Coloradans are to decide this fall whether to make it legal under state law for anyone age 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
Secretary of State Gigi Dennis said Wednesday that backers of that initiative had turned in enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 7 general election. The proposal will be Amendment 44 on the state ballot, Dennis said.
Under Colorado law, anyone in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana can be charged with a Class 2 petty offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100.
Legislative staffers preparing an analysis of the initiative report that during the 2005-06 state budget year, state courts convicted 3,700 adults for possession of such amounts of marijuana.
The legalization proposal is being pushed by SAFER, an organization that asserts that marijuana is a “Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation” than alcohol.
“The campaign will highlight the hypocrisy of laws that prohibit the use of marijuana while allowing and even encouraging the use of alcohol, an infinitely more harmful drug,” SAFER spokesman Mason Tvert said Wednesday.
If approved by voters, Amendment 44 would change state law to allow adults age 21 and older to possess or use small amounts of marijuana, according to the legislative staff analysis, as long as that use doesn’t occur in public. It still would be illegal for anyone younger than 21 to possess any amount of marijuana or for people 21 and older to possess amounts more than an ounce.
It also would still be illegal for individuals age 18 and older to transfer any amount of marijuana to anyone younger than 15.
State laws also would continue to ban: growing or selling marijuana; open and public display, use or consumption of marijuana; and driving under the influence of marijuana.
SAFER has noted that even if voters OK the initiative, home-rule cities and towns would still have the ability to ticket and prosecute marijuana users under local ordinances.
Last year, SAFER successfully campaigned for an ordinance change to make it legal for an adult to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in Denver, but the organization has complained that Denver continues to prosecute people under state law.
Tvert said in an interview that voter passage of a state legalization measure would “send a large message” to home-rule municipalities “about how the people of Colorado feel about this.”
Tvert said alcohol abuse “contributes to social problems like fighting, sexual assault, property damage and domestic violence. Marijuana use has never been linked to these types of issues.”
Tvert said he expects Amendment 44 to be opposed by members of the state’s law enforcement community, including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
Suthers spokeswoman Kristen Holtzman said Wednesday that “the attorney general’s position on this issue has not changed. He is adamantly against the legalization of marijuana.”
Foes of SAFER’s proposal have argued that marijuana use can lead someone to other illegal drugs and thus increase overall drug use and drug abuse in Colorado.
Source: Daily Times-Call, The (CO)
Author: John Fryar, The Daily Times-Call
Published: August 17, 2006
Copyright: 2006, The Daily Times-Call