Last week, the Amendment 64 task force released a massive, 166-page report filled with recommendations about how best to implement the measure, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of marijuana.
How does Calvina Fay, executive director of Save Our Society From Drugs and the Drug Free America Foundation, grade the results? Not highly. If there was a mark lower than "F," she'd no doubt bestow it on the effort -- not that she blames those involved.
"This was a task doomed for failure from its onset," Fay says in a statement released jointly by the two organizations she heads. "Amendment 64 is in direct conflict with federal laws and international treaties. It is a deeply flawed law that will have profound negative consequences on public health and safety and the future of Colorado's children and families. The only viable recommendation would have been a call for repeal of the law!"
Yes, the exclamation at the end of this last sentence is in the original.
These comments are far from shocking. As evidence, consider this excerpt from our January post "Marijuana legalization's biggest enemies -- and their Colorado ties," which focused on a Rolling Stone list of unrepentant drug warriors. Here's the Save Our Society From Drugs segment:
Rolling Stone's number two slot is shared by Mel and Betty Sembler, the Florida couple behind Save Our Society From Drugs. That entity was the single biggest funder of Smart Colorado, the main opponent to Amendment 64, which legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. The more than $150,000 SOSFD had given to Smart Colorado by the publication date of a September post on the fight for and against A64 represented approximately 78 percent of total donations received.
Critics argue that Save Our Society From Drugs carries plenty of problematic baggage. Here's an excerpt from a Nation piece about the Semblers that we shared last fall:
The Semblers have been waging a war on marijuana for decades.
Before they led Save Our Society from Drugs, and its sister nonprofit, the Drug Free America Foundation, the Semblers were at the helm of STRAIGHT, Inc., which operated drug abuse treatment centers, mostly for teenagers, from 1976 through 1993.
Former clients of the rehab center recount episodes of brutal beatings, rape and systematic psychological abuse.
At one facility in Yorba Linda, California, state investigators found that STRAIGHT Inc. subjected children to "unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse...and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting." Samantha Monroe, who was placed into a STRAIGHT Inc clinic in Tampa at age 13, says she was locked in a room, and forced to wear a clothes stained with urine, feces and menstrual blood -- a punishment her counselors called "humble pants."
Richard Bradbury, a former STRAIGHT patient and counselor-turned-whistleblower, told the St. Petersburg Times that Monroe's experiences weren't unique. "It was pure child abuse," Bradbury told reporters. "Torture."
The approval of Amendment 64 by Colorado's voters didn't end SOSFD's efforts to kill it.
Continue for more about Calvina Fay and the Amendment 64 task force, including the complete report and a DEA letter. The organization helped coordinate and disseminate a letter from eight former DEA administrators calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to crack down on Colorado and Washington over their respective pot laws.
Holder hasn't taken this advice yet, but it's within his power to do so.
Here are some other statements from Fay about Amendment 64 and the task force's efforts, from the SOSFD release:
"Contrary to what is allegedly sought by the language in this report, there is no safe system for growing and distributing a dangerous and addictive illegal drug. Although there is language in this document about the disclosure of THC content on packaging, there is nothing about limiting the percentage of THC to be allowed. The task force recommends restrictions on licenses for groups distributing marijuana and facility size, but does not address any stipulations on where these facilities can be located. Technically, a pot shop or grow facility could be located near schools, in neighborhoods or anywhere."
"The first guiding principle within the report claims to 'promote the health, safety and well-being of Colorado's youth.' None of these recommendations seem to be able to achieve that. No matter how carefully Amendment 64 is implemented, there most assuredly will be a black market that will target Colorado's young people and all the recommendations in the world won't make pot safe for them."
"The task force even recommended a website to include information about ingesting marijuana and to discuss the 'pro' of smoking pot! REALLY? Colorado already has the nation's third highest rate of marijuana use among youth ages 12-17.5. Apparently, they are striving to be the number one state with the most young people smoking pot."
Here's the complete task force report, followed by the aforementioned letter from the DEA administrators. Note that its letterhead features the logo for Save Our Society From Drugs.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana legalization's biggest enemies -- and their Colorado ties."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.