A campaign to regulate marijuana like alcohol is targeting the 2012 ballot
By Chris O’Keefe of Culture Magazine
Cannabis reform is big news. Between the now 16 states that have passed medical cannabis laws, Colorado was one of the states who got a lot of attention when voters passed Amendment 20 in 2000. Since then, other local jurisdictions have followed suit–though the process is never easy. Two years ago, Breckenridge residents voted to eliminate civil and criminal penalties for private possession.
When CNBC aired Marijuana USA, guess which state’s thriving MMJ industry was front and center for that documentary? Well, much like everything else, there seems to be a domino effect–or more accurately, “contagion effect”–where states that share borders are affected by each other’s economies and laws. Colorado is known for taking ideas and making them unique for itself. We have seen this with the recent passing of HB 1043; which introduced regulations and laws affecting the sale, manufacturing and employment by the medical marijuana industry.
While HB 1043 allows large-scale cultivation (the Department of Justice has issued a memo stating it would seek the prosecution of large scale operations), Sensible Colorado is looking to curb prohibition locally by spearheading the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of 2012. Originally starting out with a total of eight separate ballot initiatives–each having its own wording to distinguish itself from another–only one of the proposals made it through, and now it’s a matter whose fate will be decided by voters if enough valid signatures are gathered to place it on the November ballot. The proposed Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act would allow the personal use of cannabis, the possession of up to an ounce and the cultivation of up to six plants. Assisting an adult to obtain cannabis as well as transporting a personal amount of cannabis would also be allowed.
“Yes, when the 2012 campaign to regulate marijuana like alcohol passes,” Brian Vincete, co-author of the initiative, tells CULTURE. “Adults 21 and over will be able to purchase and possess marijuana. It’s important to note that all of Colorado’s medical marijuana laws will remain in place when this new law passes. Thus, sick teens and other disabled Coloradans will still be eligible to use medical marijuana.”
Also, because the act considers hemp and marijuana as separate commodities, the initiative could pave the way for hemp to end up a completely separate, flourishing industry.
What influenced the push to end Marijuana prohibition in Colorado?
“When the War on Drugs began some 50 years ago, the federal government mistakenly believed that it could influence the use of drugs with tough laws and by locking people in prison,” Vincete says. “The U.S. tried the same approach with alcohol during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and the results were the same: People continued to drink, organized crime flourished (think Al Capone) and the government was forced to spend money on law enforcement rather than collecting tax revenue from alcohol sales and businesses.”
In that same vein, this 2012 campaign seeks to end the prohibition on marijuana for the same reasons: People continue to use it, organized crime flourishes (think Mexican cartels), and Colorado spends millions of dollars on prohibition each year instead of collecting taxes from a regulated industry.
Is Colorado ready to become the first state to replace prohibition with regulation?
That might end up a question that voters will decide next year.
The Battle Begins . . .
So how will the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative get on the November 2012 ballot? It won’t be easy. Organizers must first gather about 86,000 qualified signatures. Secondly, the fact that a presidential election is also on the books for November 2012 (as well as an effort to repeal Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage) might complicate matters even more. “Both of these are going to gain some national attention given the nature of the issues,” Robert Hazan, a political scientist at Metropolitan State College of Denver, told the Associated Press. “Colorado has both a growing progressive and a growing conservative organization, so it will be a battleground not just presidentially. We’ll see ideological forces clashing.” An effort to legalize marijuana in Colorado failed to pass in 2006.