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Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act: Mason Tvert on campaign's allies, challenges

Update: Now that the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act has been approved for the November ballot (get more details below), proponent Mason Tvert is busily lining up allies for what should be among the season's most interesting campaigns -- and at a 2 p.m. news conference, he'll be introducing three of them. Here's Tvert's preview of the event, as well as the push for a measure that's been officially dubbed Amendment 64.

Expected to speak on behalf of the act Paul Weissmann, former Colorado House Majority Leader and state senator, Rosemary Harris-Lytle, president of the Colorado NAACP, and Denise Maes, director of public policy for the ACLU of Colorado.

"All three of these individuals have expressed support for the initiative," Tvert notes, "and they'll be joining other organizations, including the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the ACLU as an organization, and the Libertarian Party -- and we expect those kinds of endorsements to continue and even pick up now that the measure is officially on the ballot."

In addition, he continues, "we've received formal support from a number of local elected officials, and we will make that public as the campaign moves forward."

The act hit a speed bump a few weeks back, when the original submission of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot 2,409 short. At the time, Tvert stressed that the campaign wouldn't put on the brakes while more signatures were collected -- "but now we can focus even more intently on making sure the measure passes in November," he says.

Is a big media blitz in the works, complete with television commercials and the like?

"At this point in time, we're focusing on mobilizing an army of grassroots supporters throughout the state and encouraging them to start conversations with their friends, family and others," Tvert replies. "We believe it's this type of word-of-mouth campaign that will insure voters are comfortable taking this step and helping Colorado to become the first state to end marijuana prohibition."

Does he expect federal officials to speak out against the act and perhaps ratchet up enforcement actions of the sort exemplified by U.S. Attorney John Walsh's seizure-threat letters to 23 dispensaries near schools?

"Whether it's medical marijuana or this initiative, we hope the federal government will allow the State of Colorado to handle marijuana in a fashion it believes is the most responsible and the most effective," Tvert says.

Get additional details about today's event below.

Original post, 2:34 p.m. February 27: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act has reached its goal of qualifying for the November 2012 ballot. Organizers like proponent Mason Tvert needed 86,105 valid signatures to win approval from the Secretary of State's office, but initially fell 2,409 shy. So they gathered more than 14,000 additional signatures to cure the shortfall -- and they wound up with room to spare.

According to the Secretary of State's office, the Regulate campaign initially submitted 163,632 signatures, but 79,936 of them were rejected for one reason or another. Hence, just 83,696 signatures were blessed by the office, leaving the initiative 2,409 of the magic number.

Backers had just over two weeks to solve this problem, and on February 17, several days prior to the deadline, they delivered another 14,151 signatures. The number of signatures deemed invalid from the second batch was over 50 percent: 7,381 of them received a thumbs-down. But that meant 6,770 made the grade, bringing the overall total to 90,466 -- 4,361 more than necessary.

The Regulate forces will mark this achievement tomorrow with a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol headquarters, 1177 Grant St., 3rd Floor. Check back for a preview of that event, staged on behalf of a measure that will appear on the ballot as Amendment 64 -- a measure that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson said could eventually lead to the end of marijuana prohibition not just in Colorado, but across the globe.

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