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February 28, 2012

Initiative to end state pot prohibition officially makes 2012 ballot in Colorado

VoteformarijuanaThe term Rocky Mountain High could take on an extra meaning after Election Day this year as a result of this news out of Colorado:

Colorado voters will be asked to decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in a November ballot measure, setting up a potential showdown with the federal government over America's most commonly used illicit drug.

The measure, which would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults, is one of two that will go to voters in November after a Washington state initiative to legalize pot earned enough signatures last month to qualify for the ballot there.

"This could be a watershed year in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. The Alliance supports the initiative.  "Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities.  It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens."

Colorado is one of 16 states and the nation's capital that already allow marijuana use for medical purposes even as cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law -- and public opinion is sharply divided on the merits of full legalization.

No states allow marijuana for recreational use, and California voters turned back a ballot initiative to legalize the drug for such use in 2010, in part because of concerns about how production and sale of the drug would be regulated.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Justice has cracked down on medical cannabis operations in several mostly western states including Colorado and Washington, raiding dispensaries and growing operations and threatening landlords with prosecution.

A spokesman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said on Monday that the office opposes the legalization proposal.  "The attorney general will oppose any measure that makes marijuana more accessible," spokesman Mike Saccone said.

The Colorado measure, if approved by voters, would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or up to six plants for cultivation, said Mason Tvert, co-founder of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. It would also set up a regulatory framework for the sale of cannabis products and the application of sales and excise taxes, in addition to legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp.

A provision of the measure would also annually earmark the first $40 million in tax revenue generated from pot sales to fund public school construction, Tvert said, although he could not estimate how many tax dollars would be generated.  Any remaining money over $40 million would go to the state's general fund, he said.

Colorado voters rejected a measure to legalize small amounts of cannabis in 2006, but Tvert said the new proposal with its taxing provision, and potential jobs created through the marijuana industry and peripheral businesses would make it more palatable to voters. "The time is right," he said, citing a December poll by Public Policy Polling that showed 49 percent of Colorado voters now support legalization.

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Comments

End the drug war. Release all non-violent drug "offenders." Only imprison the truly dangerous criminals; start with Bill Otis and federalist and TarlsQtr.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 28, 2012 6:20:46 PM

I suggest that proponents of legalization look into the campaign donations of the opponents. Did any money come from legitimate businesses and business men who are fronting for the Mexican drug cartels. The criminalization is a federal price support for their business, as well as that of Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. The opponents of legalization are traitors, providing $50 billion to the mortal enemies of our lawyer besieged nation.

The lawyers mentioned above should be on the arrest list when the public decides to do something about this out of control profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 28, 2012 10:33:46 PM

CCDC,

Do you consider a person with 200+ pills in his car and a weapon a "non-violent" offender?

I support legalizing marijuana, but find it hard to imagine a world where cocaine, crack, LSD, meth, etc . . . are manufactured and sold for profit considering the substantial harm those substances do to society. Do you think everything is fair game?

I'm pretty sure Bill, Federalist, and Tarls aren't criminals in any sense of the word. I think there's an interesting discussion to be had about drug policy, but that won't get it going.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 29, 2012 7:39:15 AM

Robert Barnhart --

Thank you. It's encouraging to be reminded that a sensible discussion of drugs is still possible on this board.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 10:47:46 AM

I think there is also an interesting point about the Democratic process here. Colorado can't circumvent the Supremacy Clause but if enough state's did this successfully it would indicate a state level shift such that the feds could/would/should rethink intrastate marijuana regulation.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 29, 2012 10:56:55 AM

Robert Barnhart --

I believe Colorado would be the first state to approve recreational use, so there would need to be a whole bunch of states to go the pro-pot route before one could say there's a national trend. Right now, the national scoreboard is Recreational Use 0, Prohibition on Recreational Use 50.

Of course Congress could change the CSA this afternoon to legalize pot. One may draw one's own's conclusions about how likely this is, given that the Hinchey Amendment lost so often and so badly that its backers don't even bother re-introducing it anymore.

Finally, the federal government's authority over "intra-state" pot distribution was settled against the legalizers' side in Gonzalez v. Raich, which relied on the WWII era case of Wickard v. Filburn. Until Raich is overturned, the federal government's authority in this area is secure.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 11:24:12 AM

Bill,

I wasn't disputing the government's authority under Raich and I agree the national scoreboard is bleak. In truth, this isn't an important issue to me personally. I know how I would vote, but I'm not campaigning or giving money.

When I said the feds would rethink policy I meant from a Congressional perspective. I don't think the courts would rethink modern commerce clause jurisprudence though whether they should is a discussion that has consequences far beyond drug regulation.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 29, 2012 11:31:39 AM

Robert Barnhart --

Just so. The outcome of the Obamacare challenges could well re-shape the modern understanding of the Commerce Clause. I guess we'll know in about four months.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 11:47:12 AM

The drug war is a crime. Who cares whether it has the imprimatur of the government? Drug warriors rip apart families, destroy lives, and put non-violent individuals in cages for the "offense" of voluntarily using naturally occurring substances. (Punish those who commit actual crimes; don't punish those who merely use, exchange, transport, and possess drugs.)

Drug warriors like Bill Otis and Barack Obama ignore and/or don't comprehend the overwhelming scientific evidence that cannabinoids have medicinal value. Drug warriors have no problem with the fictional listing of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. Drug warriors send undercover informants into medical marijuana dispensaries, and direct them to lie about their identity and purpose, in an effort to see whether they can get the dispensary to furnish marijuana for non-medicinal purposes. When the dispensary representatives tell the undercover snitch/drug-warrior that they won't furnish marijuana to them without written authorization from a physician, the drug-war-goons walk away disappointed, and then try to cook up another scheme to take down non-violent medical marijuana users.

Drug warriors advocate wildly expansive application of the Commerce Clause. In every 21 USC sec. 841/846 Bill Otis handled, he asked juries and judges to conclude that the drug use had an impact on interstate commerce; that was an essential element of the charge. Politically, many of these drug warriors are mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The former hypocritically tout themselves as foes of big government and opponents of the expansive application of the Commerce Clause involved in Obamacare. We didn't hear a peep out of them when George Bush teamed with Teddy Kennedy to usher in Medicare Part D. They're fine with expansive application of the Commerce Clause in the drug war, but oppose it in the Obamacare context. They like to cheer for State's rights, but they put down their pom poms when it comes to a state asserting its right to pass laws regarding penal matters, that are traditionally the province of the states. Their "ideas" suck; it's time for them to fade away.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Atty. | Feb 29, 2012 1:43:01 PM

CCDA --

"Their 'ideas' suck; it's time for them to fade away."

You be sure to enforce that. Should I wait? BTW, is "fade away" kinda like book burning?

And while I'm thinking of it, since I'm a "dangerous criminal," would you mind telling me what penal statute I violated? I mean, I hear all the time from you guys that accusations of criminal conduct should not be made without saying exactly what law was violated and what the evidence is showing the violation, so I'm sure you could accommodate me there. Thanks so much!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 2:38:22 PM

I don't understand, CCDC. Do you think heroin, cocaine, LSD, and meth are also "natural" substances that people should be free to ingest?

People are not "merely" exchanging and transporting drugs. You can't deny the crime and devastation associated with the illegal drug trade, can you? Someone might think Heroin should be legal, but choosing to become involved in its manufacture and sale is an entirely different matter. There are some people who are just using and possessing but someone with 200+ pills is not that individual.

In your world would businesses manufacture and sell these drugs? I can't imagine being Meth LLC or Cocaine Incorporated considering the wild havoc it wrecks on families and communities.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 29, 2012 2:38:53 PM

Robert --

Of all the arguments for drug legalization I've heard, probably the most laughably absurd is, "But it grows naturally in the ground!"

There is no doubt that the opium poppy (the source of heroin) ALSO "grows naturally in the ground," but very few people, even among those favoring legalizing pot, would also legalize heroin, for exactly the reasons you note.

The devastating effects of the harder drugs are so severe that, while polls show roughly equal support for and against legalizing dope, the opposition to legalizing harder drugs is so overwhelming that the question isn't even polled, so far as I have ever seen.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 2:51:25 PM

Robert and Bill: What should have been Steve Jobs' punishment for using LSD? What should have been the punishment for the person who furnished the LSD to him? What should have been George W. Bush's punishment for using cocaine when he was a cheerleader at Yale? And what should have been the punishment for the frat boy who furnished it to him?

Why should you and other like-minded folks get to put people in cages for using drugs you deem yucky? Do you recognize how paternalistic, authoritarian, intrusive, and anti-libertarian your positions are? Robert - your position makes even less sense than Bill's. Marijuana is OK with you, but your fine with the government stripping people of their liberty and stealing their property (via asset forfeiture) if they use other drugs you deem hard and dangerous. Who made you arbiter of all drugs that are good and evil? Bill is just a crazed true believer in the war on drugs.

Bill - you've committed many crimes: You're a member of an armed gang - the US government. You kidnap and falsely imprison people. As a drug warrior, you get down in the sewer with snitches, and you peddle their smut to juries.

You guys can change your ways. It's not too late to stop the repression and to stop destroying lives.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 29, 2012 4:20:15 PM

CCDC--

The question asked you to specify the statute I violated that made me a criminal. You gave a rambling answer about George Bush being a cheerleader, etc., but neglected to specify the statute. What is it?

P.S. Even by your own crazy standards, your "indictment" fails. You say that I'm a member of the federal government. C'mon, CCDC, try to keep up. I haven't been in the USAO in this millenium. I teach a course at Georgetown law school. May I ask what you do, other than try to put killers back on the street so they can do it again?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 5:34:20 PM

We scare ourselves to death. "Do you need a law to keep you from using heroin?" - Ron Paul 2011. Well of course the answer is no. At the beginning of the 19th century cocaine was over the counter and sold for teething stomach upset etc etc etc.

There are many people in the US who should be on a maintence dose of an opiat for pain. Dr.s and pharmacists are frightened to death to treat chronic pain. An individual with an addictive personality will become addicted to any mood altering substance - that per-cent stays stable. It doesn't matter if the substance is alcohol cocaine or morphine.

There are far more deaths from our legal drug alcohol. We need laws that are smart, not based on fable.

Posted by: beth | Feb 29, 2012 5:43:43 PM

"Professor" who voted for Bush twice and who advocates executing 16-year-olds and who supports the perpetuation of the War on Drugs:

What penalty should Steve Jobs have received for using LSD?

What penalty should Bush have receiving for messing around with blow while at Yale?

If you're a professor, go look up the statutes in the venue in which you skulk about for gang crimes, kidnaping, false imprisonment, and aiding and abetting perjury. Those are the statutes under which you should be prosecuted for your crimes.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 29, 2012 7:37:30 PM

CCDC --

"If you're a professor, go look up the statutes in the venue in which you skulk about for gang crimes, kidnaping, false imprisonment, and aiding and abetting perjury. Those are the statutes under which you should be prosecuted for your crimes."

You made the accusation, you look up the statutes.

By the way, Michael, if you don't tamp down on this ad hominem stuff and get some adult manners, your anonymity here, though fully understandable, will be coming to an end. Wise up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 29, 2012 9:28:19 PM

Like Hey...lighten up everyone. I think the big problem here is that not that many judges get high. If they did, then all these cases would probably have much mellower outcomes, and the whole criminal justice system could just - ya know - be better at taking care of itself.

Ron Paul for Attorney General!

Posted by: Bea Attitude | Feb 29, 2012 9:52:45 PM

Ron Paul in charge of DOJ.

That would be too good to be true.

Thugs like B.O. wouldn't stand for it in their anti-libertarian Republican party.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 29, 2012 11:09:37 PM

CCDC --

You're quite right that Barak Obama wouldn't stand for it, and is anything but a libertarian.

P.S. It was a shame that Kelli left after just one year.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 1, 2012 12:57:20 AM

Robert made a great point about most drugs not being "naturally occurring substances." In fact, neither is the marijuana that is ingested by 99.9% of pot smokers. They smoke a very distant cousin of what grows "naturally." This cousin has been genetically altered for both taste and THC levels to the point that most pot smokers would have a heard time getting high on the "natural" stuff.

Now, CCCP has been perpetuating this huge myth that people NEED it for medical reasons. For the sake of argument, let's say it is true. Should people be able to manufacture Oxy, Xanax, and a myriad of other prescription drugs in their basements and sell them to children as well? Why not? Why would you allow it for one "medicinal" drug and not all others?

Sincerely,

Future Inmate 12A0461

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 1, 2012 9:00:35 AM

CCDC,

My position makes sense because I support that people are free to make certain choices and not free to make other choices. Taking LSD, Meth, Cocaine, etc . . . has a high chance of impacting your family and random strangers when you either make insanely poor decisions on the drug, or become so insanely dependent that you resort to crime to obtain the drugs.

I am not alone in this position and I don't think I should be appointed "drug czar" to decide this issue. The democratic process takes care of the issue.

I have no sympathy for asset forfeiture of drug dealers who make their living through violence and poisoning the neighborhoods where they live. I would wager 90% of the folks I've represented in drug case would tell me they wish that they had never met their drug dealer.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Mar 1, 2012 10:49:51 AM

Future Inmate 12A0461 --

You sound totally grooooovy!!! I hope I'm the next cell so we can share some, like, you know, naturally grown "herbal medicine."

It's just, you know, so FAR OUT.

Yours in Peace and Love,

Future Inmate 12A0462

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 1, 2012 12:42:32 PM

Why won't Robert and Bill Otis answer 1) what punishment should Steve Jobs have received for using LSD, and 2) what punishment should George W. Bush have received for using cocaine while cheer-leading at Yale?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Mar 1, 2012 1:28:12 PM

1 & 2) Pre-trial diversion with failure to complete leading to a short jail sentence, completion meaning a clean record. Longer sentence for second offense.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Mar 1, 2012 1:51:23 PM

CCDC,

Do you agree that 90% of non marijuana drug users wish they had never met their drug dealer?

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Mar 1, 2012 1:54:06 PM

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