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Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution (Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana) is repealed.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

New York Legal Marijuana Push ‘Effectively Over’ For 2020, Governor Says

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) conceded on Saturday that it’s unlikely marijuana will be legalized in the state this year.

“Marijuana and the gig economy were two of the more complicated initiatives that we wanted to work through that we didn’t get a chance to do,” he said in response to a question about which policy issues he would’ve liked to tackle in the annual budget bill that passed this week.

“Is the session effectively over? It’s up to the legislature, but I think it’s fair to say it’s effectively over,” he added, noting that several state lawmakers have been infected with coronavirus.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo elements courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Carlos Gracia.

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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Congresswoman Wants Ban On DC Marijuana Sales Lifted Through Coronavirus Legislation

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A congresswoman is calling on the government to end a policy prohibiting Washington, D.C. from legal marijuana sales, arguing that the jurisdiction is in particular need of tax revenue from cannabis commerce due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has repeatedly condemned the congressional rider barring the District of Columbia from allowing retail sales that has been extended each year since 2014, shortly after local voters approved a ballot measure to legalize low-level possession and home cultivation. But given the need for resources to combat the pandemic, she said a reversal of the provision should be included in the next COVID-related relief bill.

“At this moment of unparalleled need, D.C. should be able to collect tax revenue from all available sources, like every other jurisdiction, including from recreational marijuana, which is believed to be widely used in the District,” the congresswoman said in a press release on Friday, adding that D.C. was shorted in the last stimulus because Congress treated it as a territory rather than a state.

“While I am working for a retroactive fix in the next coronavirus bill, it is imperative that Congress also repeal the D.C. recreational marijuana commercialization rider in the next bill to help D.C. shore up its finances,” she said. “It is beyond unreasonable that congressional interference keeps only the District from commercializing recreational marijuana, while all other jurisdictions are free to do so.”

“Bringing the District in line with other jurisdictions would create a critical source of tax revenue in our time of need.”

Last year, the House approved an appropriations bill that excluded the D.C. rider, but it was included in the Senate version and ultimately made its way into the final package that the president signed. The cannabis commerce ban was also included in President Trump’s budget proposal earlier this year.

“True to form, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton continues to be one of the best allies to the cannabis reform movement,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “During this unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical that lawmakers analyze and reform any and every aspect of public policy to mitigate the health crisis and build a foundation for a strong recovery.”

“As the majority of states that regulate cannabis have deemed the industry essential to the continued functioning of their jurisdictions, the continued congressional prohibition of the District of Columbia enacting it’s own adult-use program becomes even more ridiculous,” he added.

Norton, in an interview about her push, said that the congressionally mandated prohibition on sales doesn’t prevent people from accessing cannabis but does block the city from collecting tax revenue.

“You can buy two ounces but, by the way you’ve got to do that on the black market,” she told WUSA-TV. “But there’s nobody to tax it. And I’m simply trying to get the taxes the District is due for merchandise, in this case marijuana that’s being consumed readily in the District of Columbia.”

Legislative priorities for Congress have shifted significantly as lawmakers attempt to address the outbreak, and that’s meant putting some reform efforts on hold. However, the issue isn’t being ignored entirely, and it’s possible that other members may look to attach modest marijuana proposals to additional coronavirus legislation.

For example, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) said this week that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy preventing its doctors from recommending medical cannabis in legal states puts service members at risk in Massachusetts because the state is shuttering recreational shops (but not medical dispensaries) and some veterans fear registering as patients out of concern that they could lose federal benefits.

Eleven senators wrote a letter to Appropriations Committee leadership asking that they allow small cannabis businesses to access federal loans and disaster relief programs. While the lawmakers said it should be enacted through an annual spending bill, advocates have argued that the policy change should be pursued through coronavirus legislation since these businesses are facing challenges just like those experienced by many other companies during the pandemic.

Eleven Senators Push To Let Marijuana Businesses Access Federal Loan Programs

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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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North Dakota Activists Say Marijuana Legalization Initiative Unlikely In 2020 Due To Coronavirus

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North Dakota activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a Facebook post, Legalize ND said “we are going to have to face a few hard realities going forward” as businesses are shuttering, public events are being cancelled and individuals are encouraged to shelter in place. The pandemic means in-person signature gathering can’t take place, and the state does not allow for alternative signing options such as by mail or online.

“Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked,” the group said. “Businesses will continue to collect, but we don’t want to create another vector for the coronavirus. As a result, at this time if something major doesn’t change we will not be able to make the 2020 ballot.”

Legalize ND said there’s no way for state policies related to signature gathering to be changed ahead of the November election. They needed to collect 13,452 valid signatures from voters before July 6 in order to qualify. In all likelihood, the campaign said it would have to shift its focus to the July 2022 primary election.

“This isn’t the solution we want, but given the situation it is what will have to happen,” the post states. “Stay safe, and hopefully we can make a major push when the quarantine ends.”

The proposed initiative would allow individuals to purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Unlike a much more far-reaching measure the same group pushed in 2018 that included no possession or cultivation limits, which voters rejected, this version would prohibit home growing, impose a 10 percent excise tax and establish a regulatory body to approve licenses for marijuana businesses.

North Dakota voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2016.

The coronavirus outbreak has dealt several blows to drug policy reform efforts in recent weeks.

California activists for campaigns to amend the state’s legal cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are asking for a digital signature option.

Likewise in Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics asked the mayor and local lawmakers to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.

An effort to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri is also in jeopardy.

In Oregon, advocates for a measure to decriminalize drug possession and a separate initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently conceded that legalization was “not likely” going to happen through the budget, as he hoped. Coronavirus shifted legislative priorities, and comprehensive cannabis reform seems to have proved too complicated an issue in the short-term.

Idaho activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.”

Finally, in Arizona, a legalization campaign is petitioning the state Supreme Court to instruct the secretary of state to allow individuals to sign ballot petitions digitally using an existing electronic system that is reserved for individual individual candidates seeking public office.

Virginia Groups Push Governor To Amend Marijuana Decriminalization Bill On His Desk

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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