Aug 232006
 
Authors: Vimal Patel The Rocky Mountain Collegia

Coloradans are set to vote on whether to legalize marijuana after a lively signature collection effort that included help from CSU students.

The Secretary of State’s office last week certified the required number of signatures for the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative to be placed on November’s ballot.

“This is a chance to make history,” said Ben Prytherch, a junior liberal arts major, who was one of hundreds of volunteers who helped collect the nearly 68,000 required signatures.

The measure would legalize use and possession of up to an ounce of pot for those age 21 and older. The drug would still be illegal under federal law, but the federal government rarely intervenes in minor pot possession cases.

So far, few polls have been conducted about how Coloradans will vote on a statewide legalization measure.

Last year The Denver Post conducted a survey of 625 respondents and found 51 percent would be opposed to one, while 37 percent would support it.

Mason Tvert, the campaign director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, the group behind the measure, said the 14-point spread is encouraging given the circumstances of the survey.

The poll was of likely voters, who were called from home phones. College students generally aren’t likely voters and are more likely to have dropped their landlines in favor of a wireless phone.

“When you poll all the grandmas and grandpas, that’s what you get,” Tvert said.

Tvert said his group will actively start registering students to vote. He’s banking on a high student turnout in November and the hope that his group’s message – that alcohol is more dangerous than pot and therefore it’s fundamentally unfair to keep the drink legal while banning the plant – will resonate with voters.

At CSU, several students helped out by attending SAFER rallies and collecting signatures.

The CSU chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Libertarian Party were active in the campaign.

Amanda Broz, president of SSDP, said her group will help register students to vote in the November election.

“There’s a huge amount of non-violent drug offenders in jail,” she said. “They’re in there with violent criminals; that’s not a good way to rehabilitate people.”

SAFER turned in about 130,000 signatures, almost double the required amount, just in case any signatures were challenged in court.

Last November, Denver voters approved Initiative 100. The measure made Denver the first city in the country to drop all penalties for use and possession of up to an ounce of recreational marijuana.

However, citizens were still prosecuted under state law, hence the need for a statewide measure, Tvert said.

Prytherch said the passage of this initiative could be groundbreaking for the national pot legalization movement.

“A lot of people see the pot movement as consisting of just hippies and potheads,” he said, “but if this passes, it’ll be exposed as being mainstream.”

News managing editor Vimal Patel can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Key facts about Colorado’s Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative:

-It would make use and possession of up to an ounce of pot legal for those age 21 and older

-Individual home-rule cities, if they choose to do so, would be able to fine or penalize pot smokers

-Prosecutors would no longer be forced to prosecute pot smokers under state law

-Growing or selling marijuana would still be illegal

-Public use or display of marijuana would still be illegal

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