Gessler announced that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than the required number of valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Voters in Colorado will have the opportunity to vote on this measure on November 6.
If passed, the initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana. It would also establish a system of regulations to control and tax cannabis sales, much like the system that already exists for alcohol, and direct the Colorado Legislature to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sales of industrial hemp.
"Supporters of rational marijuana policies everywhere should congratulation the residents of Colorado for placing this initiative on the ballot," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Regulating marijuana like alcohol will create jobs, allow police to focus on more serious crimes, provide much-needed tax revenue, and will do a far better job of keeping marijuana away from children than the current system does.
"A majority of Americans realize that the government's war on marijuana is an expensive failure and think that marijuana should be legal for adults," Kampia said. "This November, Colorado will get a chance to lead the nation by becoming the first state to end marijuana prohibition."
Colorado now joins Washington as one of two states to qualify a legalization initiative in 2012, while several other states are hoping to follow suit.
Denver-based activists gathered more than 170,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, including 14,000 during a ten-day period after initially falling short by 2,400. The initiative, now known as Amendment 64, is spearheaded by Mason Tvert, director of SAFER, and Brian Vicente, who is the director of Sensible Colorado.
"This could be a watershed year in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. "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," Way said.
If approved by voters, the initiative would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older statewide and would allow small-scale cultivation for personal consumption. It would also permit the Department of Revenue or local governments (cities and counties) to design and implement regulations for controlling sales of marijuana to adults.
The initiative also allows local governments to prohibit marijuana sales altogether. However, the provisions decriminalizing personal possession and cultivation would apply statewide.
The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs, has endorsed the initiative and pledged to support its passage.
"Never before has support for legalizing marijuana been so widespread or so out in the open. It is truly exciting that voters in both Washington and Colorado have a chance to make history this year," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "I'm confident Colorado can lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible framework of regulation and taxation."
A coalition of supporters of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will hold a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, February 28, at the campaign's headquarters. In attendance will be former Colorado House Majority Leader Paul Weissman, Colorado NAACP President Rosemary Harris Lytle, and Denise Maes of the ACLU of Colorado. The conference will be at 2 p.m. MST at 1177 Grant Street, 3rd Floor, Denver, Colorado.