Update: The Sensible Colorado staff has been hard at work trying to determine if any of the community or county attempts to ban medical marijuana dispensaries were unsuccessful -- and they've found seven bright spots amid the disappointments in places like Aurora and Douglas County. See the latest list below our interview with Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente earlier this morning.
Original item, 8:42 a.m.: A short time ago, we shared a statement from Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente about California marijuana legalization measure Proposition 19's failure. But Vicente's also been watching marijuana issues closer to home -- specifically medical marijuana dispensary bans on ballots in 26 Colorado municipalities -- and while not all results are final or confirmed, the situation as a whole doesn't look good from Vicente's perspective.
"We've been doing our best to track a bunch of them," Vicente says, "and we should have a much clearer picture in the next several hours."
He deems some of the votes too close to call, including a high-profile MMJ dispensary ban effort in El Paso County. "It's our understanding that El Paso is within 200 votes -- it's essentially 50-50 with 99 percent of the precincts reporting," he maintains, noting that supporters of the ban are currently outnumbering opponents by that margin. He also cites positive reports coming out of Grand and Mesa counties, although none of the numbers he's heard are final.
However, he continues, "we did suffer some losses -- in Aurora, in Douglas County, and in Loveland and Broomfield, I believe. And that worries us when it comes to patient access in those areas."
So many communities enacted bans that fighting each of them in court could be difficult. Yet Vicente feels "there's the possibility to set case precedent here. We would have to win at the local level and ultimately get a decision from a higher court as well in order to rule that bans on dispensaries are unconstitutional." He points to attorney Sean McAllister's current MMJ lawsuit filed in Westminster as one measure that might get the ball rolling.
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In the meantime, why did dispensary bans pass in so many places? One factor, Vicente believes, is that younger voters who tend to support progressive marijuana rules "just are not turning out in non-presidential elections. But at the same time, a lot of these votes are very close -- which tells me we could have the momentum to win in these municipalities in the future by really mobilizing our base. And I think folks in places like Aurora will have a wake-up call over the next several years when they see how their neighbors in Denver and other communities are really benefiting from considerable tax revenue and job creation because of the medical marijuana industry. I think their views will shift and they may end up embracing this burgeoning health care field."
All of these elements could coalesce in 2012, when a vote on legalization of cannabis for adult use is promised for the Colorado ballot.
"In general, Colorado opinions are really developing in such a way that marijuana is being viewed as a positive medicine and also as a product that can be regulated," Vicente says. He adds that a ballot measure "will certainly shore up access to medicine for patients in banned communities -- but it will also stop the criminalization of thousands of responsible Coloradans every year. I really think Colorado, based on the results in California, could be the first state to take that step."
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In his view, "the California campaign should really be viewed as a positive step forward for marijuana reform nationally. It shed an incredible spotlight on the failures of marijuana prohibition, and also brought together a historic coalition of supporters -- everyone from unions to the NAACP got behind marijuana reform. And I would say in 2012, when we're able to really mobilize our base, using the next two years to educate the public in Colorado and continue to organize, we're going to have a great shot at winning."
Update, 10:33 a.m.: Here's a hot-of-the-cyberpress release from Sensible Colorado celebrating a handful of victories in the fight against medical marijuana dispensary bans:
Seven Colorado Municipalities Vote to Endorse Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Local voters embrace patient needs and look to spark new tax revenue by supporting regulated medical marijuana sales.
DENVER, COLORADO -- On Election day, November 2, 2010, citizens in an number of Colorado communities passed measures to allow locally regulated medical marijuana sales. As of 10 a.m. on November 3, clerks in seven Colorado municipalities report positive votes to allow regulated and taxed dispensaries. Voters in one Colorado county, Garfield, voted to support licensed, commercial medical marijuana grows, but not dispensaries. (See available list of medical marijuana election results below). The municipalities are poised to join the approximately 19 other Colorado cities that have local dispensary regulations.
"Yesterday, Colorado voters in several cities and at least five counties acted with great compassion in endorsing the regulated sale of medical marijuana to ill community members," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado, the state's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "With these votes, these communities have helped ensure that their neighbors have safe, community-based access to the medicine they need.
"These communities will also benefit from considerable new tax revenue and jobs stemming from these locally regulated wellness centers."
Voters in a number of Colorado municipalities voted down measures to allow local dispensaries, however accurate numbers are not yet available as many of these votes were very close.
"Unfortunately, certain municipalities voted to ban dispensaries -- effectively cutting off safe access to medicine for patients in those communities," continued Vicente. "Medical marijuana patients in these communities will not be able to access medicine from regulated storefronts, and instead, will be forced to seek medicine from the black market or from local, unregulated grows. These communities also will not benefit from the jobs and considerable tax revenue that these regulated centers generate."
The following jurisdictions voted to approve dispensaries
Garfield (only approved licensed grows)