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8 initiatives to legalize pot seek spots on 2012 Colorado ballot May 20, 2011 - Denver Post
Pot backers have filed eight initiatives with the state aimed at legalizing marijuana.
All of the initiatives would ask voters in 2012 to legalize the use and possession of marijuana — an ounce or less — 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 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 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 contain language that will pass the state's Title Setting Review Board. The three-member panel determines whether 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.