Since Colorado voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2012, rules and regulations regarding the industry have been changing quickly. Proposed ballot initiative #3 would call for yet another change: eradicating all fines and sentences for the possession of cannabis, and guaranteeing that in the Colorado Constitution. But its proponents have just one more week to collect the required signatures, and efforts are lagging.
Here's the wording of Initiative #3:
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution prohibiting courts from imposing any fine or sentence for the possession of cannabis?
If that sounds familiar, it's because proponent Michelle LaMay used the same language in 2012, when she attempted to put the proposal on the ballot the first time.
Possession of under an ounce of marijuana is legal in Colorado today. But LeMay argues that Colorado should get rid of all fines and sentences for cannabis possession "because the people find that the punishment is inconsistent with the damage possessing cannabis imposes on the people of Colorado" and the punishment "exceeds the fiscal and social costs that possessing cannabis imposes on the people of Colorado."
In fact, LeMay believes the amendment could have a positive financial impact. "This would greatly reduce the cost to taxpayers for conviction and enforcement," she says.
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She also believes enforcement of the law has been inconsistent, with more blacks and latinos sent to jail for possession. "I believe it's obvious that they're the ones who have suffered the most," LaMay says. "They're victims of the drug war."
LaMay, a paralegal and self-proclaimed expert on election law, has nothing but praise for the state employees who've helped her through the initiative process. Her motto, "Shine a light," captures both her faith in the First Amendment and her long-time involvement with politics. She runs her own business, Cannabis University, that teaches people how to grow marijuana.
All signatures on petitions are due at the Secretary of State's office by August 4, a week from today. Although LeMay's supporters are still collecting signatures for the initiative, they may not have enough by deadline. But if it does not make it on the ballot this year, expect to see another effort in two years. "I'm committed to Initiative 3," LaMay says.
You can find more information about proposed ballot initiatives at the Secretary of State's website.