Marijuana legalization debate preview: Meet the advocates who'll be hashing it out
Proponent: Corey Donahue
Donahue has a background in international law and international relations and has worked with several human-rights organizations, including Amnesty International. He insists that current marijuana laws are a violation of people's human rights, and says that other proposals -- specifically the initiative filed by Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente in May -- are more about "softening the blow of criminalization" than true legalization and might actually create more crimes by including language about taxation and regulation. For Donahue, removing regulation is the only acceptable move. "I am working to make sure my amendment is as freedom-expanding as possible," he says. "I don't want to put restrictions on people."
Proposal highlights: Complete legalization of cannabis without restrictions on possession amounts for adults eighteen years and older; no registry -- cannabis purchases treated similarly to alcohol; sales tax; creation of 4/20 as an official state holiday; the release of anyone incarcerated for marijuana offenses in the state; rewording Colorado law to change "marijuana" and "marihuana" to cannabis.
Proposal: Colorado Safer Communities & Health Initiative
Rev. Brandon Baker
Proponent: Reverent Brandon Baker, a third-generation cannabis farmer, says his views on marijuana laws were shaped at a young age, when he watched his father's home raided by police. The fact that he can grow marijuana legally as a caregiver while his father is still considered a criminal is absurd, he says. Baker now serves as a minister in the Greenfaith Ministry. His relatively simple proposal was honed through months of discussions with peers in person and on Facebook. Basically, he explains, it's the same tax and regulation system that applies to home brewers. In fact, the language would be nearly identical, with any reference to brewing replaced by language referring to cannabis cultivation. Penalties for illegal wholesale, retail or manufacturing would mirror alcohol violations, and all language making cannabis illegal would be eliminated. "If it isn't removed from the law books, it isn't legalization," he notes. "Call it what it is: decriminalization. I'd still support decriminalization, but you have to be honest about what it is."
Proposal highlights: Eight plant and eight-ounce limit for personal amounts, more for retail; legal for adults eighteen years and older; all language making marijuana illegal in Colorado removed from revised statutes and Colorado Controlled Substances act; potential clemency/pardons for all non-violent cannabis convictions; industrial hemp legalized, subject only to existing agricultural zoning laws; tax revenue to be spent on industry oversight, public schools, Medicaid and "community betterment programs."
Proposal: Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act
Proponent: Mason Tvert
Tvert and marijuana lawyer Brian Vicente got the jump on other proposals by filing their proposed ballot measure in May. Tvert is best known as the head of the SAFER campaign, which has challenged everyone to think about marijuana as a safer substitute to alcohol. SAFER's 2006 attempt to legalize marijuana in the state failed; the 2007 campaign to decriminalize the plant in Denver gained voter approval. This go-round, his proposal is backed by a coalition of several groups. "I got into this issue because I cannot stand to see people's lives disrupted and even ruined solely for using a substance that is far safer than alcohol," Tvert says. "I've had my life disrupted, and know many, many other people who have undergone scrutiny or punishment for marijuana."
Proposal highlights: Legal for 21 and up; remove penalties for up to one ounce of marijuana and allow adults to grow up to six plants (three mature) and keep all marijuana produced even if over one ounce; DOR regulated; no database -- just show your ID, like liquor; industrial hemp legalized; state must allow for licensed retail stores as well as cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities; state can enact up to 15 percent tax on wholesale sales.
Proposal name: The Cannabis and Hemp Relegalization Act
Proponent: Laura Kriho
Kriho has been one of Colorado's most outspoken marijuana activists since her first campaign to legalize industrial and recreational cannabis use in the state in 1992; that initiative failed to gain the needed signatures to get on the ballot. From 1995 to 1997, as an aide to former state senator Lloyd Casey, she spearheaded another campaign to legalize industrial hemp. Kriho helped to form the Cannabis Therapy Institute to "address the issues with medical marijuana laws." She notes that her proposed ballot measure does not set limits, but leaves regulation up to the intent of the user. "Any time you create a number [limit], you create a position for law enforcement to weigh against that limit," she says. "We want to get away from tracking and counting and weighing. If you leave it to intent... it is a lot fairer to the user than if you put some arbitrary number on the limit."
Proposal highlights: Abolition of all current marijuana-related crimes; potential clemency/pardon of past marijuana-related convictions, dependent on an "independent cannabis commission" of seven to nine members appointed by the governor and made up of cannabis experts; possession amounts based on intent (retail, wholesale, personal use); legalization of industrial hemp