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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Legalize It: Notes From the Film Screening in Denver and the Power of Proposed Amendment 64

By Ben Horner (From the November 2012 Edition of the MMM Report) 

Denver, Colorado-

Upon arriving at the Denver, one quickly realizes that this city is one of America’s strongest and most progressive. Magnificent snow capped mountains loom in the background of the impressive skyline. Modern skyscrapers and historical architecture stand tall against nature’s majestic backdrop. This is a cosmopolitan Mecca. More importantly, Colorado is one state that is leading the way in progressive marijuana law reform. Amendment 64, if passed by the voters, will fully legalize marijuana for personal use and cultivation on private property. In this proposed constitutional amendment there is framework of a regulatory system for retail locations, as well as guidelines for an excise tax of up to 15%. The first 40 million dollars of revenue received will be reserved for the general education fund. Polling data currently indicates the voters are strongly in favor of passing the amendment – 51% in favor, 42% against, and 7 yet undecided (According to the October 5th University of Denver poll.)

At the United Presbyterian Church located at 1400 Layfette Street, Christian ministers hosted an advanced screening of Legalize It, a film by Award-winning filmmaker Dan Katzir, which
was produced by Ravit Markus and Lati Grobma. Following the documentary was a cordial debate with respect to Colorado’s Amendment 64. Although the movie documents California’s failed Prop 19 (Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol), the story really shows an inside picture of the internal struggle passing the people’s enacted initiatives and the toll it plays on the progressive leaders that spearhead these campaigns. Legalize It focuses on the people directly behind Prop 19. The movie outlines the raw courage and personal sacrifice made, as well as the tremendous sacrifices and efforts made by the many others who volunteered for the campaign. Richard Lee spent all of the money he had generated from Oaksterdam University.

Unfortunately, the opposition was the very people that should have been their allies. An opposition group formed against Prop 19, which is based around some African-American Christian ministers, California’s cannabis growers, and the Mexican drug cartels. The growers and thug drug dealers resist due to fear of a shift of their share of the marijuana production market going to large corporate enterprises. Signs urging voters of Cali to
“Vote NO on Prop 19” were placed at dispensaries around the state. The opposition dismayed the leaders of the campaign for Prop 19. They truly underestimated the greed factor and internal corruption within the movement. Did they not realize that the biggest victims in the drug war are cannabis consumers, children, and minorities? Inevitably, as most know, Prop 19 failed. This was due primarily to a lack in funding and unified grassroots support in addition to the misguided opposition.

To their credit, Richard Lee and all that fought to legalize marijuana pioneered the cause with new ideas and political strategies. The people involved changed public perception
regarding marijuana and the drug war. They brought national spotlight to the issue. Although the advanced screening still had some preproduction work yet to be done, I would highly
recommend the film.

Following the screening, representatives for and against Colorado’s Amendment 64 discussed the issue. Ben Cort, who a drug rehab counselor and represented the opposition
against Prop 64, expressed his concerns. He opined and suggested that a constitutional amendment was not the right vehicle, as the particular language proposed in the amendment
creates a federal supremacy issue. He expressed that his greatest concern is for the youth. He cited a Rand study which projects an increase in youths who use marijuana
if legalized. Betty Aldworth, of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, argued that there are approximately 10,000 pot-related offenses in the state last year, and not all of those were problematic. She pointed out that disparity of race and income ratios of those crimes are indicative of social injustice and inequality. Amsterdam has had huge growth of black market after barring coffee shops from sell marijuana to tourists. Ms. Aldworth countered that Colorado people should be able to make their own choices;
the language of Amendment is flexible regarding regulation.

On November 6th, the citizens of Colorado will decide which point of view is to become policy. The contrast of professionalism in Colorado and Washington’s legalization of retail
marijuana is sure to set the standard moving forward.

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