Pubdate: Wed, 08 Nov 2000
Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Copyright: 2000 Denver Publishing Co.
Contact:  400 W. Colfax, Denver, CO 80204
Author: Kevin Flynn , Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer


It will soon be legal for some chronically ill people to possess and use 
marijuana in Colorado.

However, it still will be illegal for them to get it.

Backers of Amendment 20, the medical marijuana initiative, say they will 
rely on the governor and legislature, among the strongest opponents of the 
measure, to find a way to get the illegal substance into legal hands.

"There aren't any plans in place," said Julie Roche, spokeswoman for the 
pro-marijuana side. "We don't have a huge plan or task force. A lot of this 
will have to be discussed by the governor and legislature."

The measure sets up a state registry of patients whose doctors provide 
written certification that they might benefit from the effects of smoking 

Experience shows that smoking marijuana can relieve pain and ease nausea 
from cancer treatments, AIDS and other chronically painful ailments.

But U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland said his office would continue to enforce 
federal drug laws that say marijuana possession is a crime. From a 
practical standpoint, possession of the small amounts legalized in 
Amendment 20 by sick people aren't likely to be prosecuted, he said Tuesday.

"But make no mistake about it, this will have no effect on federal drug 
laws," he said.

The amendment passed by wide enough margins in Denver and Boulder counties 
to overcome smaller defeats statewide.

The constitutional amendment allows people to smoke marijuana if their 
doctors think it might ease pain or nausea from AIDS, cancer, multiple 
sclerosis or other illnesses.

Martin Chilcutt, a retired California psychotherapist who moved to Denver 
six years ago, was the initiator of the amendment drive in 1996.

He took a back seat during the recent campaign after working through 
political and legal battles that forced him off the 1998 ballot, and then 
back on it for this year.

He hopes to address the availability issue by forming a Cannabis 
Cooperative, which would help organize people legally entitled to possess 
and use the substance into a group that would cultivate and distribute 

Roche, who ran the pro-marijuana campaign, said the barrage of television 
and radio ads in the last two weeks by opponents softened support, while 
the pro-20 campaign ended up with a lower than anticipated advertising budget.

"We decided to put it all into TV in the last week," said Roche. Her ad 
used a Breckenridge doctor, "Dr. P.J.," telling viewers that he has seen 
the ravages of chemotherapy on cancer patients and would like to see 
marijuana smoking available as an option to build appetite.

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the principal active ingredient in marijuana, 
is said to reduce nausea and pain.

The opponents' ads tried to portray Amendment 20's financial backers as 
part of a nationwide movement with the goal of legalizing some if not all 

Medical marijuana, opponents said, was just a foot in the door for 
increased substance abuse. Synthetic THC has been marketed in pill form, 
although marijuana proponents say it is not as effective and in some cases 
worse on patients. It is soon coming out in a skin-patch form.

Dr. Joel Karlin, a physician who was active in the opposition campaign, 
said calling smoked marijuana "medicine" is a hoax. It's never been 
established through rigorous testing as a medicine and because of the wide 
varieties available on the street, it can't be properly administered in 
consistent dosages or strengths.

"We have the highest number of recreational marijuana users in the country 
here in Colorado, so that was working against us," he said.

Since early 1998, Coloradans for Medical Rights, which pushed the measure, 
raised $742,758. Nearly all of it came from Americans for Medical Rights, a 
Santa Monica, Calif., group bankrolled principally by three wealthy men who 
have a larger agenda of ending the government's War on Drugs.

They are financier and philanthropist George Soros of New York, Progressive 
Auto Insurance head Peter B. Lewis of Cleveland, and John Sperling, founder 
of the University of Phoenix program.

Coloradans Against Legalizing Marijuana raised $144,634, most in small 
local contributions but with the single largest one coming from Denver 
billionaire Philip Anschutz, who gave $25,000. Centura Health was the 
second-largest giver at $9,000.
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MAP posted-by: Terry F