Marijuana Legalization

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New Washington State Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed

A high-powered coalition of state and local elected officials, public figures, and attorneys filed a marijuana legalization initiative with Washington state officials June 22. Known as New Approach Washington, the group is aiming to put the measure before voters in the November 2012 elections.

The initiative is distinct from the Sensible Washington initiative campaign, which had hoped to put its measure before voters in November 2011. The Sensible Washington initiative now appears unlikely to make the ballot because with little more than a week left until it must turn in signatures, it has less than half the required amount and little money to pay signature-gatherers.

Key features of the New Approach Washington initiative include:

  • Distribution to adults 21 and over through state-licensed, marijuana-only stores; production and distribution licensed and regulated by Liquor Control Board (LCB).
  • Severable provision (e.g. provision would stand if courts invalidated other provisions) decriminalizing adult possession of marijuana; possession by persons under 21 remains a misdemeanor.
  • Stringent advertising, location, and license eligibility restrictions enforced by LCB.
  • Home growing remains prohibited; except, initiative does not affect Washington's medical marijuana law.
  • Estimated $215 million in new state revenue each year, with roughly $40 million going to state general fund (B&O and retail sales tax) and $175 million (new marijuana excise tax) earmarked for youth and health programs and marijuana education programs.
  • THC blood concentration  of 5 ng/mL or higher is per se Driving Under the Influence.

Among the backers of the initiative are Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington (and prosecutor of Marc Emery, ironically) John McKay, travel program celebrity Rick Steves, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), and ACLU of Washington drug policy honcho Allison Holcomb, who is stepping down temporarily to run the campaign.

The group will have until December 30 to gather 241,153 valid voter signatures to put the issue before the legislature. The legislature could then approve the measure or send it to voters in the November 2012 election.

It's starting to look like marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least three, and possibly four, states next year. Efforts are already underway in California, Colorado, and Oregon.

WA
United States

Dakta Green Jailed for New Zealand Cannabis Club

One of New Zealand's most prominent and aggressive marijuana legalization advocates will spend the next eight months in prison. Dakta Green was sentenced Tuesday after being found guilty on three marijuana charges earlier this year.

Dakta Green jailed in New Zealand for the herb. (daktagrower.blogspot.com)
For two and half years, Green had operated The Daktory, a west Auckland club where marijuana could be freely bought and sold. He was charged following police raids on the club in January 2010, after he went public with plans to expand operations and open pot clubs nationwide.

The protests of dozens of Daktory supporters outside the courthouse could be heard inside the courtroom as Green objected to the sentence. But Judge Phil Gittos said the sentence was more lenient that than sought by the Crown and that the "law must be upheld."

It's not the first time Green has been jailed for the herb. He spent a year in the Chester County (Pennsylvania) Jail in 1999 and nearly three years in prison in New Zealand beginning in 2002. But those experiences only strengthened his activism. He legally changed his name from Ken Morgan to Dakta Green in 2008, was a candidate in a regional election for the Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party in 2009, and is a regional director of New Zealand NORML.

Green shut down The Daktory to its 2,000-plus members after he was convicted. Its motto was "Live like it was legal."

Auckland
New Zealand

National Review Endorses Frank/Paul Marijuana Legalization Bill

The conservative flagship magazine National Review has endorsed the recently-filed "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011." They would actually go further than the act does:

The War on Drugs, which is celebrating its 40th year, has been a colossal failure. It has curtailed personal freedom, created a violent black market, and filled our prisons... While we would support the total demise of federal marijuana laws, this bill simply constrains the federal government to its proper role [of regulating interstate commerce].

But they would celebrate the bill's passage as progress, if it could happen -- partly because of how it would help medical marijuana:

In addition to bringing federal pot laws in line with the Constitution and allowing states to pass reasonable marijuana policies, this law would eliminate the frightening discrepancies between state and federal policies regarding "medical marijuana." In a society under the rule of law, a citizen should be able to predict whether the government will deem his actions illegal. And yet in California and Montana, businesses that sell medical marijuana — an activity that is explicitly sanctioned by state law — have been raided by federal law-enforcement officers.

A good reminder that support for legalization spans the ideological spectrum -- it's not just a liberal issue, it's an issue of good sense.

ALERT: Marijuana Legalization Bill in Congress!

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
The first Congressional marijuana legalization bill is now in Congress -- please support it!

H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or interstate smuggling. States would be able to legalize and regulate marijuana, or to continue to prohibit it, as they individually choose.

Please use our web form to contact your US Representative and your two US Senators in support of this historic bill. Please follow-up by calling their offices too -- if you don't know their numbers (or aren't sure who they are), you can reach them by calling the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. And please use our tell-a-friend form to spread the word.

Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/jun/23/historic_bill_end_federal_mariju for more information on these bills, and sign up for our email list or paste http://stopthedrugwar.org/taxonomy/term/229 into your RSS reader to follow the news about marijuana policy.

Thank you for taking action!

Historic Bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition Introduced [FEATURE]

Led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) a bipartisan group of US representatives last Thursday introduced the first bill ever to legalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill would leave it to the states to decide whether to legalize it at the state level. If the bill were to become law, marijuana would then be treated like alcohol, where states decide whether to ban it and/or what restrictions to place on it.

[Update: The bill has been slammed by a key Republican committee chair and the Obama administration. See the end of the article for more.]

For the first time, a bill to free the weed is before Congress. (image via Wikimedia.org)
Other cosponsors of the bill include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or interstate smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.

The bill does not reschedule marijuana, which is currently Schedule I, the most serious classification under the Controlled Substances Act; it removes it from the act altogether.

"We are introducing a bill today that is very straightforward," said sponsor Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) at a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday afternoon. "We do not believe the federal government ought to be involved in prosecuting adults for smoking marijuana. That is something the states can handle. We have this problem where those states that want to reform their marijuana laws are prevented from doing so by the federal government. Under this bill, the federal government will concentrate its prosecutorial resources on other things and respect any decision by a state to make marijuana legal," the veteran congressman said.

"We're very excited about promoting a new, sensible approach to marijuana," said Rep. Polis. "We can set up a proper regulatory system, as Colorado has done. It would be wonderful for the federal government to let states experiment. Our current failed drug policy hasn't worked -- marijuana is widely available. By regulating the market, we can protect minors and remove the criminal element so we can focus law enforcement resources on keeping people safe in their communities."

"This has long been an issue of freedom for me," Rep. Cohen told the press conference. "The people are way ahead of the legislators in knowing what the priorities of law enforcement ought to be. The federal government shouldn't be spending its time and money on marijuana, but on crack, meth, heroin, and cocaine. It ought to be up to the states and regulated like alcohol. It should be a matter of individual choice in a country that prides itself on its liberties and freedoms."

The timing for the introduction of the bill is exquisite. Just days earlier, people marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of the war on drugs with protests and vigils around the country. Earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its report calling for a radical shift in how we deal with illegal drugs, including calling for the legal regulation of marijuana.

The introduction of the bill also comes as activists in at least four states -- California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington -- are working to put marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot for 2012. In the case of Washington, there are now two competing legalization initiatives, one aimed at 2011 and one at 2012.

And it comes as legalization becomes an increasingly hot topic in state legislatures. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington.

It also comes as the battle between the federal government and states with medical marijuana laws is heating up. Despite the famous Justice Department memo of October 2009, which directed US attorneys to not focus prosecutorial resources on producers and providers in compliance with state laws, the Obama administration is conducting raids at a higher rate than the Bush administration, and US attorneys have recently been on a threat offensive, warning state elected officials their employees could be at risk if they approve the regulation and distribution of medical marijuana.

But while the timing is good, Frank was quick to caution that the bill was unlikely to pass Congress this session. "I don't expect it to pass right away, but given this Congress, I don't expect much good legislation to pass at all," he said. "I think we're making good progress, and the public is ahead of the politicians on this. There is an educational process going on."

Still, that dose of political realism didn't stop advocates, some of whom have been working on the issue for decades, from feeling just a little bit giddy. After all, it is an historic occasion for reformers.

"Adults who use marijuana responsibly should not be treated like criminals," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML. "Marijuana smoking is relatively harmless, is not an act of moral turpitude, and should not be treated as a crime. As a marijuana consumer myself, I've never seen my responsible use of marijuana as a crime."

Noting some 22 million arrests of otherwise law-abiding pot smokers since the 1960s, St. Pierre called for the end of pot prohibition. "Policymakers should recognize the benefits of legally controlling and taxing marijuana," he said. "We need to stop arresting millions of people who use marijuana."

"We're so proud to be standing with these members of Congress in announcing this bill to treat alcohol similarly to marijuana," said Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "A state-based approach to marijuana should be appealing to Republicans. Most people don't know that for decades after the repeal of Prohibition, many states continued to ban alcohol. With this bill, states could continue to ban marijuana, or they could regulate it if they like. This is also an issue that drives young people to the polls, and that's a huge opportunity for politicians."

"This bill is actually the ultimate bill we've been looking for at the federal level," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "If and when it passes, I expect to close our offices in DC and concentrate on working at the state level. This bill would address some of the stuff we've been hearing about from federal prosecutors threatening state governors and legislators about medical marijuana. If this passes, all the huffing and puffing form US attorneys will evaporate into thin air," he added. "And this bill will have a positive impact on ballot initiatives in California and Colorado in 2012. In the past, opponents said these initiatives wouldn't do anything because the federal government wouldn't touch the issue. Now, we can say the federal government is looking at the issue, and some of the most credible members of Congress are cosponsors."

"Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the failed war on drugs, so this is very timely, and it comes on the heels of the report by the Global Commission," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This is a major step toward restoring some sanity and science to our nation's drug policies. There is a growth in recognition among both voters and elected officials that marijuana legalization is not a question of if, but when. The reality is that the war on marijuana is unsustainable -- we're heading toward a perfect storm for this."

Now, marijuana legalization is before Congress for the first time since it was outlawed in 1937. While passage this session is extremely unlikely, this is indeed a step forward.

Update:  After this article was first published Thursday afternoon, reaction from a key congressional committee chair and the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) made it clear that "extremely unlikely" was optimistic.

The bill would have to pass through the House Judiciary Committee, but committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith told the Associated Press there was no way that was going to happen.

"Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse and does not have an accepted medical use in the US," Smith said. "The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease."

Then he bizarrely claimed legalizing marijuana in the US would help Mexican drug cartels. "Decriminalizing marijuana will only lead to millions more Americans becoming addicted to drugs and greater profits for drug cartels who fund violence along the US-Mexico border. Allowing states to determine their own marijuana policy flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent," he threw in for good measure.

Echoing Smith, ONDCP told the Los Angeles Times legalizing weed was a non-starter. "Our concern with marijuana is not borne out of any culture war or drug war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug's effects. The facts are that marijuana potency has tripled in the past 20 years and teens are using the drug at earlier ages," it said in a statement.

"The earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse and addiction --- reflecting the harmful, long-lasting effects drugs can have on the developing brain. Legalization remains a nonstarter in the Obama administration because research shows that marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents and emergency room admissions," the statement said.

If not this year, maybe next year. If not this Congress, maybe the next one. If not this administration, maybe the next one. There are many obstacles on the path to legalization, but now we are at least on the path.

Washington, DC
United States

Good Drug Policy Bills to Be Introduced in Congress This Week

Last April we reported that US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) was planning to introduce a bill to fully legalize marijuana. That is happening this week -- tomorrow, according to Mike Riggs at Reason -- though Barney Frank (D-MA) is taking the lead, with Polis as a cosponsor. Ron Paul (R-TX) is the sole Republican cosponsor.

Possibly this week, and soon in any case, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is reintroducing the "Major Drug Traffickers Prosecution Act." From her remarks at DPA's press conference last week:

This bill is similar to previous legislation that I have introduced since 1999, and it would begin to implement one of the suggested criminal justice reforms recommended by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.  The Major Drug Traffickers Prosecution Act of 2011 will: curb federal prosecutions of low-level and non-violent drug offenders; re-focus scarce federal resources to prosecute major drug kingpins, and give courts and judges greater discretion to place drug users on probation or suspend the sentence entirely.  Under this bill, judges will be able to make individualized determinations and take into account a defendant’s individual and unique circumstances rather than being held to a stringent sentencing requirement prescribed by Congress.

Check back for updates and action alerts supporting these two important bills.

Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition (Press Release)

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                    June 22, 2011

Thursday: Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition

The Legislation, Modeled after the Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition, Comes on the 40th Anniversary of the Failed War on Drugs and on the Heels of a Global Commission Report Recommending Marijuana Legalization

Teleconference: Rep. Barney Frank and Leading Organizations Working to End the Failed War on Marijuana Explain the Significance of the Legislation

CONTACT: Morgan Fox, communications manager………………......(202) 905-2031 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce bi-partisan legislation tomorrow, June 23, ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

            Leading critics of the war on marijuana will explain its significance for state and national marijuana policy at a national tele-press conference on Thursday.

What:  Tele-Press Conference on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011

When:Thursday, June 23. 2:00pm EST / 11am PST

Call-in Info: 1-800-311-9404; Passcode: Marijuana

Who:  

·        Representative Barney Frank (D-4th/MA)

·        Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

·        Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

·        Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

·        Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

Last week marked the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon declaring a war on marijuana and other drugs. In an oped in the New York Times last week, timed for the 40th Anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter called for reforming marijuana laws.

The legislation also comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including calling for legal regulation of marijuana. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.  The commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the U.S. on the commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, and John Whitehead.

46.5% of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.

Rep. Frank’s legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens.

With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Maine House Rejects Marijuana Legalization Bill

The Maine House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject a bill that would have brought the state closer to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The bill failed on a vote of 107-39.

The Maine state capitol. There is no joy for pot fans in Augusta this week. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Introduced by Sen. Diane Russell (D-Portland), the bill, LD 1453, would have legalized the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use and placed a 7% tax on pot sales. But the bill was amended in committee to propose a statewide voter referendum on the issue and to add a caveat that it would not take effect until marijuana was legal under federal law.

Even that watered down version of the bill was too much for opponents.

"I don’t believe the time has come yet for this," said Rep. Michael Celli (R-Brewer) during debate. "We have to let the federal government make the first move."

Supporters of the measure argued in vain that Maine was wasting $26 million a year enforcing the pot laws and that citizens should at least be given the chance to decide the issue. They also disputed statements by opponents that pot is a "gateway drug."

"It is time to stop turning law-abiding people into criminals," Russell said.

Not all Republicans opposed the bill. Libertarian-leaning Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterloo) said the federal government is trampling on states' rights and the constitution.

"We should follow the constitution and stop trying to police moralities," Libby said.

That's not going to happen this year, though. The same day the House rejected the bill, it went to the Senate, which concurred with the House vote. The bill is now dead for the session.

Augusta, ME
United States

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 26, 2011

CONTACT: Rosa Mangiardi at (415) 728-2113

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll

Online Magazine for Grandparents Releases Response Results to Op-Ed Question Posed in its March/April Issue


St. Petersburg, FL. (PRWEB) Attitudes about the criminalization of marijuana may be changing among the elders of our society, as the more than 70 million of the baby boomer generation, one to widely experiment with recreational drug use, have and will become grandparents.

GRAND Magazine, the online magazine for today's grandparents, released today results from their poll question which appeared in the March/April issue. It asked readers if it was time to legalize marijuana. 85% responded that they agreed it was.

The reader respondents who are pot proponents argued in their responses that it is hypocritical to outlaw pot when cigarettes, alcohol and fat-laden foods are legal but account for so many health issues among our population. They point out that marijuana is used to treat medical symptoms such as pain and nausea, and that in some states it is legal for shops to dispense medical marijuana. The billions that are spent in the U.S. on policing and courts related to this issue could be spent on better schools or infrastructure.

Grandparents who are part of the baby boomer generation (those born from 1946 to 1964)(1) have a unique perspective on marijuana, having come of age during a time when pot use became mainstream. 21st century grandparents are a group with a significant influence on the country’s youth as they are the primary caregivers for more than 6 million children(2). In fact, approximately 75 percent of all non-parental care of children is provided by a grandparent(3), representing a large shift in family dynamics. Now it seems that as they guide and influence new generations, they view marijuana use increasingly as a harmless indulgence rather than a gateway to a lifetime of drug abuse.

Among the reader response comments were:

“I am a grandparent strongly in favor of decriminalization. I would much rather my grandkids smoke pot than use cigarettes or alcohol. I expect I will need cannabis for my health soon and don’t want (it) to be illegal. The whole charade needs to stop; we are blowing far too much money on the drug war and have no positive results to show for it. The whole approach is counterproductive,” said D.W., Guysville, OH.

“I am a grandparent of a 17 year-old granddaughter who has been struggling with drug addiction since she was 14 years old. I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and it has always been her reluctance to give up pot that has brought her back again and again to more dangerous drugs. I understand that the same arguments that have been used for years with the responsible adult consumption of alcohol apply to responsible adult use of pot. … I would vote against legal sale of marijuana…,” said A.C.

To read additional reader responses, click here

The link to the page in the GRAND magazine March/April online edition op-ed reader poll that asks, ‘Is it time to legalize marijuana?’ is: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/grand/20110304_v3/index.php#/51/OnePage

GRAND Magazine
GRAND magazine is an online bi-monthly magazine that serves the more than 70 million U.S. grandparent market. It is delivered exclusively in digital format. It is published by GRAND Media, LLC, which was established in 2004. For more information about GRAND magazine visit: http://www.GRANDmagazine.com.

1. U.S. Census Bureau
2. American Community Survey, 2007, U.S. Census Bureau
3. State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, 2007, AARP Foundation, Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, and Generations United

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Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed in Colorado [FEATURE]

A coalition of Colorado and national drug reform groups Friday filed eight initiatives designed to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. It was the opening move in an effort to put the question to Colorado voters on the November 2012 ballot.

The first steps have been taken toward letting any Colorado adult grow six of these legally. (Image courtesy the author)
The groups lining up behind the initiatives are SAFER, Sensible Colorado, the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, as well as prominent Colorado marijuana attorneys and members of the state's thriving medical marijuana industry.

While the initiatives vary slightly from one another -- part of a bid by organizers to ensure they come up with the best language and pass the scrutiny of state election officials -- they all have as their core the legalization of the possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21, the legalization of the growing of up to six plants and possession of their yield, and the creation of a system of regulated commercial marijuana production and sales. (See the draft language for the base initiative here.)

The initiatives do not allow for public consumption. Nor do they protect "stoned driving" or protect workers from being fired by employers who object to their marijuana use.

"This is basically eight variations on a single initiative," said SAFER's Mason Tvert. "One version has industrial hemp, one doesn't. One version has specific language dealing with Colorado tax law, one doesn't. But otherwise, there is virtually no difference."

The initiatives now head to the state's Title Setting Review Board, which will determine whether they meet the state constitution's single-subject requirement and come up with titles for the initiatives. The initiatives could be revised based on issues and concerns that might arise during review with board staff, Tvert said.

"We want the best possible ballot title," he said. "They will create a draft title, and then we will be able to submit what we think, then there is a hearing to determine what the title should be. This is the very beginning of a long process. If one or two get shot down, we still have other possibilities. If one gets a ballot title we don't like, we still have the ability to re-file something else."

"We starting drafting this back in January," said Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente. "We've seen a historic and unprecedented coalition of every major drug policy reform group involved in the drafting. I'm not aware of anything like that before. And SAFER and Sensible Colorado have been active in reforming marijuana laws full-time since 2004 and 2005, respectively. We have a giant network of collaborators on the ground."

But not everybody is happy. In an ominous harkening back to last November's election, a "Stoners against Prop. 19"-style opposition has already emerged. The Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI), which is working on its own Relegalize 2012 initiative, came out swinging in a press release last Friday. Calling the coalition behind the initiatives "a conservative faction of national and local drug policy reform groups," the institute's Lauro Kriho said their initiatives would "attempt to undermine" advances by the marijuana movement in the state.

She criticized the initiatives on a variety of grounds, saying they did not provide protection to workers, tenants, or marijuana users who drive. She said the initiatives "appeal to law enforcement" and criticized versions that included a 15% excise tax. She also complained that the initiatives had been filed without broader feedback.

"I'm not sure why they did this without telling anybody," said Kriho. "Even the legislature gave us more notice to comment on their proposed legislation than they did. It really shows their bad faith."

But both Tvert and Vicente said that Kriho had been sent a draft of the base initiative a week before they filed it. A copy of the draft is available on the CTI web site.

"This opposition from within the movement is certainly frustrating, and we don't want to see the movement fractured," said Tvert. "We hope that anyone who supports ending marijuana prohibition will be comfortable with this initiative and be part of this broad coalition moving forward. We've reached out extensively to various groups in the community, including marijuana business leaders and organizations, and including CTI."

It's difficult to tell how much support Kriho and her critique have in Colorado's marijuana community, but Vicente seemed more bemused than concerned about it.

"I think the Colorado marijuana community is generally quite united," he said. "Most people are very supportive of this effort. We made an incredible outreach to different communities and solicited comments from grassroots activists, lawyers, and elected officials, and did our best to incorporate their concerns in the draft language. We're still requesting suggestions and we could still change the language," he said.

In the meantime, organizers are preparing for a signature gathering drive to begin toward the end of June. They will have six months to gather 85,000 valid voter signatures, and they say their goal is to hand in 130,000 or more.

And they are beginning to look for money. "We're certainly hoping to raise money, but we haven't pursued significant funding until we have an initiative in place," said Tvert. "We haven't received any significant money, but we haven't been soliciting it yet, either."

Still, the SAFER/Sensible Colorado initiative effort appears to have enough support to make it onto the ballot in 2012. Other initiative efforts, such as CTI's, can also try to make the ballot. It looks like it's going to be an interesting next 18 months in Colorado pot politics.

Denver, CO
United States

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