Marijuana: Amendment 64 supported, attacked by religious leaders in ongoing endorsement war
As we've been reporting, the proponents and opponents of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, have been engaging in PR-generating endorsement wars. Now, in the wake of separate groups of doctors either championing or decrying the measure, religious leaders representing each campaign are sharing their feelings, pro and con -- including the Reverend Leon Emerson, seen here. Are these battles slowing the momentum of the initiative? No, insists one of the main figures behind Amendment 64, despite a recent poll showing support dipping below 50 percent.
At 10:30 a.m. Smart Colorado, the No on 64 campaign, staged an event at Agape Christian Church in Five Points. The main speaker was Emerson, the leader of New Faith Christian Church and CEO of the Colorado Council for Urban Youth Development, with support from Reverend Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries, and Butch Montoya, a former Denver Manager of Safety and ex-9News executive who now serves as the director of H.S. Power & Light Ministries and the Latino Faith Initiative.
Their message, according to No on 64 spokeswoman Laura Chapin? The Greater Metropolitan Denver Ministerial Alliance, an organization representing between sixty and seventy churches, is coming out against Amendment 64.
"This is a big deal," Chapin says, since "the Denver Ministerial Alliance is one of the biggest and most impactful faith organizations in the city and the state."
In a quote provided to Westword, Emerson said, "The pastors are united in saying no to Amendment 64. As pastors, this is wrong for our community and wrong for our children. It sends the wrong message."
Not to be outdone, the Amendment 64 is ballyhooing religious endorsements of its own from more than two dozen members of the clergy (see the complete list below), including Rabbi Steven Foster of Temple Emmanuel. In a statement, Foster says, "I am supporting Amendment 64 because, as clergy, we have the responsibility to talk about what policies serve our community best. You do not have to use marijuana -- or even approve of marijuana -- to see that our current laws are not working."
Foster's positive words aren't the only ones Amendment 64 backers have collected of late. Also in the act's corner is singer Melissa Etheridge and former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, both of whom have recorded advertisements touting the measure. But their comments have been countered by Governor John Hickenlooper, who said he doesn't want Colorado known as a pot haven, and, more recently, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, joined by a slew of high-profile law enforcers, and Denver mayor Michael Hancock.
Indeed, the powers that be seem to be lining up against Amendment 64 -- although the campaign's Brian Vicente doesn't see it that way. "We had the state's largest labor union" -- the United Food and Commercial Workers -- "endorse last week. So we've been rolling out endorsements as well. And at the end of the day, we think voters will decide to move forward with Amendment 64 rather than perpetuating the failed policy of marijuana prohibition."
Continue to read more about the Amendment 64 endorsement wars.