Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler approved a state ballot initiative Monday to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether the measure becomes law.
“This could be a watershed year in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country,” said Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance in a statement Monday. “Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities. It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
In January, backers of the initiative submitted more than 160,000 signatures to Gessler, but after review, he said the petition fell 3,000 valid signatures short of the number necessary to secure a place on the ballot. On Feb. 17 proponents submitted an additional 14,000 names, surpassing the number necessary to make the ballot. Gessler made it official Monday.
If enacted, the measure known as Amendment 64 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would allow local governments to prohibit marijuana sales, but provisions decriminalizing personal possession and cultivation of pot would apply statewide.
Marijuana advocates on Monday already were taking the opportunity to celebrate.
“Regulating marijuana like alcohol will create jobs, allow police to focus on more serious crimes, provide much-needed tax revenue, and will do a far better job of keeping marijuana away from children than the current system does," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "A majority of Americans recognize that the government’s war on marijuana is an expensive failure and think that marijuana should be legal for adults. This November, Coloradans will get a chance to lead the nation by becoming the first state to end marijuana prohibition.”
The move makes Colorado the second state after Washington to place a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot.
Under a medical marijuana law enacted in 2000, Colorado patients with a note from their physician can access marijuana from a dispensary. But federal prosecutors have ramped up enforcement around medical marijuana in recent months, resulting in the closure of dozens of dispensaries around the state.