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Colorado Voters Will Decide on Marijuana Legalization Question

Petr Brož
Creative Commons

State lawmakers have finalized the language for the November ballot. Most of the discussion centered on amendment 64, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana for people over the age of 21.

Both supporters and opponents asked lawmakers to tweak the ballot language during Wednesday’s meeting. Brian Vicente is one of the chief authors of amendment 64. He wanted new wording to show that people wouldn’t be allowed to smoke pot in public, and that the amendment wouldn’t change employment policies.

Vicente also objected to provisions comparing marijuana to tobacco use and instead wants it exclusively compared to alcohol.

“We feel to tobacco has a very negative connotation, we feel that’s not fair. We would strongly argue it’s pulled out of there.”

But lawmakers in both parties rejected those changes. Instead they added wording to highlight that marijuana can be especially dangerous to the brain development of youth. Several citizens testified that they have serious concerns about legalization including Gina Fenton of Denver. She’s the mother of four sons and says she’s noticed how prevalent marijuana use is among young people.

“My friends whose kids go to public schools that have an open lunch. They’re getting their burgers and going to get marijuana. There’s more of a stigma in smoking a cigarette than lighting up a joint. The fact that it’s so accessible. If we legalize it it’s just going to become worse.”

The marijuana initiative alsoasks state lawmakers to pass an excise tax. But majority leader John Morse (D) added additional wording to say the amendment can’t require lawmakers to approve the tax.

“You’re telling me as an elected official how I should vote. You’re ordering us to vote a particular way. This thing is laced with things that would be litigated for decades.”

Colorado voters will see three ballot questions this fall.  Lawmakers already referred a measure to update state personnel rules. And a ballot question expressing support for reforming federal campaign finance laws received only minor changes.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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