Three marijuana legalization initiatives, two medical marijuana initiatives, and one sentencing reform initiative are on state ballots this year. We'll be running a feature story on one of them each week between now and election day, but we've created this short-term feature to keep up with all of them. Here's what's happening:
Last Wednesday, supporters and foes of the medical marijuana initiative sparred in court over ballot summary language. Opponents are attempting to knock the initiative off the ballot by challenging the language, but supporters say it is fair and want the state Supreme Court to block the move. If it stays on the ballot and passes, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would be the first such initiative passed in the South.
Last Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper came out in opposition to Amendment 64, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. He said that making marijuana legal would send the wrong message about drug use. "Colorado is known for many great things -- marijuana should not be one of them," Hickenlooper wrote.
That provoked an immediate, tart response from Mason Tvert of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Governor Hickenlooper's statement today ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics," said Tvert. "After building a personal fortune by selling alcohol to Coloradans, he is now basing his opposition to this measure on concerns about the health of his citizens and the message being sent to children. We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not. The public health costs of alcohol use overall are approximately eight times greater per person than those associated with marijuana. And alcohol use is associated with violent crime. Marijuana use is not."
Also last Wednesday, a Denver district judge allowed a state-issued voters' guide to proceed even though the Campaign had challenged it as grossly imbalanced after a legislative committee edited the wording. The voters' guide now contains 366 words opposing the measure and only 208 supporting it.
Also last Wednesday, the Colorado University Board of Regents formally opposed Amendment 64. "We are expressing to parents and future students that we oppose Amendment No. 64 because it's against state laws and federal laws and we're law abiding regents," regent Tillie Bishop explained. Following the vote, Bishop offered an open invitation to his fellow regents to attend the 21st annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, which began last Thursday in Palisade.
Last Saturday, the latest poll had Amendment 64 leading 51% to 40%, with 8% undecided. The average of all polls so far has Amendment 64 leading by 49.7% to 39.3%.
On Wednesday, the Colorado Education Association opposed Amendment 64, this after campaign organizers had included language directing funds to public school construction in a bid to at least have the group stay neutral.
"We're sorry to hear the Colorado Education Association has been convinced to embrace a position counter to the interests of students and parents," Mason Tvert responded. "In fact, it was CEA that suggested tax revenue raised through the initiative should benefit public school construction in Colorado. We agreed it would be a good use of new revenue, and we are proud to say that Amendment 64 would direct tens of millions of dollars per year toward improving Colorado schools. It's odd that our opponents are criticizing the idea of Amendment 64 directing new revenue toward public school construction, as it was embraced by the CEA when it contributed that very idea during the drafting process. In fact, when we consulted with CEA during the drafting of the initiative they indicated they would be remaining neutral on the issue, but that's politics for you. It's understandable that an organization like CEA would want to toe the line of the powers that be, but it's unfortunate that they are playing politics when the future of Colorado schools -- and the health and safety of our children -- are at stake."
Also on Wednesday, the campaign announced pending endorsements from national law enforcement groups and former law enforcement officials. The endorsing groups are the National Latino Officers Association and Blacks in Law Enforcement in America. They will hold a press conference Thursday.
Last Tuesday, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis announced he had given $465,000 to the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, the ballot committee behind Question 3, the medical marijuana initiative. The brings the total raised by the committee to $512,860, compared to $600 raised by the opposition Vote No on Question 3 committee.
Last Thursday, a spoof site ridiculing medical marijuana opponents grabbed the Vote No on Question 3 domain name, even though the opposition group had listed it on the state voters' guide. (They forgot to register it.) Now the address is home to a web page warning that medical marijuana is a gateway to "Twinkie addiction."
On Monday, the latest polling had Question 3 winning with 59% of the vote. The opposition was at 35%, with 6% undecided. The yes vote was a slight increase over the previous poll.
On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the medical marijuana initiative will not be on the ballot. The secretary of state had blocked the initiative, saying there was ample evidence that University of North Dakota football players hired as signature gatherers had committed fraud by forging signatures. Proponents of the measure sought to get the court to overturn the secretary of state's decision, to no avail.
On Monday, state Rep. Peter Buckley endorsed Measure 80, the state's tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. "Overall, legalization would take the black market out of Oregon," said Buckley (D-Ashland) who has served as co-chairman of the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee for the past two sessions.
On Monday, a new political action committee was formed to raise funds for Measure 80. Oregonians for Law Reform co-director Sam Chapman said, "Ending prohibition is an idea whose time has come, again. We will urge voters to rally behind Measure 80, not get bogged down in the typical pro and con rhetoric around the details of an initiative. We must show our support for this measure to help build momentum for victory, either in November or some time soon."
On Tuesday, a new poll had Measure 80 trailing 41% to 37%, with 22% undecided.
Last Monday, the Children's Alliance endorsed Initiative 502, the state's tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. The Children's Alliance is a Seattle-based advocacy group with more than 100 social-service agencies as members. "The status quo is not working for children, particularly children of color," said deputy director Don Gould. "Public policy ought to move us further toward racial equity and justice, and Initiative 502 is one step forward to that."
Last Wednesday, a new poll had I-502 winning with 57% of the vote and only 34% opposed. Support is up 3% over a June poll.