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Registered: 07/26/04
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Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06 [CO]
    #5114656 - 12/28/05 11:43 AM (15 years, 2 months ago)

Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06
December 28, 2005 - rockymountainnews.com

Opposition ready to give legalization debate center stage

The same pro-pot group that persuaded Denver voters to approve a measure legalizing adult marijuana possession in the city is now firing up a statewide campaign to place an identical initiative on Colorado's fall 2006 ballot.

The group, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, plans to hold a news conference this morning outside the State Capitol announcing the launch of the effort. The statewide "Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative," seeks voter approval to make it legal for people 21 or older to possess 1 ounce or less of weed.

Even if the measure passes, it would remain illegal for people to publicly display or smoke pot, sell it or drive under its influence.

The group will need nearly 68,000 voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but SAFER Campaign Director Mason Tvert said he plans to gather about 100,000 signatures.

Tvert said the statewide campaign is largely driven by frustration that Denver authorities, rejecting voter passage of local Initiative 100, continue to cite small-time marijuana violators under a state law that imposes a $200 fine for possession of an ounce or less. The initiative gives adults in Denver the right to privately possess that amount.

"Elected officials in Denver have been true to their word and completely ignored the will of the voters," Tvert told the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday. "We only have one option left and that's to change state law."

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said he welcomed a "head-on, outright debate about legalization." He expressed frustration with the state medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 2000, saying: "It was obviously advocated by legalization advocates, but they didn't want to take the issue on head-on."

"But," Suthers added, "my personal opinion is it would be terrible public policy to legalize possession of any amount of marijuana. The information that we now have is that marijuana is a dangerous drug."

Pro-pot forces also are itching for the coming battle.

"Bring it on," Tvert said. "I'll gladly challenge the attorney general to defend current public policy that pushes people to use a deadly drug (alcohol) when they otherwise might use a far less dangerous drug (marijuana)."

Countered Suthers: "The premise of this group seems to be that marijuana is better than alcohol, therefore it's OK. I just don't buy that. I never engage in the moral relativism that this is a lesser evil . . . therefore we ought to promote this evil."

The 23-year-old Tvert surprised political observers in the Nov. 1 election by winning nearly 54 percent support to pass Initiative 100.

SAFER drew criticism from local leaders and made international headlines for an unconventional campaign that argued marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol.

Now, Tvert already appears to be reaching out to Colorado's more conservative voters outside Denver by pitching the statewide measure as "a big issue of local rights and home-rule."

"If this initiative passes, it's not going to suddenly make marijuana completely legal for all adults in Colorado," Tvert stressed. "All home-rule cities and towns in Colorado, which is about 90 percent of the state's population, will have the ability to fine or penalize marijuana users if that's what they want to do."

"But in cities such as Denver, where . . . voters have chosen to allow residents to make the rational decision to use marijuana instead of alcohol, state law will no longer force police and prosecutors to punish marijuana users," he added.

Political analyst Eric Sondermann noted, "There are two huge differences" between pushing a pot measure in Denver and campaigning for one statewide.

It was easier to persuade Denver voters to pass a "primarily symbolic" measure, Sondermann added, because they knew it would have no consequences, given that Colorado drug policy is set by state law. "If and when they take this statewide, it will have consequences. They will be amending state statute."

More importantly, Sondermann said: "Delta is not Denver," referring to the conservative Western Slope town. "The biggest factor is simply the demographics, cultural attitudes and political performance are very, very different just going to the Denver suburbs. But particularly when you go to the outlying areas, they get night-and-day different."

Indeed, the day after Denver's pot initiative passed, Republican Gov. Bill Owens said he'd love to see a statewide marijuana showdown.

"The governor doesn't believe the Denver vote is representative of what the entire state vote would be on this issue," Owens' spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said Tuesday. "He believes that we would get an entirely different result."

"Obviously this is something that he doesn't support and wouldn't support," Hopkins added.

But national marijuana reform advocates think it's a mistake to dismiss SAFER's success.

"For anybody who would underestimate SAFER, I would say a lot of people underestimated them in Denver," said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project. The Washington, D.C-based group has qualified a statewide November measure in Nevada that asks voters to tax and regulate pot.

"I certainly wouldn't brush them off by any means," he added.

Mirken noted that SAFER convinced many Denver residents to rethink the marijuana issue and the local victory "means increased momentum for consideration of the whole issue."

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown criticized SAFER's Initiative 100 campaign for lawn signs reading "Make Denver SAFER," calling it a blatant attempt to fool voters into thinking it was an effort to fund more city police officers.

"Now that the word is out about how they, in my judgment, tried to mislead people, I hope that their statewide campaign is not based on mendacities and half-truths," Brown said. "I hope they can come straight with the Colorado voters and we'll see who wins."

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, while expressing concerns about marijuana being a "gateway drug" that can spawn harmful addictions, didn't actively campaign against Initiative 100.

The mayor's spokeswoman, Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, said she doubted Hickenlooper would take an active role against the measure. "Clearly, going statewide was always (SAFER's) strategy - and understandably so since municipal approaches like Initiative 100 are trumped by state law," she added.

Easing pot laws

States that have passed laws imposing little or no fines and no jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana:

• Alaska

• California

• Colorado

• Maine

• Minnesota

• Mississippi

• Nebraska

• Nevada

• New York

• N. Carolina

• Ohio

• Oregon

States that have passed medical marijuana laws:

• Alaska

• California

• Colorado

• Hawaii

• Maine

• Maryland

• Montana

• Nevada

• Oregon

• Vermont

• Washington

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Re: Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06 [CO] [Re: veggie]
    #5119515 - 12/29/05 06:07 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

slowly, slowly does the change come....
But the ball has shaken the moss, apparently. :smile:

Good luck Colorado!

"..all those molecules thrashing their kinky little tails, hot for destiny and the street."  Gibson

Nuke baby seals for Jesus!

(This has been a +1 production.)

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The Duk Abides

Registered: 05/17/03
Posts: 94,392
Loc: Earthfarm 1 Flag
Re: Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06 [CO] [Re: Randolph_Carter]
    #5119654 - 12/29/05 07:07 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)


Randolph Carter said:
slowly, slowly does the change come....
But the ball has shaken the moss, apparently. :smile:

Good luck Colorado!

Indeed! This should be the ball that gets things really rolling....

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Registered: 08/09/05
Posts: 2,414
Last seen: 15 years, 1 month
Re: Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06 [CO] [Re: Randolph_Carter]
    #5119708 - 12/29/05 07:22 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

wow it looks like more and more states will eventually except this law.

i would love to see what a law like this what do to a place that i live in.

No matter what I say and no matter what I write here.

I'm sick of always looking at this page with a blank stare.

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Re: Pro-pot group aims at state law in '06 [CO] [Re: ShroomArtist84]
    #5120951 - 12/30/05 02:07 AM (15 years, 2 months ago)

That would be great to even see on the ballot.

Ohio laws are pretty nice. I dont feel paranoid about having a casual marijuana habit. I never have more then 100g. Less then 100g is civil citation to show up at court to get fined 100bucks lose your liscence and pay court fees.

This is the only time I really feel alive.

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