Q: Rob, How do you view the November 2012 election?
A: This is a timely question. As far as candidates, unfortunately we do not have a clear choice of candidates with regard to the marijuana issue.
Starting at the top, President Barack Obama has been a major disappointment to the Medical Marijuana and reform community, and has outright and blatantly violated every single campaign promise he made to leave Medical Marijuana patients alone. The Obama U.S. Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, has opted as his legacy a declaration of total war against Colorado’s Medical Marijuana patients by eliminating many of the sources of their medicine, despite the industry’s compliance with extreme state and local regulation of the industry.
Contrary to partisan stereotypes, eight years of Republican George W. Bush were more hospitable to Colorado Medical Marijuana patients than three years of Democrat Barack Obama. I personally settled a case involving the Bush Justice Department whereby the DEA returned marijuana growing equipment to a medical grower. By contrast, U.S. Attorney Walsh behaves like a Soviet apparatchik, acting as if might makes right, unwilling to tolerate reasonable dissent, or to even take one hour to listen to concerns of the community.
Down the ballot, the available candidates are similarly disappointing. With few exceptions, the sanitized politicians from both parties are afraid to even talk about marijuana reform, much less do anything about it.
For Coloradoans, the initiatives are far more promising and interesting than the people on the ballot. Amendment 64, “The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012,” would regulate and treat marijuana much like alcohol. Amendment 64 has already qualified for the ballot, and its passage would be nothing less than revolutionary. This may be the best chance for Coloradoans and marijuana supporters to take a massive step forward towards acceptance of marijuana and ultimate removal of this beneficial plant from the criminal justice system. The current system criminalizing marijuana is the problem, and Amendment 64 would fundamentally restructure the current system. I have personally endorsed Amendment 64, and urge a “yes” vote.
Specifically, Amendment 64 would legalize possession, cultivation, transfer, and consumption of personal use quantities of marijuana. It would create a regulated and taxed industry for the production and for-profit sale of marijuana to the entire general public twenty-one years or older. It would require the legislature to create a regulatory system for the cultivation, sale, and processing of industrial hemp.
Since pro-marijuana people are so creative, there are approximately two other proposals in the signature gathering stage that would further reform marijuana law. If either of these proposals is able to gather the approximately 80,000 valid signatures from registered Colorado voters, then these are also deserving of serious consideration and support. However, if these are unable to make the ballot, then it would be logical for everyone who supported these to devote time and resources in support of Amendment 64. Similar to a primary election, our movement should unify behind the initiative or initiatives that actually make the ballot.
There are also concerns regarding Amendment 64 from the existing Medical Marijuana industry weary of further changes to laws or regulations. However, if the customer base expands from patients only to all adults, these businesses will only benefit. Moreover, as a lawyer who appears in court daily, I know that no patient, caregiver, or center is truly safe as long as only medical marijuana remains legal.
The diversity of opinion within our movement is a reality, since those on our side tend to be free thinkers. This diversity is usually a strength. However, if these different opinions descend into internal negativity and fighting, the current Drug War Industrial Complex will only benefit if our internal family disputes cripple needed reform.
And respect works both ways. When Amendment 64 spokespeople sanctimoniously condemned the historic Denver 420 Rally, that was simply bad politics. Why potentially alienate a base of support? Moreover, there is nothing wrong with the 420 Rally. As General Counsel to the Denver 420 Rally for years now, I am proud that we gather 50,000 people in a peaceful, beautiful cultural celebration, in the center of the city, at the world’s largest 420 celebration.
It would be a shame if internal disagreements caused us to fall short in this historic opportunity for Coloradoans to lead the world and usher in major reform of marijuana laws. Both sides need to smoke the peace pipe and unify.