Colorado Marijuana Legalization Proponents Lose Battle Over Deleted Text In State Voter Guide Book
The Huffington Post
On Wednesday, a Denver District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to reinsert key supportive arguments for Colorado's marijuana legalization ballot measure Amendment 64 in the state's voter guide. The Colorado Legislative Council had deleted the text in a hearing last week.
Judge Robert Hyatt dismissed the case because of a jurisdictional issue, not because of the merits of the campaign's case against the Colorado Legislative Council. But, either way, the "Arguments For" marijuana legalization will not appear in the state voter guide, known as the "blue book."
The campaign says that the "Arguments For" Amendment 64 section of of the blue book is now just 208 words following the deletion, whereas the "Arguments Against" section is approximately 366 words -- meaning "Against" has nearly 75 percent more words than the "For" section. "The blue book is supposed to be fair and balanced, and it's safe to say this is quite lopsided and, thus, unfair," the campaign said in a statement.
"This was not a loss for our campaign; this was a loss for the people of Colorado, who will not receive the fair and impartial election information promised to them by our state constitution," Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said in a statement. "No objective person would look at a 366- to 208 word-count disparity and consider it to be 'fair and impartial.'"
"This is just the latest example of government officials skewing information about marijuana and deceiving the public in order to maintain the wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition." Tvert said. "It started with Richard Nixon throwing out the Shafer Commission report, which declared marijuana relatively harmless, and launching the war on marijuana. And now it continues with the Colorado Legislative Council improperly deleting key information from a state voter guide."
Public dismay with the Legislative Council's actions has resulted in more than 4,000 new supporters joining the Yes on 64 campaign's email list in the past 24 hours, the campaign said in a press release about the dismissal of the court case.
To which Tvert added: "We are comforted by the fact that such egregious deception of the pubic will provide further momentum for our campaign. The public doesn't like being deceived and many voters may end up voting for Amendment 64 as a protest vote against a dishonest government."
In an op-ed, The Denver Post agreed with the Amendment 64 proponents, saying that the legislative committee "erred" in their blue book edits. Via The Denver Post:
There's no question that several of the most common arguments made on behalf of it have been edited from the blue book that goes to voters.Worse, the legislative committee that took out the language did so more or less by accident. At least six of its members didn't realize what was happening and later voted unsuccessfully to restore the language.
The blue book was scheduled to go to print Monday, but after a hearing Monday afternoon in Denver District Court, an attorney representing the state agreed to postpone the printing until after a Wednesday afternoon hearing could take place allowing both the Colorado Legislative Council and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to debate the language in the ballot book.
State law requires the blue book to include major arguments in suport of each state issue that will appear on the ballot, however the campaign says that the legislative committee unfairly deleted three of the proponents' key arguments in support of the initiative:
- Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol.
- The consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe.
- Law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.
The campaign says that the modification was "improper" because it wasn't brought about by a "true" two-thirds majority vote -- a so-called supermajority -- which is required to make modifications.
Proponents of Amendment 64 also said that the modification was made in confusion and that the lawmakers did not intend to delete the lines. The campaign summarized the events in a statement:
Sen. Mark Scheffel made a motion to amend the first of three paragraphs in the "Arguments For" section of the blue book, and it was approved unanimously by the Council. A short time later, members realized the motion had deleted the last three sentences of the five-sentence paragraph, whereas they thought it would only remove a few words from the first two sentences. To rectify the mistake, Rep. Mark Ferrandino made a motion to reinsert the three sentences, and it was seconded by Rep. Lois Court. The Council voted 8-5 in support of the motion, but it failed because it did not receive the two-thirds vote required to modify the draft. As a result, the key arguments in support of Amendment 64 were deleted without true two-thirds support.
"I don't think he was trying to cause confusion," Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said to The Denver Post. "But it did cause confusion."
Group seeks to legalize marijuana for 21 and older
Charmie Gholson, communications director for the Committee for a Safer Michigan, said the group will kick off the campaign and petition drive in mid-January.
The group wants to get a question on the November 2012 ballot asking voters to amend the Michigan constitution to make marijuana legal for most adults age 21 and older. Adults who have not been incarcerated would be able to legally use and carry, cultivate and manufacture, and acquire and sell marijuana, according to a draft version of the petition. People would not be allowed to operate boats, aircraft, motor vehicles or dangerous and heavy machinery and equipment while impaired by marijuana.
The group needs 322,609 valid signatures to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, according to an email Gholson sent to the Times Herald. Petitions must be filed with the Secretary of State by July 9.
"This is important because the dangerous charade we are playing called 'the war on (some) drugs' needs to end," according to a statement in Gholson's email. "Marijuana prohibition does not and will not be effective in reducing or eliminating use, and it is not a viable harm reduction strategy. Outlawing (prohibiting) marijuana has not reduced its availability, made society safe or reduced access to marijuana for minors."
The group's effort to amend the state's constitution is a response to officials and authorities that have interfered with the implementation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, according to the Committee for a Safer Michigan. The group states Michigan legislators, law enforcement, judicial activists and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette have "steadily worked to remove the protections provided in the act."
Debra Amsdill, owner of the Blue Water Compassion Centers in Kimball, Worth and Denmark townships, said the state's current medical marijuana program has flaws.
"I'm all for personal choice. I do believe that it should be regulated somehow," Amsdill said. "And I think if we, as a society, came to understand the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and we worked together instead of against each other, then it could really work."
Amsdill said she supports decriminalizing marijuana. She agreed she would be in favor of making marijuana legal for people aged 21 and older.
Mark Sochacki, of Port Huron, doesn't see things the same way.
Sochacki, 35, works as the manager of the Blue Water Compassion Center in Kimball Township. He said people with medical ailments -- such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease -- have a valid reason for using the drug.
Speaking as a medical marijuana advocate, Sochacki said he personally did not agree with legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
"It takes away from the legitimacy of the medical use," Sochacki said.
Area police pointed out marijuana available today isn't the same as what was available to previous generations.
St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon said today's pot is more potent than what existed in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s.
He didn't agree with making marijuana legal for people 21 and older. The more access people have to marijuana, the more challenging it will be for law enforcement to prevent people from getting behind the wheel while high, he said.
Port Huron Police Chief Michael Reaves said the legalization of marijuana needs to be debated and looked into from all sides. But he didn't agree with attempts to amend the state's constitution -- calling it a "knee-jerk" reaction.
"It's time that we really have a discussion -- an informed, intelligent discussion -- regarding marijuana," he said.
Colorado marijuana effort seeks older, budget-minded voters
JULY, 7 2011 KRISTEN WYATT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — A campaign to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use in Colorado is aimed at middle-aged, budget-conscious voters — not the pot smokers typically associated with such efforts.
Two marijuana legalization advocates started a signature drive Thursday to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that they say would regulate and tax recreational marijuana to raise money for schools without making make weed available to all.
The representatives of the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" wore suits and stood on a public lawn before the state Capitol and made their case that marijuana legalization would raise needed tax revenues and save money spent on arresting and prosecuting small-time pot users.
Again and again, they talked about how they would aim to limit the legalization effort — only for adults and only in small quantities.
"It'll be the strictest control and regulation of marijuana in history," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, a pot-legalization group that helped put forward the proposed ballot measure.
Another of the organizers, Mason Tvert, said the campaign wants to appeal to Republicans and older voters, not just young people who typically turn up at smoke-filled pot rallies. A 2006 measure to legalize marijuana in Colorado was soundly defeated, as was a legalization measure last year in California.
"We think this is going to appeal to a lot more people," Tvert said.
If approved, the measure would make small amounts of pot legal starting in 2013. Marijuana could be sold at newly designated stores and subject to state licensing. Adults would be allowed to have up to six plants. And pot would be subject to sales taxes and an additional state excise tax of 15 percent, with the money designated for public schools. The proposal allows local governments to prohibit commercial pot sales.
"This is shifting from a prohibition paradigm to a regulation paradigm," Tvert said.
Tvert and Vicente brushed aside concerns that the amendment would set up a federal showdown over marijuana. They point out that medical marijuana is also illegal under federal law, but 16 states allow its use.
"It's time for states to step up and take the lead on recreational marijuana the way they did on medical marijuana," Vicente said.
But the suggestion to heavily regulate pot has miffed some marijuana activists, who are working on a rival proposal with fewer restrictions on marijuana. Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute said in a statement to reporters the existing petition shouldn't be considered full legalization.
"It is merely sentencing reform, nothing more," the statement to reporters said.
A ballot measure needs about 86,000 valid signatures to make ballots next year.
Divisions within industry come into the open
Gene Davis, DDN Staff Writer
thedenverdailynews.com Monday, May 23, 2011
Maybe they could find some common ground........-UA
Rifts between two different groups pushing for the legalization of marijuana in Colorado continued to grow last week after one coalition went ahead with a so-called “conservative” attempt to legalize marijuana in 2012.
Legalize 2012, one of activist groups plotting a legalization ballot initiative, on Friday blasted another coalition for filing eight different versions of a legalization initiative that they say “appeals to law enforcement.” Laura Kriho, a driving force behind Legalize 2012, was particularly upset with members of the coalition that includes the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), and Sensible Colorado for filing their initiative with the Secretary of State without giving them much time to review the initiative’s language.
“I’m not sure why they did this without telling anybody,” said a statement from Kriho. “Even the legislature gave us more notice to comment on their proposed legislation than they did. It really shows their bad faith.”
However, Mason Tvert of SAFER said Legalize 2012 was shown the language of the initiative about a week before they filed it. Tvert said they asked Kriho and Legalize 2012 for any suggestions and feedback on the language but did not receive any.
“Rather than provide any suggestions, they spent a week complaining,” he said.
Tvert said the coalition submitted eight different versions of the legalization initiative to see what language would pass the Title Setting Review Board, which has to approve an initiative before it can go on the ballot. All of the versions have the same basic idea Ń legalize marijuana use and possession of up to an ounce for people over the age of 21 Ń though they differ when it comes to issues like taxes and earmarking.
Legalize 2012 is against the initiative’s one-ounce limit because they believe it could create confusion since possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is currently considered a “petty offense.” The group also worries that the one-ounce limit would require the Department of Revenue to convert their Patient and Medicine Tracking Database and Surveillance System to a “massive database” for marijuana users so authorities could track how much marijuana is bought and sold.
“The lines have been clearly set now on the division of cannabis reform policy in Colorado,” says a press release from Legalize 2012. “The MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative has chosen to ignore any local efforts for a real legalization ballot initiative in favor of writing an initiative that appeals to law enforcement.”
However, Tvert thinks the versions of the legalization initiative that were filed have the best possible language to achieve the goal of legalizing marijuana. He said while he might not agree with everything in the eight versions of the initiative, the language has been studied by lawyers, has taken into consideration the feedback of thousands of people and has a good chance of making it onto the ballot in 2012.
“It’s unfortunate that (Legalize 2012) is spending its time and energy fracturing the marijuana reform movement and not working to build support for legalization instead,” said Tvert. “It’s easier to tear something down than it is to build something up.”
Tvert is confident that their legalization initiative could pass even without the support of groups like Legalize 2012.
He pointed to polls that were issued this year that found approximately 50 percent of Coloradans support legalizing marijuana. SAFER ran a legalization effort in 2006 that failed on a 61-38 percent vote, but Tvert believes more people have become in favor of legalization since then.
However, Legalize 2012 is less sure that the coalition’s initiative will pass if it does not have the entire marijuana community’s support.
“This unilateral move by MMP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER cast doubts that any cannabis law reform ballot initiative in Colorado would be successful,” the group says in a press release.
Colorado pot backers aim for legalization vote in 2012
By Tim Hoover 5-19
The Denver Post
The DEA doesn't know what they would do because they are not used to going after criminals. If all the medical marijuana users weren't criminals anymore, who would they go after?-UA
All of the initiatives would ask voters in 2012 to legalize the use and possession — an ounce or less — of marijuana for those 21 and older, and all would allow the state to set up a regulatory structure for retail sales of pot.
If approved by voters, the initiatives also would allow people to legally grow up to six marijuana plants. The initiatives all specify, however, that they would not permit the public consumption of marijuana.
"I think people in this state have come to understand that marijuana is not the dangerous substance that law enforcement and the federal government have made it out to be," said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, which supports legalization.
Coloradans in 2000 passed Amendment 20, which eventually led to the state's present system of medical marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. Critics have said the system is a nudge-nudge, wink-wink way to legally sell and use pot for those who are not truly ill or suffering from pain.
In 2006, voters shot down a ballot measure to legalize pot with 59 percent of voters opposed.
While 14 states and the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana, no state has voted to legalize the substance. Even left-leaning California voters shot down a legalization measure last year.
Mike Turner, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said he didn't know what the DEA would do if marijuana were legalized in Colorado.
"I guess it would be something very similar to the marijuana situation in Colorado right now," Turner said. "It would be in direct conflict with federal law."
Some versions of of the initiatives specify that a 15 percent state excise tax would be imposed on wholesale transactions of marijuana, something supporters estimate would generate up to $35 million a year. One version would earmark the revenue for public school infrastructure.
There are eight variations of the initiatives, Vicente said, so that supporters can see which of them contains language that will pass the state's Title Setting Review Board. The three-member panel determines if initiatives meet the constitution's single subject requirement.
State Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, an outspoken critic of medical marijuana and a three-decade career police officer, doubted Coloradans would vote for legalization. They voted in favor of Amendment 20 because they wanted to help chronically ill people who were suffering, not legalize recreational pot, King said.
"I honestly believe that when Coloradans go to the ballot box," he said, "they're going to vote no to dope in Colorado."
Colorado May Become The New Pot Legalization Battleground
Great people, beautiful landscape, A+ meds.......go Colorado! -UA
The Huffington Post/AP Matt Ferner : 05/16/11
Last October, the city of Pueblo decided to embrace the MMJ dispensaries by voting to enact a new 4.3% sales tax that could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in city revenue yearly, asNewsFirst5 reported in 2010.
Colorado is becoming the center of the new drug war - the full legalization of marijuana. California was the first battleground, but pot advocates didn't advance their agenda on the West coast as effectively as they hoped. And now pot advocates are looking for a new state to decriminalize this drug once and for all with sights set on a Colorado ballot measure in 2012, asThe Denver Post/AP reports.
Since the passing of Amendment 20 in 2000, Colorado has seen a meteoric rise in medical marijuana dispenseries over the course of the last decade and they are not just in Denver or Boulder, but also in small, sometimes rural towns all over the state. With many communities like Fort Collins suburb Windsor attempting to fight back the onslaught of applications to open up these shops, most of the fighting has been mostly ineffective.
And although the first legalization measure in the state, Amendment 44, was defeated by Colorado voters in 2006, activists are not giving up.
And pot activists have reason to celebrate with some big legislative victories in just 2011 alone.
In March, state lawmakers did not ban edible marijuana products, but instead decided in favor of child-proof packaging on such products, as CBSDenver reported.
Over the weekend, a case against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, one of the first doctors in Colorado to be charged with writing loose MMJ recommendations and conspiracy to distribute marijuana after writing a recommendation to an undercover cop, was thrown out of court. Arapahoe County District Judge Kurt Horton ruled that Dr. Mestas had complied with Colorado's state constitution after all. As9News reports, Dr. Mestas victory immediately threw another pot case against a different doctor into a tailspin and sets a new precedent for other practicing pot doctors.
And earlier this month, as 9News reported, possession of synthetic pot known as "K2" or "Spice" is on its way to having more severe legal consequences which eliminates some alternative competition to consumption of real marijuana. As well as the Colorado senators rejecting the "driving while high" bill last week, which would have imposed stricter consequences if a driver was pulled over with pot in their bloodstream, as The Daily Camera reports.
Groups in favor of full legalization of pot are looking to start gathering signatures for a ballot measure starting this summer, as The Denver Post reports. Colorado is a smart choice for marijuana legalization advocates because of a large citizenry with progressive views on the use of the drug as well as the low amount of signatures needed to produce a ballot initiative - approximately 86,000 signatures are all that are needed.
Professor Sam Kamin of the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law told The Denver Post that he believes Colorado will be the next battleground: