The Denver Campaign for Limited Social Use submitted more than 10,000 signatures Monday in support of a city initiative that would allow the limited social use — but not sale — of marijuana at commercial establishments in areas restricted to adults 21 and older.
4,726 valid signatures of registered city voters are needed to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. The city clerk has 25 days to certify the petition.
Under the proposed measure, businesses that have a license to sell alcohol for onsite consumption would be able to decide whether to allow cannabis consumption on the premises. Businesses that choose to allow only cannabis consumption (without licensed alcohol consumption) would be subject to regulation by the city, including restrictions on location and hours of operation. All commercial establishments that allow adults to use marijuana would be required to comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which means (1) only non-smokable forms of marijuana would be allowed indoors, and (2) smoking marijuana would only be allowed in existing designated smoking areas that are not viewable to the public.
A strong majority (56%) of likely 2015 voters in Denver support the proposed initiative, according to a survey conducted in June by Public Policy Polling. Just 40% are opposed. The full results are available here.
The National Lawyers Guild, a public interest and human rights bar organization, released a report on June 25 highlighting the failures of marijuana prohibition and suggesting strategies for legalization initiatives.
The report, “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” recommends both alternative policies for the U.S. government to pursue and strategies for drug-reform advocates to employ. The key recommendations are: reframe drug use as a social and public health issue; revisit international drug treaties; reclassify marijuana from its status as a Schedule I substance; support the right of states to legalize marijuana for adult use without federal interference; end civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement; and connect legalization efforts to the abolition of the for-profit prison industry.
“Marijuana legalization will create new jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes,” said Brian Vicente, an NLG member and one of the primary authors of Colorado’s legalization amendment. “It would be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”
Colorado medical marijuana advocates and a group of local veterans filed a petition with the state health department yesterday that would add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Colorado.
The petition was formally filed by Army veteran and double amputee Kevin Grimsinger, who lost parts of both legs and suffered other injuries after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan in 2001. That episode has also left him stricken with PTSD. From Denver Post columnist Susan Greene:
That means flashbacks. It means struggling to sleep and thinking about suicide more often than he cares to admit. His nightmares are constant, he says. "They're bloody, they're noisy and they're gory."
After two years in hospitals, Grimsinger was released addicted "to every pain medication known to man," he tells me. It wasn't until turning to therapeutic cannabis, along with other prescriptions, that he says he has been able to function. Medical marijuana doesn't take away his trauma. But it gives him a break long enough to sleep.
We’ve written previously about studies showing how marijuana can alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, how New Mexico has already added it to that state’s list of qualifying conditions, and how some Colorado officials and even the Department of Veterans Affairs have thus far opposed efforts to make medical marijuana available to PTSD patients and other veterans in need.
As Sensible Colorado’s Brian Vicente, who helped file the petition, told Denver’s Westword: “We've been hearing from veterans for years who have been injured in the line of duty protecting our country and have PTSD related to that. And they're concerned about the lack of veteran access for medical marijuana for PTSD. Currently, veterans face criminal prosecution for possessing or using medical marijuana to alleviate any sort of medical condition, and we just think that's unconscionable. People who have served our country deserve the best access to health care possible, and we want to make sure Kevin and folks like him have that access.”
Yesterday, lawmakers in Colorado unveiled a bill that could severely restrict the progress of medical marijuana in that state. Among other changes, the bill would place an 18-month moratorium on any new dispensaries, force existing establishments to reopen as nonprofit “medical marijuana centers,” and impose severe limitations on who can grow marijuana or work in a dispensary.
In response, medical marijuana advocates, led by the group Sensible Colorado, filed a statewide ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution and direct the state legislature to establish regulations for dispensaries and production centers. It would, in fact, give Colorado citizens the right to operate and work in such establishments. MPP provided assistance in drafting the initiative.
The campaign will need to file more than 75,000 signatures by July in order to qualify for the November 2010 ballot.
“State-licensed medical marijuana patients need storefront dispensaries in the same way that other sick Coloradans need pharmacies,” said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado. “Medical marijuana patients will not go without medicine in Colorado. This initiative will establish sensible regulations for dispensaries and secure the rights of sick Coloradans to have safe access to their constitutionally-protected medicine.”
Keep checking MPP’s blog for further developments
“Can an employer punish someone for doing something that is constitutionally protected?”
While the constitutional amendment that established medical marijuana in Colorado says that nothing “shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place,” the state also has a “Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute” that protects employees from being penalized for something they do outside of work that is legal. (Much of the problem arises from the fact that marijuana stays in people’s systems longer than other drugs, so even if patients aren’t using marijuana during work hours, they could still test positive.) Legal experts have disagreed as to which measure takes precedent.
Against this legal gray area, many medical marijuana patients—teachers, sports coaches, government employees, and nonprofit workers among them—have been faced with the very real prospect of losing their jobs, simply for taking a legitimate medicine that is legal under their own state law.
To add to the confusion, court decisions in other states, including California, have found that employers can fire workers who fail mandatory drug tests. If that same logic were applied in Colorado, any number of the estimated 30,000 medical marijuana patients in the state would have a real cause for concern.
“[The law has] been deciphered to mean that employers can fire a medical-marijuana patient for just about anything,” Brian Vicente, the executive director of Sensible Colorado, told the Denver Post. “Basically, it's a form of legalized discrimination against sick people who choose to use medical marijuana.”