Aug 252005
Authors: James Baetke

A group that passed a student initiative at CSU to lessen the punishment of marijuana has weeded a similar measure on the November ballot in Denver.

Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), an organization committed to squelching the idea that alcohol is safer than using marijuana, spring-boarded from Colorado college campuses and recently hit the streets of Denver in an effort to push its message into the ballot.

On Monday, the Denver City Council was required to add the initiative to November's ballot after the measure's creators gathered enough signatures on a petition.

The measure would allow adults to carry one ounce or less without penalty.

Rosemary Rodriguez, council president in Denver, disagrees with the arguments and statistics behind SAFER's message, but said they had to abide by city law and uphold the petition's signatures.

"The council is unanimously opposed to this issue," Rodriguez said. "Nobody on council is going to vote for it."

SAFER gathered enough support at CSU last spring to get a student initiative on the Associated Students of CSU's ballot.

However, the initiative has been dismissed on campus and the CSU Police Department and the university continue to punish students in possession of marijuana the same way.

SAFER's success at CSU and at the University of Colorado-Boulder helped prepare the organization to get the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization initiative on Denver's ballot.

"The CSU campus is a microcosm for the city of Denver," said Mason Tvert, executive director for SAFER. "Clearly, there is a problem in Denver with drinking and it makes no sense to make responsible adults prohibited from using marijuana."

SAFER collected 13,000 signatures to get the item on the ballot.

CSUPD Corp. DJ Martinez said campus police are not following the initiative passed on campus.

"It never went anywhere because we did not want to be in violation of state or federal law," Martinez said. "I doubt it will actually pass in Denver."

Tvert maintains the CSU ballot language was approved by university administration and was under the impression that the initiative would take effect if passed.

Brad Bohlander, university spokesman, said CSU is not in the position of breaking the law, despite the passed student initiative.

"Marijuana is an illegal substance and CSU has an obligation to uphold state and local laws," Bohlander said.

Alcohol and marijuana may fall under different penalties under CSU sanctions, but depending on the case, CSU authorities will discipline a student found with the drug the same as if a minor or anyone in residence halls was caught with alcohol.

Courtney Healey, president of the Associated Students of CSU, said the student body government does not have a stance on the marijuana issue but encourages anyone to press student petitions.

"(The SAFER movement) is more political than it is actual," Healey said.

Rodriguez said she doubts the marijuana measure on the ballot will be passed by Denver voters, but embraces SAFER's determination in truly believing in a cause close to their hearts.

"I think (SAFER) is trying to create a public dialogue," she said.


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