Marijuana legalization pits two Colorado Springs officials against each other, but neither wants it

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Here's one of the stranger public political spats of the season:

El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen and Colorado Springs councilman Sean Paige have been going back and forth over marijuana. Seems Lathen publicly said Paige supports weed legalization, which she appears to oppose. Paige responds that he opposes it, too.

The whole thing started when Lathan wrote an op-ed the Colorado Springs Gazette published on September 4. In supporting a November vote for a possible medical-marijuana dispensary ban, she contended that MMJ backers actually want full-scale pot legalization:

The truth of what we face today is a debate over the legalization of marijuana. This dispensary issue is defined by money, not medicine. As admitted to repeatedly by the advocates of the dispensaries, the goal is legalized marijuana. Our Libertarian friends, like Jeff Wright in a letter to the editor on Aug. 31, Councilman Sean Paige and Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen believe in legalization of marijuana. I fully support their right to argue that position and it is a valid discussion to have, as long as we are honest about it.

Paige responded to this assertion in the following comment to the piece, as reported by the Colorado Springs Independent:

Commissioner Lathen struggles in this piece to coherently explain her own position on medical marijuana; I'd ask that she refrain from explaining mine.

Nowhere in my writings or statements have I said I support the complete legalization of marijuana, and the commissioner and I have never spoken on the issue, so she has no basis for saying that. It simply isn't the case. ...

I expect a written correction and apology from the commissioner, in print, as soon as possible. Spreading lies is no way to start an "honest" debate.

He then followed up with this e-mail to Lathen:

Dear Amy:

Nowhere in my writings or statements have I said I support the complete legalization of marijuana, and you and I have never spoken on the issue, so you had no basis for making that claim in your Gazette column over the weekend. I do support respecting the rights granted medical marijuana patients under Amendment 20. I believe a dispensary ban is a roundabout way of denying those rights, and of negating Amendment 20, by limiting patient options and choking off supply. I believe the best (and the constitutional) way to move forward is regulating, monitoring and taxing medical marijuana. But I do not support full legalization -- something that a modicum of research, or a quick phone call or email, would have verified.

I know this sort of misinformation has gotten wide circulation on the dispensary ban side, where accuracy, fact and truth count for little, but you're the first to get caught in the act. I expect a written correction and apology, in print, as soon as possible.

Sean Paige

More back-and-forth followed, as documented by the Gazette. First up: Lathen's response to Paige's e-mail:


I don't read blogs and heard of your upset when contacted by an Independent reporter late yesterday. I made no negative assertions toward you and in stating that the argument of legalizing marijuana is a legitimate discussion to have, implied no ill will whatsoever. I invite you to deal with conflicts like this by giving me a call because I will not be aware of your concerns via the Gazette blog. I am very accessible and here to respond if ever you have any concerns and so I am glad that you sent an email.

That being said, I always seek to be factually correct in all communications and so will share a few reasons why I was under the impression that you do favor legalization. Some examples occurred during the live debate on KoAA where some of your comments strongly led several in the audience, including myself to believe that you support legalization. Specifically, I note these comments, "But let's get real about it. What's the biggest driver of crime in this society right now? It's prohibition against drug use. It's illegal drug use..." "The real problem is the blood bath on the Mexican border." "It should be done in the open. If it's legal, no one should interfere." "This is a freedom issue"... "It's about personal freedom"... "to use it if you want to use it."

This drug is the same drug regardless of whether one is using it for medical reasons or recreational use and you repeatedly expressed that no one should stand between an individual and that choice, specifically calling out the DEA (a legal enforcement body) and expressing in various ways that they should get off folks' backs.

These are just some of the comments which led me to an understanding of your position. If I misinterpreted these comments I very happily apologize. I also find this encouraging because I am hoping that this means that you will be willing to openly join in opposition to legalized marijuana while preserving the intent and patient care under Amendment 20.

Amy Lathen

This note didn't quite do the trick for Paige, who came back with this:


Thanks for the explanation but it doesn't help correct the record in the public forum, which is where you put out the misinformation. A short letter of correction to The Gazette, setting the record straight, would be appreciated. I don't think I should have to be the one to do that. It wasn't my error.


The public record now also features another Gazette article about the entire brouhaha. But considerably more entertaining is a video made by Ed Billings in which Paige and Lathen resolve their conflict by smoking it out.

Watch the video below:

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