Last week Amendment 44 – the statewide initiative that would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for anyone over 21 – and democracy in general took an unexpected blow. The Colorado State Legislature’s Legislative Council, led by House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, made some final changes to the Blue Book, a supposedly non-biased voter information guide that will be sent out to all registered voters. The change they made to the section regarding Amendment 44 inserted a passage saying that if this measure were to pass, it would make it legal for adults to give marijuana to children age 15 to 17.
This is obviously a blow to the marijuana legalization effort. How does it look to voters when they see that drug dealers can give out free samples to kids? If that were truly the case, I wouldn’t vote for Amendment 44 either.
The reasoning behind the Legislative Council’s decision is based on several sections of state law regarding marijuana. The first section states that giving marijuana to people for no compensation is defined as possession, not distribution, and thus legal if Amendment 44 was to pass. Another section states that it is a felony to distribute marijuana to anyone under 15, and Amendment 44 would not change that.
But because there is no explicit language regarding children older than 15, the Legislative Council concluded that if Amendment 44 passed, it would be legal for adults to give (without charge) marijuana to minors 15 and up.
However, this conclusion is completely and utterly false. In fact, it is an all-out lie. You see, another section of state law states that it is a crime to contribute to the delinquency of a minor. If Amendment 44 passes, it would still be a crime for minors to possess marijuana, thus making it a crime to give them marijuana.
Somehow, the Legislative Council, a body made up of people who should be experts in state law, managed to miss this fact.
SAFER went to court to halt the printing of the Blue Books, but the judge presiding over the case was not allowed to hear arguments because the Legislative Council cited that the Colorado Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the issue based on the separation of powers clause in the Colorado Constitution.
I’m fairly upset about this whole issue (that’s about the only way I can say it without using words that would be replaced with #@%$). Nevermind the fact that over 130,000 people signed the petition to get the initiative on the ballot (almost twice the needed amount). Nevermind the fact that last year the city of Denver decided to legalize marijuana. Screw them! Their opinions don’t matter! Let’s stack the odds so unfairly against them in whatever way we can, even if it means telling a bold-faced lie!
Now my pot-smoking friends and I aren’t the only ones who think the Legislative Council and Andrew Romanoff are full of it (again, I’m restrained in my language). An editorial in Friday’s Rocky Mountain News takes the same stance. It calls the Blue Book decision “misleading” and “false” and stated, “that’s simply not right, whatever your opinion of the merits of Amendment 44.”
Democracy has been subverted in Colorado. The government has intentionally dispersed false information to the voters claiming it as fact. But I can’t say I’m too surprised. After all, they’ve been doing that for the better part of the last century (anyone who has seen Reefer Madness knows what I’m talking about).
Now I can only hope that enough people will realize the truth and make their decision in November based on facts – not lies. But more importantly, I hope that the people responsible for undermining the democratic process are held accountable for their actions. If you are nearly as upset as I am, contact your state representative and voice your concern. You can also contact the Colorado Legislative Council directly via Director Kirk A. Mlinek: Room 029 State Capitol Building Denver, CO 80203; Phone: (303) 866-3521; Fax: (303) 866-3855.
Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.