09/10/2012 10:48 am ET Updated Sep 10, 2012

Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Files Lawsuit Over Council's Deletion Of Voter Guide Text

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pot advocacy group supporting Colorado's marijuana legalization measure Amendment 64, has filed a lawsuit in response to legislative council's modification of Amendment 64 text in Colorado's voter guide, known as the "blue book."

State law requires the blue book to include major arguments in suport of each state issue that will appear on the ballot, however the campaign says that the legislative council unfairly deleted three of the proponents' key arguments in support of the initiative:

  • Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol.
  • The consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe.
  • Law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.

The campaign says that the modification was "improper" because it wasn't brought about by a "true" two-thirds majority vote -- a so-called supermajority -- which is required to make modifications.

Proponents of Amendment 64 also said that the modification was made in confusion and that the lawmakers did not intend to delete the lines. The campaign summarized the events in a statement:

Sen. Mark Scheffel made a motion to amend the first of three paragraphs in the "Arguments For" section of the blue book, and it was approved unanimously by the Council. A short time later, members realized the motion had deleted the last three sentences of the five-sentence paragraph, whereas they thought it would only remove a few words from the first two sentences. To rectify the mistake, Rep. Mark Ferrandino made a motion to reinsert the three sentences, and it was seconded by Rep. Lois Court. The Council voted 8-5 in support of the motion, but it failed because it did not receive the two-thirds vote required to modify the draft. As a result, the key arguments in support of Amendment 64 were deleted without true two-thirds support.

"I don't think he was trying to cause confusion," Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said to The Denver Post. "But it did cause confusion."

Sen. Scheffel was not immediately available for comment at time of publishing.

Listen to a recording of the hearing here and view the lawsuit filed here.

The campaign says that the "Arguments For" Amendment 64 section of of the blue book is now just 208 words following the deletion, whereas the "Arguments Against" section is approximately 338 words -- meaning "Against" has nearly 75 percent more words than the "For" section. Additionally, Mason Tvert, co-director of the campaign, told The Huffington Post that the council added at least 28 more words to the "Arguments Against" section in addition to the 338 words already present. "The blue book is supposed to be fair and balanced, and it's safe to say this is quite lopsided and, thus, unfair," the campaign said in a statement.

"The blue book process should be based on a good faith effort to provide objective and balanced information to the voters," Brian Vicente, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said. "With the action, members of the Legislative Council have knowingly and intentionally taken advantage of a misunderstanding in order to permanently omit some of the strongest arguments in favor of the initiative from the blue book."

"We are not looking for special treatment," Vicente said. "We simply want the Legislative Council Staff to correct this error before the language is finalized and sent to two million voters."

Vicente added: "We have come to expect dirty tricks and deception from our opponents, such as the No on 64 campaign's repeated lies about the effect of the amendment on employer drug-testing policies – the truth is that they would not be affected – but we expect more from our elected officials."

Over the weekend, the campaign also filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the blue book from going to print with the text that has been modified.

According to a press statement, the marijuana legalization group will be holding a press conference today at 11 a.m. in front of the Denver District Courthouse at 1437 Bannock St. to address the text modification.



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