On Thursday, eight versions of a ballot initiative were filed with the state. The aim: legal cannabis for all Coloradoans. The initiatives were filed by members of the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, SAFER, and Sensible Colorado. According to the Denver Post, each initiative would limit possession to an ounce for people 21 and over. They do not allow for the public use of cannabis, but legal users would be allowed to grow up to six plants.
These initiatives are not the first of their kind. In 2006, voters turned down a similar legalization measure, six years after the passage of Amendment 20 which set up our medical marijuana system. Now, after another six years, it looks like we could actually see legal pot in our state. If voters approve the initiatives next year, anyone over 21 in the state can smoke or eat or cultivate cannabis. Advocates estimate a potential $35 million tax dollars earned per year, based on the 15% excise tax a few versions of the initiative propose.
The filing of these initiatives comes as a surprise to the Legalize2012 Campaign, who aim to end prohibition in Colorado. They have worked for over a year on ballot initiative language and, according to a press release issued on the 20th, “The MPP/DPA/SAFER/Sensible alliance never indicated that they were on the verge of filing. On the contrary, they had seemed open to listening to ideas from other groups in the state.”
Legalize2012 take issue with the language of the initiatives filed, saying it “would create a Constitutional amendment for a marijuana distribution system controlled by law enforcement.” SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation) touts that cannabis is safer than alcohol and should be treated as such. Yet, as Legalize2012 says, the initiative they co-wrote and filed treats the plant more harshly than alcohol by placing limits on possession. The one-ounce limit would require the creation of a new database (in addition to or as a replacement of the current medical database at the Department of Revenue) tracking cannabis purchases across the state.
The campaign, on the other hand, hopes for a “freedom-based” legalization model which treats cannabis as alcohol is now treated. Their model would place no limits on the possession or cultivation of pot and would only require a valid driver’s license or state ID for purchase. They also propose a required sales tax instead of a sin tax, which they say “are designed to discourage use.”
Of course, the big question is “Will voters say yes?” Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, told the Post that he thinks “people in this state have come to understand that marijuana is not the dangerous substance that law enforcement and the federal government have made it out to be.” According to a Harris poll, only 42% of Americans say they support total cannabis legalization in their state. Still, advocates will be vocal and there is a chance that these initiatives could pass.
Do you agree with the system proposed by the ballot initiatives, or would you rather see a model like the one Legalize2012 hopes for?