Update below: Think everyone in the marijuana community is behind Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act? Think again. The measure has pitted advocates against advocates, frequently in online combat of the sort that recently turned the Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights Facebook group into a combat zone.
"People need to be able to express their own opinions instead of being harassed," says Audrey Hatfield, C4CPR's president. "And they need to have a little more respect."
Right now, Hatfield says, the Facebook group boasts 580 members, with many of them having contrasting views about Amendment 64. Some feel it's the best chance the state has for historic marijuana reform, while others, like Hatfield, have problems with some of the provisions in the measure.
"A lot of people on the 'Yes' side are touting this as legalization, and it's not," she says. "My feeling is, if marijuana is going to stay on Schedule 1" -- the most serious DEA designation, which doesn't acknowledge any medical uses -- "and if you're going to have limits on how much you can have, that, to me, is still prohibition."
She's also fearful that hemp will be treated as marijuana under Amendment 64 even though it has no psychoactive ingredients, and believes the measure offers no protection for users when it comes to federal law. Moreover, she's uncomfortable with the idea that flaws can be fixed afterward.
"Some people are like, 'Oh well, let's put it through and deal with the language afterward,'" she maintains. "Well, look what happened with 1284," the state law that regulated the medical marijuana industry -- and which continues to be controversial among many in the MMJ scene.
Continue reading for more of our post about divisions over Amendment 64 in the marijuana community. Even so, Hatfield stresses that she's neither endorsing nor actively campaigning against Amendment 64. But she has expressed her doubts about parts of the act with the Facebook group, just as another person shared artwork that satirizes Yes on 64's logo. Here's the official version....
And here's the tweaked version.... Hatfield points out that the second logo is in no way affiliated with the official No on 64 group, Smart Colorado, which is backed by people like Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck -- "the ones who are completely 'Marijuana is bad, blah, blah, blah.'" But the artwork's presence on the page this past weekend fired up even more bickering among C4CPR members. "After I put it on my personal wall, people just completely flew off the handle, accusing me of being for prohibition," she says. "But this is just my personal opinion -- and it's not the focus of the group."
Nonetheless, the debate continued, and it's only grown more heated since the appearance of "Choosing sides on the marijuana amendment," a Colorado Springs Independent piece that included the logo and a link to the C4CPR Facebook page.
After the article appeared, Hatfield says she received a huge influx of requests from people wanting to become group members. She hasn't approved any of them to date, however, because "I don't want to rehash all the arguments we've already been having."
Instead, Hatfield is hoping to arrange for a forum in late September at which people for and against Amendment 64 can talk about their views in what she hopes will be a constructive environment. She expects to have the specifics of the event confirmed within the next few days.
In the meantime, Hatfield stresses that "there are plenty of people in the group who are for Amendment 64 who haven't resorted to name-calling and belittling and accusations and personal attacks. But there are also people who don't want anyone to have a different opinion."
Update: We reached out to Amendment 64 proponent Mason Tvert for his opinion on this subject and Hatfield's remarks. Here's what he had to say.
Continue reading for Mason Tvert's take on Amendment 64 criticism within the marijuana community. Regarding Hatfield's comment about marijuana's continuing ranking as a Schedule 1 narcotic by U.S. law enforcers, Tvert says, "There's no way to reschedule marijuana other than to petition the DEA. And there's no way to change federal marijuana laws other than through Congress -- and that's something being pursued every year. Jared Polis, among other congressional members, is pushing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and allow states to set their own policies. But ultimately, these points are irrelevant. The Controlled Substances Act explicitly allows states to adopt policies regarding marijuana, so Colorado has the right to adopt this initiative."
Tvert also regards Hatfield's fears about hemp being lumped in under marijuana statutes as "entirely baseless. The legislature is already pursuing legislation that acknowledges hemp as a non-psychoactive substance, and this last session, they passed to bill to begin conducting research on its use. So there's essentially no political desire among Colorado elected officials to hinder the inactive industrial hemp program."
As for other concerns about the language of Amendment 64, Tvert points out that more than 120 college professors recently signed a letter touting the measure. "Amendment 64 is also supported by some of the most prominent attorney-based organizations in the state, as well as the NAACP," he adds.
Likewise, he says the idea that Amendment 64's effect can't be tweaked after passage "doesn't hold water. The initiative sets a floor of one ounce and up to six plants, meaning it can't be lowered without a constitutional amendment -- but it can be increased by state statute."
The opposition to Amendment 64 of some marijuana activists hasn't distracted the pro-Regulate forces, Tvert allows. "We're focused on winning this election and making marijuana legal for adults in Colorado. We have not spent an ounce of time opposing anyone but our true opposition, which is the official 'No' campaign."
However, he goes on, "Anyone who's opposed to this initiative is fighting alongside law-enforcement officials and anti-marijuana organizations to keep marijuana entirely illegal for non-medical use, and that's unfortunate. We respect everyone's right to demonstrate their views, but in the end, these folks are fighting to maintain the status quo of arrest and prosecution for adult marijuana possession."
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In this view, "the notion that it's better to keep marijuana 100 percent illegal for non-medical use because we'd like it to be 100 percent legal without any sort of regulation is counterproductive and irrational. This initiative, if it passes, will immediately result in upwards of 10,000 to 12,000 Coloradans not being arrested over the course of the next year for marijuana-related offenses. So opposing this initiative is supporting the arrests of 10,000-plus Coloradans for marijuana crimes."
Not that he wants to squelch conversation for this reason. "We hope to have an honest and fair debate, and we're happy to do that at any time," he says. "But we're not going to spend our limited resources during the limited amount of time before this election fighting people over concerns that are not grounded in facts."
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Ken Buck says Amendment 64 backers care more about profit than people."