2:28pm

Mon September 10, 2012
Politics

Marijuana Legalization Advocates Sue Over Blue Book Changes

  • Bente Birkeland reporting from the state capitol

The campaign to legalize marijuana is suing to prevent the state from printing the blue book as it’s currently written. The blue book is written as an impartial guide for voters, but last week lawmakers stripped some of the key arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana.

A bipartisan committee of lawmakers voted unanimously to remove several sentences in the first argument in support of legalizing small amounts of marijuana for people over the age of 21. Brian Vicente, the co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, says the process was unfair because several lawmakers weren’t clear on the actual vote.

“This is really a new low to deny voters information from both sides,” says Vicente. “With that vote they removed key arguments. In fact, at the end of day the arguments against amendment 64 have 75% of the words. It’s fundamentally unfair.”

The blue book is designed to give voters unbiased arguments for and against each ballot initiative and is written by a non-partisan legislative staff. However, a committee of lawmakers gives the final approval. It takes a super majority vote to make changes, so usually lawmakers only tweak minor things, but not with the marijuana initiative. Republican senator Mark Scheffel of Park was the one who proposed changing some of the wording and eliminating several sentences during a hearing last week.

Scheffel says he wasn’t trying to confuse his fellow lawmakers - but several Democratic lawmakers say they didn’t know they were voting to eliminate main parts of the argument for the measure. Language that said marijuana may benefit people with debilitating conditions, that it may be less harmful than tobacco and alcohol and uses state resources prosecuting a low level crime.

“A lot of people didn’t hear him do that, or for some reason it got confusing because it wasn’t what he was talking about before. So a lot of us voted for the motion but if it was clear what the motion was I think it wouldn’t have passed,” said House minority leader Mark Ferrandino of Denver.

Even though Ferrandino was prepared to keep those arguments intact he says that doesn’t mean he supports marijuana legalization. He says he’s still undecided. Many lawmakers in both parties are cool to the idea of legalization, worrying that it’ll lead to more addiction problems and use among young people.