Cannabis activist Laura Kriho has a message for medical marijuana business people shaken by seizure letters sent to 23 dispensaries by the U.S. Attorneys Office and worried that centers faced with closure will have nowhere to move: Stop burying your head in the sand and get behind Legalize 2012's proposed ballot initiative, which will be available for public comment through Monday. Read it below.
Kriho says the proposal, dubbed the Cannabis Re-legalization Act of 2012, offers "true legalization," as opposed to the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which has already submitted 160,000 signatures toward landing a place on the November ballot.
"We remove all of the criminal statutes related to marijuana," she says. "It sets up an independent commission composed of cannabis experts, who'll implement the rest of the law and write commercial regulations -- and our qualification for commercial regulation is that it not be onerous and burdensome. That's the situation we have with 1284 and Initiative 30" -- the bill that regulated medical marijuana and another designation for the Regulate act, respectively. "They make it so only a few rich people are able to participate in the process."
In addition, the Re-legalization Act "establishes cannabis as a fundamental right in Colorado" -- an issue that came to the fore due to a court case involving Jason Beinor, a medical marijuana patient who lost his street-sweeping job after testing positive for pot. "That's why Amendment 20 is falling down in the courts, and we clear that up. Initiative 30 doesn't make cannabis a fundamental right, so it could fall down on the same grounds."
Public comment by visitors to Legalize2012.com is encouraged through January 16 -- and Kriho offers an example of how receptive she and fellow backers are to suggestions. "I just put in some language after a dispensary owner wrote us, saying it would put him out of business. We put in a clause that said it wouldn't do that."
Granted, this tweak didn't satisfy the owner in question. According to Kriho, "What he was really concerned about was legalization ending his monopoly on having a dispensary, and opening things up to more competition. And we can't help that. The intent of it eases up regulations on dispensaries, but his government-sponsored monopoly is soon to be over."
The final language for the Re-legalization Act will be submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office shortly after the public comment period ends on Monday. Two to four weeks later, by Kriho's estimate, the state will give its blessing, and signature collection can begin.
This is a tall task. Kriho was involved with all-volunteer petition efforts for marijuana proposals in 1992 and 1994, and while participants gathered as many as 65,000 signatures, it wasn't enough. To gather the 85,000-plus certified signatures required by the state, then, paid petitioners will be necessary. "If people want to see this on the ballot, they're going to have to put up some money," she says.
Current action by the U.S. Attorneys Office shows why doing so is a good investment, Kriho believes. "The harm is continuing," she says.
Here's the public-comment version of the Re-legalization Act, complete with contact information to weigh in.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana legalization: Legalize 2012 objects to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act name."
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