On Monday Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler approved a state ballot initiative to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana. Voters will now decide if the measure becomes law.
In January proponents of the initiative submitted more than 160,000 signatures to Gessler. But after review of the signatures the petition fell about 3,000 signatures short of the number necessary to make the ballot. In February, proponents submitted an additional 14,000 names to qualify the measure for the ballot.
“This could be a watershed year in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country,” said Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance in a statement Monday. “Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities. It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
Should the measure pass then marijuana would be treated essentially the same as alcohol. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would allow local governments to prohibit marijuana sales but the provisions decriminalizing personal possession and cultivation of marijuana would apply statewide.
“Regulating marijuana like alcohol will create jobs, allow police to focus on more serious crimes, provide much-needed tax revenue, and will do a far better job of keeping marijuana away from children than the current system does,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “A majority of Americans recognize that the government’s war on marijuana is an expensive failure and think that marijuana should be legal for adults. This November, Coloradans will get a chance to lead the nation by becoming the first state to end marijuana prohibition.”
Colorado has had a law permitting medicinal marijuana sine 2000 but this initiative makes it the second state behind Washington to put marijuana decriminalization on the ballot.
Photo from Torben Bjorn Hansen via flickr.