Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012: Mason Tvert on petition drive launch
Update below: At 2 p.m. today, backers of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 will stage a press conference formally launching a petition drive to land the measure on next year's ballot. Read it below and get more details from Mason Tvert, part of a group hoping to make history a year from November.
"We believe a majority of Coloradans agree that it's time we regulate marijuana and tax it similarly to alcohol -- that we stop wasting our limited law enforcement resources and start generating significant tax revenue," Tvert says.
"In terms of timing, we're still at the beginning stages of the initiative process," he adds, "but we're looking forward to starting to talk with voters about the issue as we collect signatures throughout the state. Our goal is to have a very comprehensive and serious discussion about the issue over the course of the next year, and we felt it was imperative that we get the campaign started and get that discussion going."
Hence, today's press conference, in front of the Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock. Tvert is scheduled to speak at the event, as are petition drive coordinator Emmett Resitroffer and Brian Vicente, who, like Tvert, prefers to be identified simply as an initiative proponent. Why? To emphasize that the act isn't simply a product of Tvert's organization (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) or Vicente's (Sensible Colorado), but a proposal conceived and supported by a broad coalition of activists and just plain folks.
Not that every marijuana advocate is on board. Legalize 2012, featuring representatives of the Cannabis Therapy Institute, disagree with the act's concept, as was made clear at the contentious Great Legalization Debate last month. Yesterday, Legalize 2012 organizers sent out a press release asserting that the Colorado Title Board had removed the phrase "similar to alcohol" from the acts title in response to a "citizen complaint" and also took out the word "legalization" at the request of its authors, in order to avoid confusing voters. Thus, Legalize 2012 maintains that its forthcoming measure will be the only one to offer true marijuana legalization.
Tvert's take? He says the word "legalization" was never in the act "because it's such a subjective term. After all, won't it still be illegal to sell marijuana to someone who's fifteen? Won't it be illegal to cart it out of state and start selling it?" Moreover, he points out the "similar to alcohol" phrase was suggested by the title board, not the coalition. And since groups are able to refer to initiatives by any name they'd like, Tvert and company will still promote theirs as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. "We feel that's entirely accurate," he stresses.
In order to get the act on the ballot, its proponents need to gather approximately 86,000 valid signatures -- "so our goal is to collect upwards of 140,000," Tvert says. They'll be using an army of volunteers who'll fan out across the state. Proponents have six months to complete this task, and Tvert expects they'll be able to do so well before the deadline.
Of course, a marijuana decriminalization measure wound up on the 2006 ballot and was roundly defeated, generating just 41 percent support. What's changed since then?
"Several internal and public polls over the past year have shown between 48 and 54 percent support for the concept this initiative is based on," Tvert maintains. "And support for this type of initiative keeps growing. It's usually 1 percent each year in the United States, and in Colorado, it's been accelerated by all the work that's been going on here over the past five years. In Denver, we had 53 percent support in 2005, and in 2007, we had 57 percent support."
Besides, he continues, "this initiative is very different than the one in 2006. That one would have solely removed penalties of adult possession. This measure not only does that, but it also establishes a system of taxation and regulation similar to alcohol, which is traditionally far more popular among voters."
Update, 12:21 p.m. July 7: After this item was published at 9 a.m., I received an e-mail from Legalize 2012 asserting that the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 had not been "approved or certified" by the Colorado Secretary of State's office, making this post, and the petition-drive announcement, "premature." Turns out the truth is more complicated. Secretary of State's office spokesman Rich Coolidge says, "They have a set title. It's the question that will appear on the ballot if they get enough verified signatures, and it's what will appear at the top of the petition." However, the petition form still needs approval, and to Coolidge's knowledge, one has yet to be submitted. This process isn't complicated and can generally be wrapped up in a single day, particularly if organizations coordinate with elections division personnel, Coolidge says. But it needs to done before actual signature collection can begin.
Page down to read the final version of the initiative.