Marijuana Q&A with Laura Kriho: "The fight for legalization is nowhere near over"

This week's multi-part cover story about the state of the state of marijuana takes a look at Amendment 64 and how legislators will address implementing the legalization of small amounts of cannabis and the shops that will sell it. Our print edition also features a Q&A with Amendment 64 proponent Mason Tvert. But to get a broader look at the subject, we also caught up with several other cannabis activists, as well as representatives of business groups, to ask them their take on A64 and the challenges ahead. Our first comes from the Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho.

Westword: Five years ago, where did you see Colorado in regard to cannabis legalization by 2013? Do you think the state has met that goal with Amendment 64?

Laura Kriho: A64 is not legalization, it is regulation of cannabis. Legalization would be removal of all penalties for cannabis use. A64 creates a strict regulatory scheme for marijuana. Under A64, you can still lose your home, your job, and your children if you consume cannabis, and it does nothing to protect eighteen-twenty year olds at all. We will not have true legalization until we remove ALL penalties for ALL people, including retroactively applying the changes to those who have been previously harmed by cannabis laws.

WW: Where do we go from here as a state? What is the biggest challenge you see going forward/what still needs to be done?

LK: The biggest challenge will be to bring true legalization to the constitution. People have become even more complacent since A64's passage. They think they voted for legalization, because that's how the media portrayed it. Now that the truth is coming out that A64 doesn't really legalize cannabis, people are discouraged and feel like they were deceived.

WW: What is important for Colorado citizens to know about cannabis legalization?

LK: It is important for people to know what true legalization is. True legalization means no penalties of any kind for anyone -- all pot smokers are equal. However, the A64 regulation model has created a scenario where we have "good" pot smokers and "bad" pot smokers. The "good" pot smokers are the ones who will follow all the new regulations, register with the state and pay outrageous taxes allowed by A64. The "bad" pot smokers are the ones who will refuse to follow the new regulations just as they refuse to follow the current regulations. They don't think cannabis needs to be tightly regulated, as they know it is the safest therapeutic substance on the planet. They refuse to pay taxes that will only go to fund law enforcement and refuse to register with the state. A64 has created a situation where the "good" pot smokers will actually be funding the police to go after the "bad" pot smokers. This is an ideal situation for the police, but not for freedom. True legalization cannot be attained in a situation where one group of pot smokers is pitted against the other and where one group of pot smokers is actually funding the police to go after other pot smokers. This only benefits the police, and is not true legalization.

WW: Anything else you'd like to add?

LK: The best thing we can do, without millions of dollars to run a ballot initiative campaign, is to continue to educate people about the benefits of cannabis and hemp and to encourage them to participate in the political process. Millions of people in the U.S. are still being harmed by cannabis prohibition. The fight for legalization is nowhere near over.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Denver 4/20 Rally schedule: Pot, hip-hop and serious politics" and "Hemp bill to set up registration process for would-be farmers making progress."

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