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Marijuana: Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Kinky Friedman Says Legalize It

Independent Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman said Wednesday he favors legalizing marijuana. In an interview with the Associated Press, the musician turned author turned would-be Lone Star state governor said legalizing the weed would keep nonviolent users out of prison, adding that he would seek the release of those currently behind bars for marijuana offenses.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kinkyfriedman.jpg
Kinky Friedman
"I think that's long overdue," Friedman said. "I think everybody knows what John McCain said is right: We've pretty well lost the war on drugs doing it the way we're doing it. Drugs are more available and cheaper than ever before. What we're doing is not working."

Friedman is running against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry (R), Democratic candidate Chris Bell, and Republican-turned-independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, none of whom have called for marijuana legalization. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Friedman may need a massive stoner voter turnout -- he came in last with 16%, compared with 18% for Bell, 22% for Strayhorn, and Perry with 33%. There is no run-off election in Texas.

The humorist and raconteur's campaign had originally been viewed as a joke by most observers, but at 16% of the vote, Friedman can have a real impact on the race. And as the campaign heads for its climax, he has been articulating serious positions on issues like immigration (send 10,000 Texas National Guard to the border), crime (send $100 million to Houston to help police a city awash with Katrina refugees), and taxes (less of 'em).

But all seriousness aside, it is Friedman's comic sensibilities that have always made him stand out. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, he formed the outrageously named Kinky Friedman & His Texas Jewboys, featuring tunes like the "Okie from Muskogee" parody "Asshole from El Paso," the self-explanatory "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed," and the anti-semitism-confronting "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore."

And he's still got it on the campaign trail. "I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads and property taxes," he said. As for the possibility of losing: "If I lose this race I will retire in a petulant snit," he said. "I'm not going to go out gracefully, I promise you."

AP Interview: Kinky Friedman Calls for the Legalization of Marijuana

Location: 
TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/state/15511424.htm

Report from the National New Democratic Party Convention in Quebec

Report from DANA LARSEN President, eNDProhibition The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP. http://www.endprohibition.ca MY EXPERIENCES AT THE NDP CONVENTION I came to the federal NDP Convention in Quebec, to promote our organization, eNDProhibition, NDP against the drug war. We had a group of 8 delegates who came to the convention specifically to support eNDProhibition, work our two tables and promote our marijuana and drug policy resolutions. Preparing for the convention had been frustrating. I had intended on buying a full-page ad in the convention guide, but no-one ever responded to the ad purchase form I Xpressposted to their office, nor the many phone messages and emails I left over a six-week period. However, they did get back to me about the two tables for us to promote our group, and when we got to the convention we did indeed have the promised space reserved for us. The display tables were in a smaller room away from the main convention hall, and when it turned out that we needed more electrical outlets the fellow came promptly and installed them very quickly and professionally. RESOLUTIONS AND DEBATES A key to any convention is the priority given to the resolutions. Every convention receives hundreds of resolutions, and there will only be time to actually debate and confirm the party's official support for a very small fraction of the total. So if you have a resolution you want passed, you want it to be within the top 5 in its category. This was the first federal convention to use a new method for dealing with resolutions, the "Saskatchewan Method" as it originated in that province. I think that previous conventions used the same method currently employed by the NDP in BC and some other provinces. That method is to have a committee sort through all the resolutions and then put them into a priority list. The list can be appealed but the committee has the final say in priorities. The new method at this convention was for a central committee to sort all resolutions into one of six categories, and then prioritize them within each category. Near the start of the convention, delegates can pick one of six simulatenous meetings, where they can vote on reorganizing the order of resolutions, and also amending them. There were two resolutions which our group was promoting, one calling for the NDP to introduce legislation calling for non-punitive marijuana policies, the other calling for expansion of the safe injection site program into any communities that wanted one. Our marijuana resolution had been passed by four riding associations, and three other different marijuana resolutions were passed by other groups. One of those was written by Libby Davies, and was a good resolution but not quite as strident as the others. All of the marijuana resolutions were clustered near the bottom of their category, except for the one written by Davies, which was placed at a reasonable 13. Not high enough to likely get debated, but good for a list of 95 resolutions. The safe injection site resolution had been placed in a different category, and given a priority in the 30s. I was surprised as it is a current issue and seems to have broad public support. We decided to focus our efforts on Libby Davies' pot resolution, hoping to amend it to make it a little stronger, and bump it up the list. But despite our best efforts we didn't succeed. Our motion to bump it up to number 5 was spoken against by MP Charlie Angus, who just said it shouldn't be a priority at this time. The motion to prioritize it to #5 was defeated by roughly 65%. We tried some other maneouvers to get something on harm reduction into an omnibus justice bill already at #5, but time for debate on that item ended just as I was about to speak. Although I wanted to get our resolution a higher priority, and I was annoyed by Charlie Angus' comment about it not being an important issue, something else happened during the meeting that was much worse, and which seemed like an organized subversion of the process. BLOCK VOTING Our policy section included other justice and human rights issues, including some resolutions on LGBT equality, and some opposing the changes to the age of consent law which have been proposed by the Conservatives. I figured that opposing change to the age of consent laws was a no-brainer and would pass easily. But when this item came up for debate and amendment, I looked behind me and saw a big crowd of people standing in the back of the room. A motion was made to "table" the resolution, which means sending it back to another committe for further analysis. This is one way of killing a resolution and also avoiding public debate on it. The motion to table carried, and then the big voting block left the room. Many people in the room were verbally and visibily pissed about this. These folks had apparently organized themselves and had entered a few debate rooms at key momments, to vote as a block on key issues. Delegates were supposed to pick one of the six rooms and stick to that section, but apparently these folks liked to bend the rules. An LGBT equality resolution came up next, and I tried to get them to slip in the conclusion of another resolution opposing change to the age of consent laws, but my amendment was ruled out of order. Svend Robinson spoke and got at least an amendment calling for the age of consent to be the same for both hetero and homosexual acts. So anyways, these sorts of shenanigans didn't impress me, although I did learn from them what it takes to get a resolution through, and how to block any you don't like. However, much of this maneouvering was academic anyways, as when it came time for the entire convention to debate the various policy sections which had been prioritized the day before, not much time was allowed and only the top 3-4 resolutions in each section got debated. So even if we had gotten our marijuana resolution bumped to #5 it still wouldn't have made the floor for debate. SAFE INJECTION SITE RESOLUTION PASSES We did get one resolution passed. Libby Davies pushed for a resolution supporting the safe injection site to get into the "emergency resolutions" section which get debated on the last day of convention. This resolution was listed as #6 of six resolutions, but we managed to speed through the other five and we got our resolution passed. So now the federal NDP has an official policy calling for Vancouver's safe injection site program to be continued, and for other safe injection sites to be created in any other communities that want one. RUNNING FOR PREZ John Shavluk, delegate for Delta North, is a passionate member of our group and he was disappointed that our resolution didn't get to the floor. He decided to run for a pair of positions in the party so he could take the opportunity to draw attention to the importance of our issue. Shavluk ran for BC Provincial Council rep, and also President of the NDP. In both cases he was running against a single opponent who had broad support. I only caught one of his two speeches, but he did a good job and used his three minutes to explain that marijuana and prohibition were important issues which the NDP should support. He didn't win either post of course, but he did a nice job and I think delegates respected his position. MEETING AND GREETING In terms of meeting people, handing out our information, networking and building grassroots support, the convention was a success. We gave out about 800 buttons, hundreds of copies of our newsletter, a big stack of LEAP DVDs, dozens of copies of Drug War Facts, and a batch of BC Civil Liberties Association flyers. We also met some enthusiastic people who agreed to start eNDProhibition chapters in their provinces. In the next issue of the End Prohibition News we'll be listing contact info for our Directors in seven provinces: BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. I spoke briefly with both Stephen Lewis and Jack Layton. Lewis agreed to let me interview him for a future issue of End Prohibition News, and Layton told our group that he had supported our cause since 1973, and to keep up the good work. We missed the big party on Saturday night, jetlag and early mornings caught up with most of our crew. But on Friday night we had a great time smoking up everyone in the outdoor backroom of the NDP party bar. We blazed three massive bombers and endless bowls of BC hash, until a waiter finally asked if we could move the toking outside. So all in all I'm glad that we were at the convention, and although our marijuana resolution joined the other 98% of resolutions which didn't get debated, we did garner a great deal of support for our cause. We met many like-minded people across Canada who share our goals, and we learned a great deal about how the convention process works, and what tactics would work best in the future. Over the next few months, I will be attending more NDP conventions across Canada on behalf of eNDProhibition. I will be at the Ontario Young New Democrat convention in October, the Saskatchewan NDP convention in November, the Ontario NDP convention in January, and I think the Manitoba NDP has a convention scheduled for March. At all these events I will be working with others to educate NDP delegates on the importance of these issues, and to pass resolutions against the drug war. -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - DANA LARSEN President, eNDProhibition The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP. http://www.endprohibition.ca
Location: 
Quebec, QC
Canada

Feature: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Stirs the Waters in Ireland

Retired Florida police chief and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) spokesman Jerry Cameron managed to put the drug debate squarely on the front burner with his appearance in Ireland last week. Cameron's address at the "Rethinking the War on Drugs" conference in Dublin, sponsored by a trio of Irish groups working on prison, drug policy and youth issues sparked numerous newspaper editorials and opinion pieces, filled the airwaves with talk about legalization, and forced the Irish government to respond.

Organized by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the drug charity Merchant's Quay, and the Union for Improved Services, Communication, and Education (UISCE), a group combining sports and Gaelic language learning, "Rethinking the War on Drugs" brought more than one hundred Irish politicians, government workers, reformers, and activists together on August 28. With Cameron as the keynote speaker, the conference certainly inspired Irish reflection on national drug policy.

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Jerry Cameron at the Dublin conference (courtesy IPRT)
That's just what the IPRT wanted, said executive director Rick Lines. "The IPRT doesn't have any formal policy supporting legalization or decriminalization," he told Drug War Chronicle. "However, we do work from an analysis that drug criminalization is a main driver of growing prison populations in Ireland, and is a main cause of high rates of HIV and Hep C infection in prisons. Therefore, examining alternatives to drug criminalization, and alternatives to prison for people who use drugs, must be a central part of the work done by penal reform organizations. I understand that this might make us a bit unusual among our sister organizations internationally. I am often told by people at harm reduction conferences that the prison reform organizations in their countries don't talk about drug laws at all. Whether this is true or not, I am not sure, but I hope it isn't."

For Lines, the conference and the attention it drew were a huge success. "The event was successful beyond all our expectations," he said. "The crowd was much bigger than anticipated -- standing room only -- as was the press coverage. We counted 26 separate TV, radio, and print outlets covering the event, and we may have missed some. As such, the event was a very successful beginning to reframing the debate on this issue, which was all we really hoped to accomplish."

"This was one of the better conferences I've been to," LEAP's Cameron told DRCNet. "The folks from the Irish Penal Reform Trust did a wonderful job of organizing it, and among those attending were a member of parliament and a member of the European Parliament, the immediate past Irish drug minister, several members of the probation system, a representative from the Garda [Irish police] -- it was a real cross-section of people interested in these issues. I have to say that the people from the Irish government were a lot more open-minded than the politicians I run into in the US."

The media attention was tremendous, Cameron said. "We were in every Irish newspaper the day after the conference. I also did a lot of work with Irish radio and TV stations," he explained. "I even appeared on a radio talk show where the woman arguing me was so crazed we had caller after caller calling in to reject her positions and argue for fundamental reform."

Indeed, the media response was intense and mostly favorable. The Irish Examiner covered the conference and Cameron's remarks the same day with a story titled "US Police Chief's Warning Over Doomed Drug Policy", while the Irish Times published a reaction piece, "Government Considered Legalizing Heroin", and the Examiner came back the next day with another reaction piece, "Legalizing Cannabis 'Would Result in State Being Sued'". But even those reaction pieces featuring government figures explaining why drugs could not possibly ever be legalized kept the discussion of drug prohibition in front of the Irish public.

By the end of last week, the Irish government was forced to respond directly. The man in charge of Irish drug treatment, Minister of State at the Department of Community Noel Ahern, called in reporters to tell them the government was rejecting calls for drug legalization. "We are not going in that direction," he said in remarks reported by Irish wire services. "And if there are moves in the future it would have to be dealt with on a worldwide basis. One country on its own cannot move. Holland tried for a few years ago and they're backing off big time because they realized they were bringing in drug tourism," Ahern added, misrepresenting current Dutch drug policies as he did.

"We wouldn't have expected anything else from the government response," said IPRT's Lines. "But again our main objective was really just to raise debate, and in that sense we were remarkably successful. To paraphrase one of the speakers at the event, if we had held a public forum 20 years ago talking about needle exchange, people would have thought it was a crazy idea, but now it is well established policy."

"The media storm is still going on," Cameron said Tuesday with a mixture of surprise and pleasure. "There have been a couple more columns in the last few days, one of which quoted me extensively. The tack I took went over quite well. I told them I was not there to tell Ireland how to conduct its business, but to tell them US drug policy has been a total failure and ask them to profit from our mistakes. They have a lot of talented people who can come up with Irish solutions for Irish problems. What we've done in the US sure hasn't worked," he said.

An op-ed in the Irish Independent last Sunday titled "The War Isn't Working So Is It Now Time to Consider the Unthinkable and Legalize All Drugs?" was typical of Irish press commentary. "Currently, there is more crime, disease, death and addiction than ever before," wrote the columnist. "He [Cameron] believes, and I share his view, that not one objective or goal of the 'war on drugs' has been met, and that the 'relegalization of drugs' is 'the only way to stop drugs falling
into the hands of our children, to make room for violent offenders to serve their full terms in our prisons, and to return law enforcement to its legitimate function of protecting our citizens.'"

A columnist in the Irish Examiner opined similarly the day before in a piece titled "We Are Losing the War on Drugs and Policy Should Be Stood On Its Head". In that piece, columnist Ryle Dwyer summarized Cameron's argument, added some of his own, and concluded thusly: "Using tried and tested tactics that have failed so dramatically is a cause of, not the answer to, our problems."

"The first step in any effort to promote policy change is to mainstream your perspective, and move it beyond being a 'crazy idea' and make it into a legitimate part of the public discourse," said IPRT's Lines. "One event won't accomplish this, but it is a start. The story continued on in the press in the days after the event, and I think this bodes well for continuing work on this issue, as perhaps we have helped open up safe space for others to make similar arguments themselves."

Conference by conference, op-ed by op-ed, radio show by radio show, the anti-prohibitionist message is spreading, and with the help of groups like LEAP and the IPRT, it is spreading into the mainstream.

Click here to watch the LEAP video online or donate $15 or more to DRCNet to order a copy of the DVD.

Marijuana: DEA Steps in Deep Doo-doo in Denver With Abortive Bid to Defeat November Legalization Initiative

Jeff Sweetin, the DEA special agent in charge in Denver, probably wishes he had just kept his mouth shut. It was bad enough that the University of Colorado newspaper the Daily Camera reported Sunday that one of his special agents had sent out an e-mail on a Department of Justice account seeking a campaign manager for “Colorado’s Marijuana Information Committee,” an apparent astroturf organization being set up to defeat the Colorado marijuana legalization initiative. That initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults.

But then Sweetin really stepped in it, telling the Daily Camera that the law "allows his agency to get involved in the process to tell voters why they shouldn’t decriminalize pot" and that the committee had raised $10,000 from "private donations, including some from agents' own accounts."

That was enough to draw out the initiative's sponsor, SAFER Colorado, which criticized the agency for unwarranted interference in a state electoral matter. "Taxpayer money should not be going toward the executive branch advocating one side or another," the group's executive director, Steve Fox, told the Daily Camera. "It's a wholly inappropriate use of taxpayer money."

But SAFER Colorado wasn’t alone in taking offense at the untoward DEA actions. The state's two largest and most influential newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, both condemned the move in editorials. The News' position was clear from its headline: "DEA Should Keep Out of State Politics."

The Post took a more concerned approach, worrying that the DEA politicking might pass the bounds of propriety, if not legality. "Providing facts to people who want them is one thing," the Post wrote. "Using the agency as a platform to influence elections is another. Sweetin says he clearly understands the difference. We certainly hope that's the case."

If Sweetin hoped the story would just go away, he didn’t help matters any when he further clouded the waters when KMGH-TV in Denver Tuesday reported that: "Sweetin said, despite reports to the contrary, his office is not campaigning against it or fundraising. When asked about the committee and the $10,000 mentioned in the E-mail, Sweetin said, 'There is no $10,000 in money that I've ever heard of.'"

That led SAFER Colorado to raise a whole series of questions about which version of the DEA activism was true, which they kindly sent to Colorado media. "We think it's really fishy that the same DEA agent who made it clear the committee had funds from private donors and agents is now saying he's never heard of this money," said campaign coordinator Mason Tvert. "We think DEA thought they could actively campaign against us, but then got told by some sort of legal counsel it couldn’t happen that way. In any case, we're just trying to spin this into the biggest story we can," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Gilberto Gil is Still Making Beautiful Music -- This Time About Drug Legalization

Music lovers have long appreciated Brazilian composer and musician Gilberto Gil's enormous talent and his contributions to bossa nova, tropicalismo, and other uniquely Brazilian music forms. Of course, Gil was never just a musician; he and Caetano Veloso, another giant of Brazilian music, were imprisoned by the military dictatorship in 1969 for "anti-government activities," and the pair went to exile in London and the US after they were released. Gil continued both his musical and political careers in the intervening decades, winning elective office in his home town of Salvador in 1990. When Lula Da Silva and the Workers' Party won power in 2003, Da Silva appointed Gil minister of culture. Now, Gil is speaking out on drug policy, and not for the first time. Last year, he told the newspaper Folha do Sao Paulo that he had been smoking pot for the last 50 years. But in an interview on Sunday with the newspaper O Globo, Gil went further, calling for the legalization of drugs. According to O Globo, Gil wants drug use and the drug trade treated as a public health matter, not a criminal one. "We have to treat cocaine addicts like we treat alcoholics," he said. While he seeks to reduce drug consumption, Gil said there are better ways than prohibition. "The cigarette smoking habit en Brazil is systematically falling not because it has been prohibited, but because it is discouraged, associating the smoking habit with bad health," he said. Gil's remarks came just days after President da Silva signed a new Brazilian drug law that will reduce penalties for consumers, but stiffen them for drug sellers and traffickers. Look for a feature article on the new law on Friday. In the meantime, we can all enjoy Gilberto Gil's beautiful music.
Location: 
Brazil

DEA Raises Cash to Fight Drug Issue

Location: 
CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
Rocky Mountain News
URL: 
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4949933,00.html

Drug Dealers Don't Card

On Sunday, August 27, Troy Dayton, associate director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative will be giving the sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada at 10:30 a.m. at 780 Del Monte Lane, Reno, NV 89511. The name of the sermon is called “Drug Dealers Don’t Card.” Everyone is welcome.
Date: 
Sun, 08/27/2006 - 10:30am - 1:00pm
Location: 
780 Del Monte Lane
Reno, NV 89511
United States

Feature: Seattle's Hempfest Going Strong at 15

Seattle's Hempfest turned 15 this year, and attendees at the world's largest marijuana "protestival" basked in the sun, sampled the delectibles, bought glass pipes by the truckload, listened to a stellar lineup of area and touring bands, and some even took in some serious drug policy reform speechifying. With attendance for the two-day annual event estimated at around 150,000 people, the physical space was cramped, but there was plenty of room for partying and politics.

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Hempfest crowd shot (courtesy Hempfest)
Hempfest takes place in Myrtle Edwards Park, a long, narrow strip of land facing Puget Sound just north of downtown Seattle. To the south, the snowy bulk of Mt. Rainier looms. All day Saturday and Sunday, people by the thousands flooded into the park through a pair of narrow entrances only to confront miles of pipe sellers, hemp product hawkers, exotic food booths, various political organizations, and bands playing on multiple stages.

Among those bands was Los Marijuanos, the bilingual hip-hop group describing themselves as "Mexican pro-pot poets." Los Marijuanos' pro-pot repertoire ranged from Cypress Hill-inspired stylings to remakes of classic ranchera tunes, much to the amusement and sometimes bemusement of the crowd.

While it may take on the appearance of a giant rock concert, Hempfest is at root about legalizing marijuana. In a city like Seattle, where residents approved a "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative in 2003, the battle is half won -- but only half won. Still, the ranks of the pro-marijuana legalization forces are growing, and who better to demonstrate that than the city's former police chief, Norm Stamper?

Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, has emerged as a leading police critic of the drug war and certainly warranted the main stage speaking slot (among others) he got. Seattlites who remember Stamper primarily as the head cop during the World Trade Organization riots in 1999 were in for a surprise.

Stamper talked about police officers he knew or commanded who were killed or injured enforcing the drug laws, and he talked about the futility of that policy. "It's laughable when people say we are winning the drug war," he said. "We need to legalize all drugs. Police should be focused on violent crime," he told the crowd.

Stamper wasn't the only big name drug policy reformer attending Hempfest; in fact, it would probably be quicker to name those who were not present. They held forth in the Hemporium, a large tent strewn with carpets, where festival goers could wander in and get a taste of what leaders like Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project, Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or DRCNet's David Guard are thinking these days.

But the crowds at the Hemporium were small. For most people, Hempfest is a party, a chance to see some bands, and yes, a celebration of cannabis culture, but that doesn't necessarily imply an especially elevated political consciousness. Structured as an all-volunteer event free to the public, Hempfest attracts many whose commitment to the cause could be seriously challenged if they had to pay an entrance fee.

"I'm here for the weed and the bands and the girls, man," laughed one red-eyed, shirtless young man sporting a top hat. "Pot is cool. Hempfest is cool," he told Drug War Chronicle. But when asked if he had put a dollar in one of the ubiquitous donation buckets being toted around by volunteers, he merely shrugged.

Indeed, if there were one constant at Hempfest other than the sweet smell of burning sinsemilla it was the unrelenting call from festival volunteers for donations. With a budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Hempfest relies on its crowd for support, but if the ominous rumblings from Hempfest director Vivian McPeak and the legion of volunteers are to be heeded, the crowd is not coming through with enough dollars to ensure Hempfest will be back next year. Is it time to start charging admission?

Feature: Colorado Marijuana Possession Legalization Initiative Makes the Ballot

The Colorado secretary of state announced Wednesday that an initiative that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people aged 21 and older has submitted sufficient signatures to make the November ballot. Organized by SAFER Colorado, the group that won a surprise legalization initiative victory last year in Denver, the Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative would push the state to the forefront of marijuana law reform by simply changing one sentence in the state statutes.

The announcement came less than two weeks after SAFER Colorado handed in more than 130,000 signatures, well more than the 80,000 needed to qualify for the ballot. The secretary of state's office certified the measure for the ballot based on a statistical sampling of the signatures.

"We are thrilled," said SAFER Colorado's Steve Fox. "We had well more signatures than we needed, and that allowed us to get this quick qualification instead of having the secretary of state going though our petitions line by line," he told Drug War Chronicle.

The initiative, which will be known as Amendment 44 on the ballot, asks voters to vote yes or no on the following question: "Shall there be an amendment to section 18-18-406 (1) of the Colorado revised statutes making legal the possession of one ounce or less of marihuana for any person twenty-one years of age or older?"

Under current Colorado law, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a fine up of to $100. According to legislative staffers who prepared an analysis of the initiative, some 3,700 adults were convicted of simple marijuana possession last year.

Colorado now joins Nevada as states where voters this November will decide whether to radically reform the marijuana laws. In Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and its local affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana are pushing an initiative that would not only legalize possession of up to an ounce, but would also allow for the regulated sales of like amounts.

MPP is not involved in the Colorado effort, but hopes it succeeds, said communications director Bruce Mirken. "This was a little bit of a surprise," he told Drug War Chronicle. "We wish them well. Nobody should underestimate these folks -- they surprised the whole world with their success in Denver last year."

In an odd way, that victory spurred the statewide effort. After the citizens of Denver voted for the ordinance, local law enforcement officials refused to abide by it, instead choosing to prosecute people under the state law. SAFER Colorado wants to take away that option. If the measure passes in November, communities in Colorado that want tougher marijuana laws would have to pass local ordinances and charge offenders under them.

The campaign will continue to emphasize its tried and tested theme that marijuana is safer than alcohol and, at the least, should not be treated more severely. That theme resonated strongly with students at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, both of which passed non-binding resolutions calling for equalization of penalties, as well as with voters in Denver last fall.

SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert was right on point Wednesday. "The campaign will highlight the hypocrisy of laws that prohibit the use of marijuana while allowing and even encouraging the use of alcohol, an infinitely more harmful drug," he said in a statement greeting the secretary of state's announcement.

Now it is time to win the election, said Fox. "We are doing some fundraising so we can distribute our materials and get our message out," he said. "We have a lot of fun items -- t-shirts, buttons, stickers -- that are aimed at people who support us but who don't necessarily get around to voting all the time. It is their duty to get out and vote, and we will do what we can to encourage them."

It will be an uphill battle to win in November. In the only polling done so far on the measure, the Denver Post found it losing 51% to 37%. But Fox looked at those figures and found the glass half full.

"We think that's pretty good as we head into this campaign," he said. "If only 51% support marijuana prohibition before we've even really begun to get our message out, we think we have a pretty good chance of winning. Listen, SAFER is the Barry Goldwater of marijuana. Even if we don't win this time, we are saying what should be done with the confidence that people will come around to our position. It is an undeniable truth that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol," he said. "Our campaign is here in Colorado, but this is about ending marijuana prohibition across the country, not just in one state. We are in this to win over the long haul."

One bright spot for the campaign is the lack so far of any organized opposition. "We have a crazy drug warrior lady who is making noise, but she is not a sophisticated opponent," said Fox. "We have seen one outside drug warrior set up an issue committee here in Colorado, and there are rumors that the attorney general is planning to put together an opposition group possibly made up of law enforcement officials, but that hasn't happened yet," he explained. "We hope that the law enforcement community will understand that they are law enforcers, not law makers, and they should let the people decide what the laws will be."

Colorado's official nickname is the Centennial State, but one of its unofficial sobriquets is the Highest State, based on its towering mountains and its average elevation. If Colorado voters approve Amendment 44 in November, undoubtedly many will consider it to be even more deserving of that nickname.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School