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Colorado Marijuana Legalization Would Be Overturned By New Ballot Measure

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Critics have taken pot shots at Colorado’s cannabis laws since voters there became the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Now, a pair of activists want to scrap the system entirely, erasing all mention of adult-use cannabis from the state Constitution.

A newly filed proposed ballot initiative would repeal the section of the Colorado Constitution that says cannabis “should be legal for persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”

The measure, submitted to state officials for review last month, would not change Colorado laws concerning medical cannabis or industrial hemp, both of which are also legal in the state.

The long-shot effort seems unlikely to pass, at least in its current form. The proposal as submitted last month is four sentences long and appears to leave key questions unanswered. But the would-be initiative is nevertheless an indication of the ongoing frustration felt by those who believe communities would be better off under prohibition.

The full text of the proposal is as follows:

The people of Colorado declare that the recreational use of marijuana is a matter of statewide concern.

Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution (Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana) is repealed.

Laws regarding medical marijuana and industrial hemp are not changed.

This amendment is effective upon the official declaration of the vote hereon by the Governor pursuant to Section 1(4) of Article V of the Colorado Constitution.

The initiative was submitted to the state last month by Mary Lou Mosely of Denver and Willard Behm, a lawyer in Rocky Ford. Neither responded to telephone messages left by Marijuana Moment on Thursday morning.

Legalization advocates are downplaying any threat posed by the measure, saying there’s no evidence to support the idea that voters want to reverse course.

“We view this initiative as a deeply misguided and futile attempt to roll back a successful legalization policy that Coloradans firmly support,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. “This initiative would kill jobs, destroy businesses, deprive the state of tax revenue, and restore the injustice of prohibition.”

“We are confident that Colorado voters would firmly reject it,” Schweich added. “But we will not be complacent. If this initiative qualifies for the ballot, the marijuana reform movement will make sure that there is a strong and well-funded campaign to defeat it.”

A 2016 poll commissioned by MPP found that only 36% of voters supported reversing legalization in Colorado.The group’s communications director, Violet Cavendish, said she’s unaware of any more recent polling on the issue but added that studies out of other states, such as Washington, which began legal sales just months after Colorado did, suggest that residents of legal-cannabis states are broadly happy with the decision to legalize.

Nationally, support for marijuana legalization has never polled higher than it does now. A Pew survey published in November found that two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans support legalization, extending an upward trend that stretches back to the late 1980s. A majority of those polled (59 percent) said they support both medical and adult-use legalization, while a third of respondents (32 percent) said only medical use should be legal.

A representative for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a leading prohibitionist advocacy group, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the new Colorado proposal.

To qualify the initiative for the state’s 2020 ballot, organizers will need to collect 124,362 signatures from registered voters—a task that can be quite expensive to organize. But first, the campaign has to reply to questions from state legislative staffers, who earlier this week pointed out a number of problems with how the proposal is currently written.

For example, proposed initiatives are supposed to indicate specific changes to state laws, showing precisely what language would be added or removed. The current proposal doesn’t do that. “You have provided a description of the measure,” the state Office of Legislative Legal Services wrote in a February 3 memo to the initiative’s backers. “Please amend your proposal to show the actual proposed constitutional or statutory changes.”

Other questions hinge on apparent legal conflicts created by the measure. The proposal’s text said it wouldn’t change laws on industrial hemp, for example, but the state’s reply points out that “article XVIII, section 16 of the Colorado constitution includes provisions related to industrial hemp,” which would cease to exist if that section were repealed. “How do the proponents intend to address this conflict?”

Moreover, regulations around cannabis retail stores exist in separate state statutes, officials said, which the proposed constitutional amendment wouldn’t change. “What is the proponent’s intent in repealing the constitutional provisions but not the statutory provisions? Do the proponents believe that a person would still be able to purchase marijuana at a licensed entity and use small amounts of marijuana?”

The measure’s supporters have until March 20 to submit a revised proposal.

Top Connecticut Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill On Behalf Of Governor

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

Politics

DEA Seeks Contractor Capable Of Burning Four Tons of Marijuana Per Day

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reached out for help burning “at least” 1,000 pounds of marijuana per hour for eight hours straight.

Every year, DEA seizes millions of marijuana plants and literal tons of raw cannabis, which eventually end up being destroyed. The successful contractor in Arizona would be responsible for burning marijuana and other controlled substances seized as evidence in drug cases “to a point where there are no detectable levels, as measured by standard analytical methods, of byproduct from the destruction process.”

“DEA shall inspect the incinerator to ensure no drug residue remains,” the agency said.

DEA posted the work description earlier this month in what’s called a “sources sought notice,” an initial step before a formal request for proposals is sent.

“This is not a request for proposals and does not obligate the Government to award a contract,” the post says. “The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is conducting market research, and is encouraging all businesses, including small businesses, to respond to this notice.”

An accompanying statement of work gives a behind-the-scenes look at the DEA’s process of destroying seized drugs. Typical boxes weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, for example, but can weigh up to 200 pounds. Contraband might come in on “semi-trucks, tractor trailers, cargo vans, fork lifts, etc.,” the work description says.

“The drugs are usually tightly compressed ‘bricks’ or ‘bales,’” it continues, and are packaged in all sorts of materials: cardboard, wrapping paper, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, packing tape, “duct tape and derivatives,” plastic evidence bags, “grease/oil” and others. Contractors will be expected to burn that stuff, too.

To avoid potential contact highs, there must be ”proper ventilation” and “no smoke buildup” will be allowed. Other mandates include closed-circuit cameras that capture the entire process, which DEA reserves the right to access, as well as background checks and regular drug tests of all personnel.

Armed DEA agents and contractors will be present during scheduled burns.

The work is also very hush-hush, so whoever gets the job shouldn’t expect to regale friends with stories of the latest large-scale federal weed burning sesh.

“The contractor and its personnel shall hold all information obtained under the DEA contract in the strictest confidence,” the work description says. “All information obtained shall be used only for performing this contract and shall not be divulged nor made known in any manner except as necessary to perform this contract.”

The work would start January 1 of next year and the contract would expire in 2026 unless terminated sooner. The deadline to send information for would-be contractors was Friday.

DEA Seized More Marijuana Plants In 2019, But Arrests Fell

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images

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Harris Will Give Biden ‘Honest’ Input On Legalizing Marijuana And Other Issues As Part Of ‘Deal’

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Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris says she has a “deal” with Joe Biden to candidly share her perspective on a range of progressive policies he currently opposes, including legalizing marijuana. Separately, she also recently discussed cannabis reform in a private meeting with rapper Killer Mike.

During an interview on 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, the senator was pressed on marijuana and numerous other issues where she and Biden disagree. In response, while she didn’t specifically commit to proactively advocating for comprehensive cannabis reform, she pledged in general that she would always share her views with the would-be president if the pair are elected next week.

“What I will do—and I promise you this and this is what Joe wants me to do, this was part of our deal—I will always share with him my lived experience as it relates to any issue that we confront,” she said after the interviewer listed cannabis legalization among a handful of issues on which she and Biden depart. “I promised Joe that I will give him that perspective and always be honest with him.”

Asked whether that perspective will be “socialist” and “progressive,” Harris laughed and said “no.”

“It is the perspective of a woman who grew up a black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India, who also, you know, likes hip hop,” she said.

The senator’s taste in music also came up during her own 2020 presidential bid, when she said in an interview that she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac while smoking marijuana during college despite graduating before those artists released their debut albums.

Music culture has played a key role in this election cycle, and one of the strongest voices for criminal justice reform in the industry is Killer Mike, who worked as a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The artist said he met with Harris on Friday and the two discussed cannabis business opportunities for communities of color.

As she’s done repeatedly since joining Biden’s campaign, Harris also reiterated at a rally in Pontiac, Michigan on Sunday that the administration would pursue marijuana decriminalization and expunging prior cannabis convictions.

She made similar comments during a campaign event in Atlanta last week, stating that the “war on drugs was, by every measure, a failure, and black men were hit the hardest.” That said, while the senator has come to embrace broad cannabis reform, she’s faced criticism over her past opposition to legalization and role in prosecuting people for marijuana offenses as a California prosecutor.

In another interview released last week, Harris said she and Biden “have a commitment to decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses.”

“When you look at the awful war on drugs and the disproportionate impact it had on black men and creating then criminal records that have deprived people of access to jobs and housing and basic benefits,” she said.

There’s been some frustration among cannabis reform advocates that Harris has scaled back her reform push since joining the Democratic ticket as Biden’s running mate. During her own run for the presidential nomination, she called for comprehensive marijuana legalization but has in recent weeks focused her comments on the more modest reforms of decriminalization and expungement.

Harris, who is the lead Senate sponsor of a bill to federally deschedule marijuana, said last month that a Biden administration would not be “half-steppin’” cannabis reform or pursuing “incrementalism,” but that’s exactly how advocates would define simple decriminalization.

In any case, the senator has repeatedly discussed cannabis decriminalization on the trail. She similarly said during a vice presidential debate earlier this month that she and Biden “will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana.”

In addition to those policies, Biden backs modestly rescheduling the drug under federal law, letting states set their own policies and legalizing medical cannabis.

Musician John Legend Endorses Drug Decriminalization Ballot Measure In Oregon

Photo element courtesy of California Attorney General’s Office.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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GOP Tennessee Senator Calls For Medical Marijuana Legalization In New Campaign Ad

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A Tennessee senator touted his support for legalizing medical marijuana in a campaign ad released on Friday.

In the 30-second spot, which has notably high production value for this kind of local race, state Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) talks about both the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and the consequences of broader marijuana criminalization.

“As your state senator, I’ve led the fight to legalize medical marijuana so our veterans and sickest Tennesseans can deal with chronic pain,” he said. “But this same life-saving plant has led to mass incarceration, with nonviolent marijuana possession resulting in lengthy prison sentences.”

“I think that’s wrong. That’s why I’ve been pushing for criminal justice reform,” the senator added.

Dickerson, who sponsored a medical cannabis legalization bill that cleared a Senate committee in March, said in a Q&A published earlier this month that the policy change would be among his top three legislative priorities if he’s reelected.

His Democratic opponent, former Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell, is in favor of “fully legalizing marijuana,” with her campaign site stating that cannabis crimes “disproportionately impact people of color and it’s time to end marijuana prohibition.”

But while Dickerson has earned a reputation as a moderate Republican given his positions on issues like cannabis reform, he’s faced backlash after declining to denounce an independent ad taken out on his behalf that some, including the LGBTQ rights organization Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), called racist.

The ad, which was paid for by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s (R) political action committee MCPAC, hits Campbell over her support for a nonprofit organization that is designed to keep young people out of prison, and it frames the group as “radical” and “extremist.” TEP rescinded their endorsement of Dickerson over his refusal to condemn the ad.

In the Tennessee legislature, marijuana reform has yet to pass—but there’s growing recognition that voters are in favor of the policy change. For example, former House Speaker Glen Casada (R) released the results of a constituent survey last year that showed 73 percent of those in his district back medical cannabis legalization.

Another former GOP House speaker, Beth Harwell, highlighted her support for the reform proposal during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018, and she referenced President Trump’s stated support for medical marijuana on the campaign trail.

In other Tennessee drug policy politics, a lawmaker in June blocked a resolution to honor murdered teen Ashanti Posey because she was allegedly involved in a low-level cannabis sale the day she was killed.

New York Will Legalize Marijuana ‘Soon’ To Aid Economic Recovery From COVID, Governor Cuomo Says

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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