Marijuana legalization: Laura Kriho accuses Brian Vicente ballot group of ignoring grassroots

Not every marijuana activist was thrilled by news that Brian Vicente has filed eight pot-legalization initiatives with the state.

Indeed, Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho, one of the main figures behind the separate group, is unhappy with what she sees as "a strange, unilateral move."

Kriho has been trying to pull together a June 22 event at which various marijuana-movement stakeholders would get together and debate potential language for a legalization initiative on which all parties could agree; in recent weeks, she approached Westword editor Patricia Calhoun to moderate the session. She also filled in SAFER's Mason Tvert, a key member of the Vicente posse, and she says as recently as last Monday, "he was talking how it would be great if we could all work together. He never indicated they were anywhere close to filing an initiative, nor did he indicate there would be eight of them."

As a result, she goes on, "it was very much a surprise that they would file the initiatives without showing them to anyone in the state, especially considering that there's really no hurry. It's a year and a half before the 2012 election, and we're on the verge of having this statewide community-policy debate, where we were going to get together and talk about what everyone wanted to see" in the final measure.

Kriho adds that "even the Department of Revenue and the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) gives us thirty days to comment on new proposals. We received less of an opportunity for public input on these new initiatives than the government gives us."

Vicente begs to differ. He says his organization, Sensible Colorado, has reached out to local outfits repeatedly over the seven months or so that he's been putting together the initiatives. Moreover, he sent Kriho an early draft of the document; it's currently posted on the CTI website. "We've been very public about this, and have gone to great lengths to solicit community input from in-state and out of state to craft the strongest language possible," he stresses.

As for the June 22 event, he says "Laura got in touch with me about a week ago, and I told her that while I couldn't attend, I was sure someone from our organization would be happy to take part." And after filing the initiatives, "I've reached out to Laura to have conference calls -- but she hasn't returned any of my e-mails."

According to Kriho, she's not sure what point there would be in discussing the situation now, given that the language has already been submitted -- and the whole concept behind the upcoming session was to work together toward shaping it. The result, in her view, is a flashback to 1998, when the medical marijuana amendment that voters in Colorado would approve two years later first surfaced. She says local activists were collecting signatures for such an initiative when well-funded national outfits such as the Marijuana Policy Project, whose Steve Fox collaborated with Vicente on the latest initiatives, swooped in and took over, leaving locals on the sidelines.

Now, however, Kriho believes the amendment has been undercut by regulatory medical marijuana legislation such as HB 1284; which fellow activist Kathleen Chippi wants to target with a lawsuit -- a quest Kriho supports. "There's nothing left of Amendment 20," she argues. "Patients have been forced into an MMC model that's taken away their rights, caregiver rights and affirmative defense have been decimated, the confidential registry has been destroyed. There's really nothing left standing."

No wonder Kriho isn't thrilled by the Vicente initiative, which is in keeping with the regulatory approach of HB 1284. Hence, she plans to stage the June 22 get-together anyway -- and while she concedes that competing marijuana measures on the 2012 ballot might undermine the chances of either passing, she's not ready to abandon a drive for a second initiative.

Any chance these two groups will eventually reconcile and combine forces? At this point, Kriho is suspicious of such a prospect. "We know how they operate," she allows. "They want to make us seem like the radical group, so they'll come off as more conservative."

And Vicente? "We absolutely hope all supporters of marijuana reform will get behind whatever measure makes it on the ballot," he says. "We're focused on ending marijuana prohibition in Colorado, and this initiative will do just that -- which is why we want everyone to become a part of this large and growing coalition."

More from our Marijuana archive: "THC driving test on HDNet shows marijuana impairs, but does it prove anything? (VIDEO)."

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