Oct 2012). "Montana Senate Race Is Key to GOP Gaining Control of Chamber". Roll Call. Retrieved 2012.
  65. ^ "CO - Election Results - Colorado Secretary of State".
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  67. ^
  68. ^ "Democrat Sal Pace appointed to Pueblo County commission". Denver Post.
  69. ^ chieftain, anthony a. mestas the pueblo. "Commissioner Pace wins Amtrak award; his efforts to save 'Chief' recognized".
  70. ^ "Exploration of Front Range rail service gets nod amid uncertainty for Amtrak routes". 19 April 2017.
  71. ^ Ogburn, Stephanie Paige. "Can The Pot Economy Replace Pueblo's Lost Blue Collar Jobs?".
  72. ^, RACHEL RILEY. "CSU-Pueblo gets $270k for marijuana research".
  73. ^ CHIEFTAIN, ANTHONY A. MESTAS THE PUEBLO. "Pot sales tax bill clears hurdle for Pueblo County projects".
  74. ^ chieftain, anthony a. mestas the pueblo. "Pace: Pueblo revenue question not for bigger government".

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