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Marijuana: Colorado Education Association opposing Amendment 64

Update below: At an 11 a.m. press conference, representatives of the Colorado Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, will announce their opposition to Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

Backers of the measure portray it as pro-education, with proceeds from an excise tax earmarked for the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. But the CEA sees a disconnect, says a 64 opposition spokeswoman.

"I think this puts to rest the proponents' rationale that you can fund schools with pot money, and that it will be acceptable to people," says Laura Chapin of Smart Colorado, the main No on 64 group.

According to Chapin, CEA president Kerrie Dallman and vice president Amie Baca-Oehlert will speak on behalf of the CEA. She points out that both of them have teaching backgrounds; Dallman is a high-school social studies teacher currently on leave from Jefferson County, while Baca-Oehlert is taking a similar leave from Adams County, where she works as a high-school counselor.

The CEA board voted to oppose Amendment 64 earlier this month. Regarding the reasons for this decision, Chapin says, "You've seen the multiple reports about the increase of marijuana use among kids in Colorado. And for teachers, something that basically legalizes recreational use on a broad scale is incompatible with the mission of educating kids."

Of course, proponents point out that Amendment 64 only allows folks who are age 21 and over to possess small amounts of marijuana. Moreover, they argue that a regulated system will do a better job of keeping weed away from kids because licensed vendors, unlike drug dealers, will ID customers before any sale can take place.

According to Chapin, another reason for the CEA's opposition involves the measure's "whole mechanism for school funding -- an excise tax that has to be run through another ballot measure before it can even be applied." And even if such a tax is passed, she goes on, "their top concern is kids and the whole idea that you shouldn't be funding schools with pot."

The news conference takes place at 11 a.m. in the Primrose Room at the organization's headquarters, 1500 Grant Street.

Update, 12:24 p.m. September 19: The Amendment 64 campaign has issued a press release responding to the Colorado Education Association's opposition to the measure, made public a short time ago. Included are assertions that the CEA actually suggested that revenue from the proposal go to schools, only to subsequently flip-flop under political pressure. Here's the complete release:

Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Responds to the Colorado Education Association's Opposition to Amendment 64

Statement below from campaign advocacy director Betty Aldworth

DENVER -- The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has issued the following statement in response to the Colorado Education Association's announcement that its opposes Amendment 64, the initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Colorado:

"We're sorry to hear the Colorado Education Association has been convinced to embrace a position counter to the interests of students and parents. In fact, it was CEA that suggested tax revenue raised through the initiative should benefit public school construction in Colorado. We agreed it would be a good use of new revenue, and we are proud to say that Amendment 64 would direct tens of millions of dollars per year toward improving Colorado schools. [See http://www.RegulateMarijuana.org/economic-impact for data.]

"It's odd that our opponents are criticizing the idea of Amendment 64 directing new revenue toward public school construction, as it was embraced by the CEA when it contributed that very idea during the drafting process. In fact, when we consulted with CEA during the drafting of the initiative they indicated they would be remaining neutral on the issue, but that's politics for you. It's understandable that an organization like CEA would want to toe the line of the powers that be, but it's unfortunate that they are playing politics when the future of Colorado schools -- and the health and safety of our children -- are at stake.

"CEA also ignored evidence from our federal government showing that, since Colorado began regulating medical marijuana, use among teens has decreased and fewer students are now reporting they they are being offered drugs at school. It is unfortunate that they were swayed by our opponents' fear-mongering and baseless claims that regulating marijuana like alcohol and actually controlling the product will somehow increase teen use. We're sorry to hear our opponents and the CEA are satisfied with the revenue from non-medical marijuana sales flowing into the underground market where it is helping cartels in Mexico rather than the people of Colorado. We believe we would be better off with revenues benefiting our society, and we're confident the voters will agree." [See http://www.RegulationWorks.org for data.]

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: John Hickenlooper compares teen pot smoking to underage drinking."