Colorado May Not Be As 420 Friendly As We Thought

Despite the massive amount of revenue to the state and for that matter federal government the legalization of marijuana could bring, Colorado is re-considering its legalization of marijuana. As people tens of thousands of people from all walks of life descended on Denver Colorado on April 20,2013, no one expected that the celebration would be cut short. After the Boston Marathon bombing, police focused on crowd security and were not as concerned about the yearly pot event billed as the largest April 20 celebration.  The festival the previous year brought 50,000 people together and were hoping to bring more people since it is the first celebration since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use Associated Press reports. Even with legalization, open and public use is illegal, but authorities look the other way as the 420 friendly participants celebrate at a park at the base of the state Capitol and music keeps the crowd entertained well past 4:20. Both states are waiting for federal response to votes and want to set up commercial pit sales limited only to medicinal marijuana right now. The celebration drew many marijuana activists from out of state.

However the day was marred by a shooting during the rally that wounded two people and Denver police last Monday had yet to arrest anyone in connection with incident but did interview a man wanted in connection causing the event to be canceled for security reasons. The man seen in a YouTube video was believed to be an accomplice to the primary shooter last Saturday according to police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police urged people to watch the video showing a man in brown and wearing a white checkered shirt walking away from the scene. Jackson said last Monday the man came in voluntarily and spoke to detectives then left later that day. Police received numerous tips based on videos and photos provided by revelers and encouraged the public to keep sending them around the time of 5p.m. when the shooting occurred. Still unknown is the primary shooter but the man was wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt and black pants at the rally and it is not known whether it is gang related or not Associated Press reports. The shooting happened last Saturday at the end of the outdoor celebration when the crowd became panicked after shots were heard leaving a man and woman with non-life threatening gunshot wounds and a juvenile grazed by a  bullet which was treated at a nearby hospital. Organizers canceled a Sunday event after the shooting and it remains unclear if the shooting would affect future events.

This last Friday, backers of the Amendment 64 announced a news conference for the morning at the State Capitol to denounce what they are saying is an effort by anti-legalization group’s effort to repeal Colorado’s recreational marijuana legislation Huff Post reports. Mason Tvert, former co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign ans communication director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that “numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado.” According to Huff Post, Tvert believes lawmakers are considering putting the secret measure before Colorado voters on November 2013 if voters don’t pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes which is on the same ballot. Tvert, according to his statement, commented,”We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously. Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved.” Any effort to repeal the law may be more difficult as the measure is part of the state constitution which requires the lawmakers to prove a repeal would be constitutional. Two thirds majority of the House and Senate would be needed to place the repeal on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year makes it almost impossible to do.

 

Tvert commented the two ballots would be included in the same resolution, while lawmakers have not commented yet. The House Finance Committee did pass House Bill 1318 7-6 last Thursday which wants 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on marijuana in the state according to Huff Post. The Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear voters could reject one or both tax proposals leaving the state to foot the bill for enforcing pot sales. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so with a narrow margin in committee while the same is true of HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational sales in the state with a vote of 6-5. According to a Public Policy Poll, Huff Post reports that backers of Amendment 64 have confirmed that 77 percent of the voters support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent opposed. The poll polled 900 registered voters from April15-16. The taxes if passed would yield $90.9 million according to the Colorado Futures Center, but backers of the amendment were told by state officials that the cost to enforce the recreational regulations would be no greater than $30 million meaning lawmakers could lower the tax rates to 10 percent and still come out ahead at $60 million. Tvert said on Friday, “If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates.”

Smart Colorado the Huff Post reports describes their vocal opposition to marijuana legalization on their website as:

 

We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.

Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.

The actual Amendment 64 passed last November limits sale, possession and growing of the drug for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states:

Adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.

 

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