Pubdate: Fri, 30 Dec 2005
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Camera.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Faulty Arguments Underline Pro-Marijuana Effort

We can think of several possible reasons to decriminalize the
possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. Public safety is not
one of them, whatever the folks at SAFER Colorado would like you to

SAFER is the group that waged a successful campaign in Denver to
legalize the possession and use of an ounce or less of marijuana by
people 21 and over. The measure approved last month by voters was
basically symbolic - Colorado law still bans marijuana possession
- but success at the local level has encouraged SAFER to take the
next logical step: a ballot initiative to do away with the state law.

At a press conference on Wednesday, SAFER Executive Director Mason
Tvert announced that his group will try to put an initiative on the
statewide ballot in 2006, with the help of "students and volunteers
from across the state." Like the Denver initiative, SAFER's statewide
measure would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana
- although local governments would be free to keep their own
anti-marijuana ordinances, and federal drug laws would still apply.

Frustrated by the response of Denver police, who have said that
they'll continue to enforce the state law, Tvert threw down a
challenge: "If the officials in this city don't have the guts to stand
up for the individuals they represent, we have no choice but to take
up the fight on behalf of those individuals."

The dubious assumption behind that statement is that Denver voters
ever gave much thought to the real-world implications of the ballot
initiative. The lack of any serious debate before the election
suggests that they didn't. Had there been a real debate, we doubt that
many voters would have bought the argument - if that's the word for
it - offered by Tvert and his allies.

The folks at SAFER (or "Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation")
argue that it's hypocritical for government at any level to outlaw
marijuana while "allowing and even encouraging" the use of alcohol.
That's a reasonable argument up to a point, but the supporters of the
Denver ballot initiative stretched it well beyond the bounds of honest
campaign debate.

Their basic line during the campaign for Initiative 100, the measure
to legalize marijuana possession, was "Make Denver SAFER" - implying
to the casual observer that the initiative was part of a broader
effort to fight crime and improve police staffing. Even more openly
deceptive were billboards developed (and later withdrawn) by Change
the Climate, a group allied with the pro-marijuana campaign. They
showed a battered woman, with a male behind her, and the slogan
"Reduce family and community violence in Denver. Vote Yes on 1-100."

There are good reasons to do away with the myths, scare tactics and
absurdly excessive penalties attached to marijuana by the failed "war
on drugs." There are good arguments for decriminalizing its possession
and legalizing its medical use. Yet the backers of this statewide
campaign have adopted the weak argument that pot is "safe" (as if it
posed no health risks or potential for abuse), and that legalization
would make the community even "safer."

It's still early. The sponsors of this proposed initiative may improve
their sales pitch as the campaign gathers momentum. But it doesn't
inspire confidence when a group with facts and evidence on its side
offers bunk and deception instead