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Friday, June 29, 2012

CAN COLORADO DO IT?

Can Colorado Do It

By: Benjamin Horner

Amendment 64 was put together by the by The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Amendment 64 is a 2012 statewide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado.  According to the campaign’s website:

*“In summary, Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act:

·         Makes the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older;
·         Establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and
·         Allows for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.
·         In particular, Amendment 64 removes all legal penalties for personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the home-growing of up to six marijuana plants, similar to the number allowed under current medical marijuana laws, in an enclosed locked space.

The initiative creates legal marijuana establishments – retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities – and directs the Department of Revenue to regulate a system of cultivation, production (including infused products), and distribution.  Under the provisions of the measure, the Department will license marijuana establishments at the state level, and should it fail to act, localities will be permitted to issue such licenses.  Localities will have the right to ban marijuana establishments through either their elected representative bodies, or through referred or citizen-initiated ballot measures.

The general assembly will be required to enact an excise tax of up to 15 percent on the wholesale sale of non-medical marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer.  The first $40 million of revenue raised annually will be directed to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. This new tax must be approved by a majority of voters in a statewide general election in accordance with the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The general assembly will also be required to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.

The initiative does not change existing medical marijuana laws for patients, caregivers, or medical marijuana businesses. Medical marijuana will be exempt from the excise tax mentioned above. “*

Mason Tvert is the Co-Director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol. He responded to our inquires about the status of the campaign.

Question: How many signatures did it take to get Amendment 64 on the ballot?

Mason Tvert: We ultimately collected about 175,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Question: What do you expect to happen during the lead up to the November Election?

Mason Tvert: The campaign is primarily focused on educating voters about the initiative and, more importantly, about marijuana. Our goal is to ensure that as many voters as possible are aware of the fact that marijuana is objectively far less harmful than alcohol, and that regulating marijuana like alcohol would be a far more effective way for Colorado to handle marijuana.

Question: What is your public relations strategy for victory?

Mason Tvert: We are using a variety of tactics, ranging from provocative billboards and paid television ads to online social networking and grassroots canvassing. Our focus is on promoting interpersonal communication, such as conversations and other forms of contact with family, friends, and neighbors. The focal point of this effort is TalkItUpColorado.org, our online action center and clearinghouse for those wanting to get involved.

Question: What do you expect will be your toughest challenges still yet to face?

Mason Tvert: We are up against 80 years of marijuana prohibition scare tactics and misinformation, and we will undoubtedly hear more of it from our opponents. We are going to be aggressive and take it head on, highlighting their support for a system that strips away all control over the sale and production of marijuana, and makes it easier for teens to access it. We will certainly ask why they believe adults should be criminals simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol, and we will be sure to raise the prospect of generating significant new tax revenue and job growth by regulating marijuana in a similar manner as alcohol.


Question: How can people from outside of Colorado do to help to pass Amendment 64?

Mason Tvert: We are encouraging folks to contact anyone they know in Colorado to ensure they are aware of the initiative, and to ensure they are aware of the facts. We will also be setting up an online phone bank, through which supporters around the nation can contact Colorado voters to have conversations about this issue, provide them with the facts, and encourage them to vote yes on Amendment 64.

In Detroit, Tim Beck has masterminded a real victory.  After over a year of fighting to get the petition to Amend the Detroit City Code, to allow for all adults to be able to possession of up to an once, on the ballot. Per order of the Michigan Supreme Court, a writ of mandamus was issued on June 22nd by the Wayne County Circuit Court. Judge Michael Sapala, ordered the Detroit Election Commission to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. The question as to whether or not it should be a crime under Detroit City Code to "posses an ounce or less of marijuana on private property by anyone who has attained the age of 21 years." Matt Abel and Tim Knowlton aided in the legal efforts that made it possible. The measure will be on the November ballot. We caught up with Mr. Beck and he gave thoughts from the inside.

Question: How does it feel to finally beat all those who stood up to resist placing the Amendment to the Detroit City Code to except people over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana?

Tim Beck: "It feels wonderful to be vindicated at last. We were very confident of our legal position from day one that is why we were determined to fight this to the end. I guess the City was hoping to wear us out in court and bleed us so badly in legal fees, that we would just give up and they would win by default."

 Question: How many different local campaigns are going on in Michigan currently?

Tim Beck: "There are three other local campaigns now looking to attain ballot status. Flint, Jackson and Ypsilanti. All of them are similar in nature to Detroit, in that they focus one way or another on taking away police motivation to arrest peaceful adult cannabis users, possessing under and ounce of marijuana. These campaigns are now in the signature gathering stage. In addition, Kalamazoo voters will be voting on a charter amendment to authorize the creation of up to three medical cannabis facilities within the City limits."

Question:  How can people help with these local campaigns?
Tim Beck: “Detroit and Kalamazoo are already on the ballot for November. Help is needed in Flint, Ypsilanti and Jackson to complete the signature gathering process. If these measures make the ballot, polling numbers and local political conditions make victory virtually certain in all of these cities. The key is to get them on the ballot. That is the biggest challenge.”

Question:  Are there any lessons to learn from California's Proposition 19?

Tim Beck: The lesson to be learned from Prop. 19, which lost at the polls, is that, unless activists have a minimum 6-8% lead in the polls going into the election, you are highly likely to lose on Election Day. Once the attack ads start, support for your measure does not go up. It goes down. Unless you have a good lead going in, you are wasting your time. Support for Prop 19 was barely above 50% from day one and that was fatal for the measure in the end.

Question: How do you feel about the Colorado's Amendment 64?

Tim Beck:“Prop. 64 has a fighting chance to win. The poll numbers vary from 60-54% in favor of the measure. That is why the effort has gotten serious financing from wealthy individuals and institutions. The Prop 64 campaign team, led by Mason Tvert, have considerable past experience under their belt running ballot initiatives. They are seasoned, sophisticated players and are veterans of at least a half dozen initiative campaigns over the years. The wording of the measure was also carefully crafted to make the proposal as palatable to the public as possible--- anticipating all likely political attacks which will come its way.”

*1 http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/about

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