For months, there's been tension aplenty between supporters and opponents of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act -- and with the election a week away, it's still rising. Example: The No on 64 campaign says claims by backers don't hold up under scrutiny, prompting proponent Mason Tvert to accuse those against the measure of intimidation and "flat-out lying."
The latest dispute flows from a Yes on 64 announcement earlier this month involving more than 300 doctors who voiced their support for the initiative. Among these physicians were a number who live and practice on Colorado's largely conservative Western Slope -- but a recent article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reveals that at least three of them now claim they don't actually favor the act. Why not? Two of the docs failed to return calls to the Sentinel, but the third, plastic surgeon Dr. William Merkel, says he misread the letter he received from the campaign; he says he thought the amendment was actually an anti-marijuana proposal.
In Tvert's view, the Sentinel report "isn't much of a story. To me, the real story is that more than 300 physicians across 55-plus cities and towns in Colorado think it's time to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana like alcohol. And I think it's unfortunate that the Grand Junction Sentinel has decided to report on two or three physicians who are now not sure they support this initiative, when they made it abundantly clear they did" -- he says he has signed postcards confirming that -- "rather than focusing on the fact that hundreds of physicians do support this initiative."
Predictably, Laura Chapin, spokeswoman for Smart Colorado, the No on 64 organization, has a different opinion. In a statement sent to Westword, she wrote, "This seems to be a pattern with the proponents -- making claims about the proposal and about their support that don't hold up under further scrutiny. They've constantly had to backtrack, issue corrections and take down billboards."
This last reference involves a Grand Junction billboard featuring televangelist Pat Robertson, who had expressed his support for Amendment 64 in a New York Times article. Nonetheless, Robertson objected to the use of his name and image on the sign, and the Yes on 64 forces removed it upon his request.
"Even worse than overstating their support, their claims about what the legislation will do fail the truth test," Chapin went on. "They admit that the money isn't there for schools and that the excise tax can't be enacted by Amendment 64. There is no money for schools in Amendment 64, despite what their ad falsely says."
Continue to read more about the claims of Amendment 64's proponents and opponents. The assertion about a commercial that began airing earlier this month involves language in the amendment that earmarks tax revenues for school construction. Smart Colorado reps maintain that the ad is incorrect because lawmakers can't be directed to pass specific legislation for such a purpose; a separate vote would have to take place. The No on 64 group demanded that the spot be withdrawn -- something their rivals, who stand by the commercial, firmly rejected.
Here's that ad:
"There was a truth test done on that ad, by CBS4" -- see it below -- "and it found it will generate money for school construction," Tvert says. "So our opponents are grasping at straws."
Not so, Chapin contends. Her statement ends like so: "When the facts aren't on your side, you try and deceive people, which is why the pro-recreational legalization advocates have been doing for months. But we think voters are smarter than that and will defeat Amendment 64 because of what it really does -- put out kids and our state at risk."
Of course, Tvert believes Amendment 64 will actually do a better job of keeping marijuana away from children than does the current underground/black-market system. And he also contradicts No on 64 spin that the measure is slipping in terms of popularity.
"The latest polls" -- by Public Policy Polling -- "show 53 percent support, compared to 43 percent who oppose it," notes Tvert. (He feels these numbers are more accurate than softer ones in a recent Denver Post poll, because the PPP survey "is based on the actual language of the amendment, which the Post's was not.") As such, he goes on, "they're now doing everything they can, including flat-out lying about this initiative and this campaign, in order to win."
Much of Tvert's vitriol is aimed at Roger Sherman, No on 64's campaign director. "He claims to be an advocate for civil rights, but he's taking money from Focus on the Family" -- via its affiliated organization, CitizenLink -- and opposing the NAACP [which backs Amendment 64] and other organizations trying to improve the lives of Coloradans. And they'll go to any lengths to denigrate supporters, including law enforcement officials injured in the line of duty."
Reference: Sherman called decorated former Denver Police Lieutenant Tony Ryan a "pro-pot rent-a-cop."
Indeed, Tvert believes the willingness of the No on 64 camp to belittle those who come forward in support of the measure may have inspired the Western Slope doctors to back away from their earlier endorsement.
"Perhaps we're seeing folks fearful of speaking publicly about their support for ending marijuana prohibition, and you can't blame them," he allows. "Our opponents have attacked just about everyone who's come out in support of the initiative with incendiary and condescending rhetoric. So it's not surprising that many people are still hesitant to express their support for ending marijuana prohibition in a public forum."
He remains confident, however, that a majority of voters will do so in the privacy of the voting booth.
Update: Just heard from No on 64's Laura Chapin about this post, and she disputes Mason Tvert's interpretation of CBS4's "truth test" on the Amendment 64 commercial seen above. "Mason is incorrect about the Chan 4 Reality Check," she writes. "Shaun Boyd found the school construction claims speculative and 'based on a number of contingencies,' including requiring additional votes & legislature to act a certain way. So no, it didn't find A64 would generate money for school construction, because it doesn't."
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Here's the CBS4 "reality check" of the disputed Amendment 64 ad.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: More than 300 doctors endorsing Amendment 64."