Though it seems like it's coming out late, considering some of the people in it mention voting "this Tuesday," the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has nonetheless today released what is likely its final salvo in this campaign season, a video called "This Is Our Moment."
It's a lovely, three-minute bit featuring light piano and text of statistics interspersed with regular folks talking about being on the right side of history and the like. Give it a look, and don't forget: As long as you're in line before 7 p.m., you'll soon be a-votin'.
Tonight at 7, the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council will be hosting a live interrogation of several political candidates, all for your voting (and viewing) pleasure. Actually, the aforementioned will be more like a pleasurable mixer at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, but the "questions" part still stands.
"Join us for the last mixer of the year as we bring important candidates from across Southern Colorado to meet our entrepreneurs and enterprises," reads a notice of the event. "Don't miss the chance to introduce yourself to current and future leaders at County, State, and City levels. With Amendment 64, new MMED rules, and an important national election just around the corner, you don't want to miss this opportunity to represent yourself professionally and sensibly to the people making decisions impacting your future."
Because nobody can get enough of either these electoral days, here are some bits dealing with marijuana and the coming election.
• First, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, a national research organization, yesterday released a report saying that between 1986 and 2010, roughly 210,000 Coloradans were arrested for marijuana possession, with more than half of those coming in the last 10 years.
Some other findings, as quoted in the press release:
— In the last decade, Colorado arrested Latinos for marijuana possession at 1.5 times the rate of whites, and arrested blacks at 3.1 times the rate of whites. But young blacks and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.
— Latinos are 19% of the Colorado's residents, but they are 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. This is the first study to show arrests of Latinos in Colorado
— Police made 108,000 marijuana possession arrests in just the last ten years.
— African-Americans and Latinos are less than a quarter (23%) of Colorado's residents, they made up more than a third (35%) of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
— Marijuana possession arrests in Colorado rose sharply over the past 25 years, from 4,000 in 1986 to 10,500 in 2010, totaling 210,000 arrests.
"Marijuana possession arrests create permanent criminal records easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks," said Loren Siegel, co-director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, in the release. "A criminal record for the 'drug crime' of marijuana possession creates barriers to employment and education for anyone, including whites and the middle class."
Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of NAACP for Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, issued a statement in agreement.
"Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on all Coloradans, and it is our communities of color that are paying the biggest price," she says. "Law enforcement resources should be used to address violent and otherwise harmful crimes. They should not be directed toward the enforcement of irrational marijuana laws that disproportionately impact African-Americans and other people of color. It is time for a more sensible approach.”
• Second, national advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access launched a website yesterday "that provides patients and their supporters with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the candidates in their districts," says the release.
Here's how they grade Colorado's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives:
DeGette, Diana L. CO-1 Honor Roll
Polis, Jared CO-2 Honor Roll
Tipton, Scott CO-3 Fail
Gardner, Cory CO-4 Fail
Lamborn, Doug CO-5 Fail
Coffman, Michael CO-6 Fail
Perlmutter, Ed CO-7 Pass
Tonight brings the second local debate over the coming marijuana question, Amendment 64. Hosted by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, it will be held in the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Upper Lodge at 6 p.m. Speaking for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will be co-director Mason Tvert, while El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa will represent the opposition.
As a preview, here's what Tvert said at a Littleton debate last week, as reported by the Denver Post (with a retort from a familiar face).
"We should have an honest debate," said Mason Tvert, one of the initiative's proponents, at the Littleton debate. "And honest debates begin with evidence. There just isn't any evidence of problems associated with marijuana laws as they change." ...
Ken Buck, the Weld County district attorney, said the federal government could crack down if Colorado legalized marijuana. But, even if it didn't, more liberalized marijuana laws would hurt the state's reputation.
"Our brand will go from business-friendly and healthy to Rocky Mountain high," Buck said.
We've left a message with a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for confirmation, but in the meantime it seems a second petition to have post-traumatic stress disorder added to the state's list of conditions considered treatable with medical marijuana has, essentially, been denied.
"In order to approve the petition, the Heath Department must schedule a Public Hearing in front of the Board of Health within 120 days," reads a press release from Brian Vicente, Sensible Colorado and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Since 120 days have elapsed since the petition's filing without a Hearing being scheduled, the petition is effectively denied."
Because of this a new group, Veterans for 64, will be formed to back Amendment 64, the marijuana-decriminalization ballot question.
We covered the issue in our July issue of ReLeaf, writing at the time, "It's an interesting situation, because since its inception in 2000, the Colorado medical marijuana law has never OK'd anything but the original maladies. Contrast that with states like New Mexico, which put PTSD on its list of approved ailments at the behest of its veterans; California's already lenient law — which was written to allow doctors to prescribe MMJ at their discretion for what the California Department of Public Health calls "any other chronic or persistent medical symptom"; and Arizona, which has already done exactly what Sensible Colorado is trying to do."
The real kicker in that story came in a quote from Vicente, who said that 18 veterans are committing suicide per day.
"The state's failure to act is an effective denial of this compassionate petition," says Bob Wiley, Vicente's colleague at Sensible Colorado, in the release. "Our only option is to support Amendment 64, which will ensure that Coloradans 21 and older who suffer from PTSD will no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana."
A news conference announcing the new group will be held at the El Paso County Courthouse — scene of multitudes of protests over the prosecution of Colorado MMJ patients and providers — starting at noon on Thursday.
Laura Harris, director of the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, will attend
Thursday Wednesday night's mixer from the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council. The festivities kick off at 7 at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, and entry is $10.
"July 1st of year two has come and passed, and we approaching a very historical election year for our State," reads a release on the event. "Ms. Harris will give information about what is happening at the MMED, across the State, and will clarify rules and regulations as we promulgate another year of medical marijuana industry."
E-mail any questions for Harris to CSMCC's membership director Mark Slaugh, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday, a press release from the Colorado U.S. Attorney's office said that all 10 medical-marijuana centers that were notified in the most recent wave of closure letters have closed as requested.
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA will continue this initiative until all marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of a school are closed," reads the release. "A fourth wave of warning letters will be forthcoming as marijuana stores are identified within this 1,000 foot 'drug-free school zone.'
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office believes that a vast majority of marijuana stores operating within 1,000 feet of schools have now closed, even those that did not specifically receive a warning letter. If members of the public have information regarding a marijuana store they believe is within 1,000 feet of a school in their neighborhood or elsewhere they are encouraged to send an email to email@example.com."
We were never able to identify the Colorado Springs dispensary that office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said was one of the notified, though previous centers affected by the action include Indispensary and Westside Wellness Center. The term "closed" is also not exactly accurate, as Altitude Organic Medicine moved off the west side to a downtown location when it received its own letter in the second round.
After Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement saying he couldn't support the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado (via Amendment 64) because it "has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation," the campaign behind it struck back.
"Governor Hickenlooper's statement today ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics," reads a release from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which wasted no time in bringing up the governor's brewpub-building past. "After building a personal fortune by selling alcohol to Coloradans, he is now basing his opposition to this measure on concerns about the health of his citizens and the message being sent to children. We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not. The public health costs of alcohol use overall are approximately eight times greater per person than those associated with marijuana. And alcohol use is associated with violent crime. Marijuana use is not."
The blow from the governor comes a day after the campaign suffered a loss in court, with its request to have several items that were struck from the voters' blue book reinstated denied by judge Robert Hyatt.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the proponents of Amendment 64, the coming ballot question that will decriminalize set amounts of marijuana, have filed a lawsuit in Denver district court seeking the roll back of changes that were made to the amendment's language in the so-called voter's blue book.
Here's more from a press release:
Specifically, the campaign is seeking a Preliminary Injunction asking the court to direct the Legislative Council Staff to reinsert the deleted arguments. It also filed to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order over the weekend to prevent the Legislative Council Staff from sending the blue book to print with the improper modification.
At a hearing last Wednesday, in what the evidence clearly shows was a misunderstanding, the Legislative Council removed some of the strongest arguments in support of Amendment 64 without the knowing support of two-thirds of the committee required to modify the final draft of the blue book prepared before the hearing by the Legislative Council Staff. State law requires the guide to include the major arguments in support of each state issue that will appear on the ballot. The deleted arguments were: Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol; the consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe; and law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol continues its push for Amendment 64, this time lining up support from the academic community in the form of a letter signed by some 100, or so, professors of various things. Four come from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and one from Colorado State University-Pueblo.
"The State of Colorado, as well as our nation, have successfully walked the path from prohibition to regulation in the past: Eighty years ago, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition at the state level, which was followed by repeal at the federal level," the unified voice of academia declares in a press release. "This year, we have the opportunity to do the same thing with marijuana and once again lead the nation toward more sensible, evidence-based laws and policies."
Dr. Dale DeBoer, chair of the economics department at UCCS, says his support for decriminalization is based on the ineffectiveness of prohibition, combined with evidence showing marijuana's no more harmful than the stuff you can legally buy today. As well: "To the extent that marijuana has health consequences," he writes in an e-mail, "these are better treated via health care (like with alcohol abuse) than through criminalization."
We asked the good professor if he agreed with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy's assessment that the passage of Amendment 64 could result in a $100 million windfall for the state of Colorado within five years.
"I am personally always suspicious of numerical estimates that I did not generate," he replied. "While these estimates are possible — and I have no reason to doubt them — I have not recreated these studies. As such, I take these numbers as possible but reserve some healthy caution in regards to them.
"That said, there must be some budgetary savings from narrowing the scope of the law and some revenue enhancement from taxation of a now illegal substance. Given my stance on your initial question, any financial gain should be welcome — but is not my main reason for supporting the movement."
As far as sounding out the amendment's chances of passage, well, all you have to do is hop on Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights' Facebook page to witness that, as usual, there's division even among those in the MMJ community. Those against the amendment have even, almost uniformly, changed their profile picture to a negative version of the "Yes on 64" logo — a move that equates to "the 21st-century lawn sign," as Vermont journalist Tyler Machado put it on Twitter.
Of course, that might just be the price you have to pay for progress, according to DeBoer: "Any change of this nature is difficult (witness the earlier political machinations surrounding prohibition)," he writes. "As such, I won't be surprised if this has to be tried again at another election."
In a must-read story, the Stranger's Christopher Frazelle looks at the suicide of a woman in his building.
Within it, we find that Washington's got a ballot initiative, 502, that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in a manner similar to our own Amendment 64. Almost all of that state's medical-marijuana dispensaries are against the initiative. (Colorado's are split.)
But there's this, a little-known fact about one side-effect of marijuana, delivered by Frazelle with the full acknowledgement that "the rhetoric is polarized in both directions: The government tells you it's an insidious evil, the activists tell you it's merely an herb."
So take note, maybe:
It is an article of faith among marijuana activists (the sort of people Rosado was surrounded by at the Apothecary) that marijuana is harmless, that anyone telling you that smoking marijuana can lead to a psychotic break is spouting some Reefer Madness bullshit. And it's true that for the vast majority of adults, smoking marijuana does not cause problems. Scientists disagree about whether very heavy marijuana use can cause psychosis in people who would not otherwise become psychotic. But even a hardened skeptic like Dr. Mitch Earleywine—a psychologist on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the author of Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, and the star of at least one YouTube video passionately poking holes in studies that say marijuana can cause psychosis—says, "If you've had one schizophrenic episode or even something more modest, and then start smoking pot heavily afterwards, you're going to be more likely than not to have a second of those psychotic episodes." Moreover, marijuana will make a psychotic episode worse than it would be otherwise. "I think it's fair to say, if you're psychotic-prone, cannabis is not a good idea," Dr. Earleywine said. "Certainly anyone who has a twin with schizophrenia, a sibling with schizophrenia, a parent with schizophrenia would do well to stay away from the plant." People with bipolar disorder are also prone to psychosis and should only use marijuana "with extreme caution."
The backers behind Amendment 64, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, just released their theme song — did you know campaigns had those? — and you haven't heard something this catchy since 1967 when "When I'm Sixty-Four" from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band hit airwaves.
Here's the lyrics: "Take marijuana off of the streets. / Put it in a store. / We can make it harder for the teens to buy: Sell it like a bottle of wine. / Jobs for our people, money for schools — who could ask for more? / Strict regulation, fund education, yes on 64."
"We want voters humming this tune on the way to the polls," writes the campaign's advocacy director, Betty Aldworth. "After you listen to the song (maybe even a couple of times!), please share it with all the Colorado voters you know — especially those baby boomers who might recognize the tune — and encourage them to pass it along."
Update: We just heard back via e-mail from the study's author, Christopher Stiffler. Below are our questions followed by his written responses:
I just wanted to confirm that the MMJ study recently released was paid for by the Drug Policy Alliance.
"The Drug Policy Alliance contracted with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy for this particular analysis. It is important to note, however, that the analysis contained in the report represents independent analysis by CCLP staff. Part of our work here at CCLP is to provide independent, accurate economic and fiscal analysis on public policy discussions so that decision makers, whether they are legislators or voters, are able to make informed choices about the future of Colorado."
Also, can you speak to why your estimates are so much larger than what the Blue Book states, economically?
"First, I want to stress that we have tremendous respect for the work of the staff of the Colorado Legislative Council. The reason why our report differs from the Blue Book analysis is that I considered additional factors than those considered by Legislative Council staff.
"My analysis calculates state sales tax, local sales tax, excise tax, and savings to law enforcement. The Blue Book only provides an estimate of state sales tax. So the most accurate comparison is the estimate for state sales tax revenue. Our report estimates $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue. The Blue Book’s provides a range of $4 million to $22 million."
Lastly, Roger Sherman with No on 64 told Westword the report didn't take into account the added cost of drug treatment for schools — do you think that would be a significant amount?
"CCLP’s analysis focused on the state budgetary impacts of Amendment 64. The report focused much less on the indirect consequences. On page 6 of our study we reference some outside analysis dealing with consumption among teens. The Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Report suggest that regulating marijuana has a negative correlation with teen consumption, meaning regulation could be a factor in reducing marijuana use among teens. Nationwide marijuana use for high school students rose from 20.8 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent in 2011 while it dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent in Colorado. During this period, Colorado enacted regulations on the sale of medical marijuana."
——— ORIGINAL POST: Friday, Aug. 17, 4:24 P.M. ———
Much like the subject of gay marriage, any time there's a potential change in policy toward marijuana, there's a study somewhere saying how much money the state's missing out on if it doesn't act. Now, we have ours: The Colorado Center on Law and Policy says in a new study that the passage of Amendment 64 (backed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol) could generate $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue, and that that amount could double within the first five years after implementation.
According to the report, passage of Amendment 64 will:
• Initially result in $60 million annually in combined revenue and savings for state and local governments in Colorado, which could double to more than $100 million within the first five years of implementation.
• Save local and state law enforcement officials more than $12 million in the first year of operation.
• Generate $24 million annually in state revenue for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction program.
• Create more than 350 new jobs, the majority of which will be in the construction industry.
"Generating millions of dollars, creating new jobs, and benefiting our schools are not the only reasons to support regulating marijuana like alcohol," reads a statement from Betty Aldworth with CTRMLA. "It will also enhance public safety by removing marijuana from the underground market, which is currently steering all of the profits toward drug cartels and other criminal enterprises."
Of course, the competition's less impressed, says No on 64's Roger Sherman to Westword:
"It's not a surprise that a report paid for by an out-of-state, pro-legalization organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, overstates the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use," he maintains. "This report triples the estimate from the state's unbiased, non-partisan Office of Legislative Council in the Blue Book."
We've e-mailed the report's author, economist Christopher Stiffler, to confirm the connection with DPA — a New York City-based nonprofit with a Denver office, that focuses on "promoting alternatives to current drug policy that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights" — as well as answer some follow-up questions. We'll update when we hear back.
A piece posted on AlterNet from Martin Lee's new book, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana, makes an interesting case: that the sudden increase in prosecutions of those in California's medical-marijuana industry was cover for the pressure Attorney General Eric Holder was facing due to the failure of the covert "Fast and Furious" program.
2,000 assault rifles and other firearms were sold to suspected traffickers for the Mexican drug cartels. It was intended as an intelligence-gathering ploy, but U.S. agents lost track of most of these weapons. ...
By early October 2011, there were calls for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Holder had perjured himself during testimony before Congress. Right-wing pundits described the scandal as “Obama’s Watergate." ...
But Holder had an ace up his sleeve, and he played it at a crucial moment. ...
On October 7, the same day Holder wrote a detailed letter to Rep. Issa, defending his handling of the Fast and Furious affair, four federal prosecutors in California held a hastily organized press conference in which they threw down the gauntlet and announced the start of a far-ranging crackdown that would nearly decimate the Golden State’s medical marijuana industry.
Whether it's true or not is unknown to me, but either way, as the book points out, half of California's dispensaries closed over a 10-month period.
The Atlantic Wire makes an interesting point: The story is being shared between the pro-pot and anti-Obama crowds alike, each thinking it proves their case.
Like the gun-walking scandal, it has remained niche, but no-less passionate issue for a specific subset of Americans. Type in "Holder" + "Crackdown" + "Marijuana dispensary" and 100,000 results show up of stories decrying the numerous alleged "lies" of the attorney general. But it has failed to go mainstream outside of a few one-off remarks on Bill Maher's HBO show. Similarly, Republicans can't seem to get Fast & Furious elevated to its alleged "Watergate"-worthy status, despite aggressive attempts by the GOP-led House to sue Eric Holder for refusing to provide documents related to the scandal, an action they pursued today. If this is a strength in numbers issue, maybe the two sides can join forces?
A release from U.S. Attorney John Walsh's office says that closure letters have been issued to 10 medical-marijuana centers in Colorado still located within 1,000 feet of a school. This is the third in a series of actions, and the smallest so far, though spokesman Jeff Dorschner confirms another wave of similar size will follow in the coming months. Also, one of the 10 is located in Colorado Springs, though it's unknown which center that is.
"Action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property if they do not discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana within 45 days from today, September 17, 2012," reads the statement. "Those who do not comply will be subject to civil enforcement actions and potential criminal prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)."
The most recent attempt came in the April-May period, with the U.S. Attorney's office saying all 25 centers that were notified had closed. This later proved inaccurate; just one example came when the so-affected Altitude Organic moved from its Colorado Avenue location to downtown.
Nonetheless, Dorschner says every targeted center has complied "without enforcement action being taken."