Pot Law Makes Ballot

Pot Law Makes Ballot
Posted by CN Staff on August 25, 2005 at 09:29:56 PT
By April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain News
Source: Rocky Mountain News 
Colorado -- Denver would become the second city in the nation to legalize the adult use of marijuana if voters approve a ballot measure in November. The first city was Oakland, Calif. Voters there overwhelmingly approved an initiative last year that requires the city to regulate and tax marijuana, similarly to the way it administers laws on alcohol. It also directs Oakland officials to make pot the city's lowest law enforcement priority.
The new law has not been enacted because it conflicts with the state of California's laws. Denver's initiative may face the same fate. The ballot measure would make it legal for adults 21 years and older to possess less than 1 once of marijuana. But state law prohibits the possession of marijuana. City Council members on Monday begrudgingly cleared the way to put the measure on the Nov. 1 ballot. They didn't have a choice. The measure's backers, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, collected more than the 12,000 signatures needed to force the matter onto the ballot. "This initiative shouldn't even be here at the local level," said Councilman Michael Hancock, one of the measure's most vocal critics. "I've seen the devastating effects of drugs in our urban city. "I have no tolerance for these kinds of discussions. It has no place in the public dialogue." City Council members pointed out that 99 percent of the marijuana cases in Denver are prosecuted under state law. Supporters of Denver's ballot measure argue that smoking marijuana should be regulated and taxed much like alcohol. They also contend that personal use of marijuana causes less harm and law enforcement problems than alcohol. "A lot of people say that we are encouraging the use of marijuana," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation. "We're encouraging an alternative that's less harmful than alcohol." Tvert said about 85,000 people per year die in alcohol-related incidents. "We need to have policies that reflect reality and common sense," Tvert said, "and not policies that reflect the morality of elected officials and certain pockets of the population." One other Colorado city is also dealing with the issue this fall. Telluride residents will be asked to vote on a ballot measure in November that would make it easier to possess or smoke small amounts of pot without the fear of being arrested or charged with a misdemeanor. The southwestern Colorado town's ballot measure would mirror an initiative soundly passed in Seattle in 2003 that made arresting and jailing adults for marijuana use a low-enforcement priority. In the past five years, activists in other states, such as Alaska and Nevada, have pushed similar measures. Cities such as Tallahassee, Fla., and Columbia, Mo., are preparing marijuana initiatives. "Denver's one of the few cities in the forefront of this issue," said Krissy Oechslin, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that seeks the passage of laws that regulate the use of marijuana, similarly to alcohol. "There are a lot of people around the country sticking their necks out because there is growing support for change in the laws that govern marijuana." Denver's vote will be closely watched, said experts and advocates. "Denver is the biggest city in the nation to consider such a far-reaching initiative like this," said Brian Vicente, an attorney who heads Sensible Colorado, an organization based in Telluride that's spearheading the ballot measure there. "You have other cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, that have passed such initiatives, but Denver is taking it one step further by attempting to make the use of marijuana outright legal." Vicente said his group's ultimate goal is to push for a statewide initiative by 2008 that could require the state to tax and regulate marijuana. Marijuana InitiativesCities and states nationwide that have adopted or rejected initiatives aimed at relaxing laws governing marijuana.  Seattle: Voters in 2003 passed what is known as the I-75 initiative, which eases enforcement against adults possessing 40 grams or less of pot for personal and medical use. The law still allows the city to freely arrest and prosecute sellers and minors.  Oakland, Calif.: This city became the first to legalize adult use of marijuana when voters approved a measure that requires the city to regulate and tax marijuana, similarly to the way it administers laws on alcohol.  States where the issue has been rejected: Nevada, Alaska Other areas of the country:  The town of Oak Creek, near Steamboat Springs, passed a resolution earlier this month supporting the medical use of marijuana.  About 12 districts in Massachusetts, between 2000 and 2002, passed nonbinding initiatives on taxing and regulating marijuana. Source: The Marijuana Policy Project Note: Denver initiative would legalize adult possession, use.Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)Author:  April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain NewsPublished: August 25, 2005Copyright: 2005 Denver Publishing Co.Contact: letters rockymountainnews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Measure Put on City Ballot Pot Vote Mostly Symbolic To Ask Denver Voters To Legalize Pot 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment