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.”