Marijuana: No-punishment-for-cannabis-possession initiative ready for title board

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Editor's note: Corrections made in this post are described below: Last month, we told you about Michelle LaMay submitting ballot language that would end all punishment for cannabis possession in Colorado. Her proposal is one step closer to reality after LaMay met with the Colorado Legislative Council and Legislative Services. She now says she has the language to go before the state title board.

LaMay's proposed Amendment 40, the Relief for the Possession of Cannabis Act, would stop all Colorado courts "from imposing any punitive fine or sentence for the possession of cannabis" on anyone convicted of marijuana possession in the state.

The inspiration for the proposal, says LaMay, followed her harsh realization that full legalization is unattainable due to federal laws. She also clarified that the bill is not legalization, but rather a directive from the people as to how we want our resources spent.

"The costs and the damage to Colorado families and society and to small governments' budgets far exceed the crime or the public's perception of danger," she maintains in a statement. "Times have changed. I think of it as similar to mandatory sentencing or 'three strikes you're out' laws. It is clearly not legalization and it doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime."

Despite only being official since Monday, the bill has already attracted a few high profile critics. Yesterday, LaMay forwarded an e-mail she received from Keith Stroup, an attorney with NORML, raising a few of his concerns:

"Apparently you are proposing that one would still be criminally convicted, but the courts could not then fine or jail the offender," he wrote. "I hope this is not accurate, as it would be totally stupid. If there is to be no penalty, why would you allow the crime of personal possession to remain on the books? A criminal conviction carries with it a range of negative collateral consequences, in addition to a fine and jail, that frequently destroy a person's career. Is that truly what you are intending to propose?"

LaMay, who says she's never been a member of NORML, insists that a judicial directive is the simplest way of decreasing marijuana penalties. "If the legislature can come up with the 'three strikes you're out' [law], we, the Colorado people, can subvert laws that are so casually overturned and manipulated later by politicians and lobbyists, like our gutted Article XVIII for Patients and Caregivers voted on by the People in 2000," she writes.

Lamay now needs to collect more than 84,000 signatures, which she says she plans to start collecting next spring.

The Secretary of State's office hasn't updated the website as of this post, but you can still view a pre-approval draft by clicking here.

This post originally stated that the Colorado Title Board had approved the initiative. We apologize for the error.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Despite challenge, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 keeps its name (for now)."

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