Pubdate: Fri, 3 Nov 2006
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2006 Summit Daily News
Author: Andrew Harley, Summit Daily News
Cited: Amendment 44


Battle Over Amendment 44 Heats Up As Voting Deadline Approaches

One side claims to be "troubled" by the idea of the legalization of 
marijuana, while a member of the other side calls the current laws 
"Draconian at best."

Either way, voters revisiting the polls on Tuesday to choose yes or 
no on Amendment 44 will be deciding on a heated issue that burst into 
flames recently when Gov. Bill Owens and supporters faced off at a 
Denver rally.

The Amendment represents the only statutory change to Colorado law on 
this year's ballot, so it's the only proposed amendment that will not 
affect the Colorado State Constitution. This fact does not detract 
from the passion exhibited by members representing both sides of the issue.

Mason Tvert, campaign director for the support of the proposed 
amendment and director of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable 
Recreation), headed up the drive to collect signatures to get the 
amendment on this year's ballot. Tvert and other volunteers managed 
to collect 130,815 signatures - less than 68,000 were required.

"The initiative is designed to remove the threat of arrest for adult 
marijuana use because we think adults, over 21 - of age to use 
alcohol - should be allowed to make the safer choice: to use 
marijuana instead," said Tvert. "There are a number of positive 
health effects of marijuana, and they're well-documented."

Beverly Kinard, the former director of Drug Watch Colorado and 
president of the Christian Drug Education Center, has been inspired 
to be a leading opponent to any efforts to legalize marijuana by the 
story of her son, who began smoking at the age of 12. Kinard, who 
also directs GOCAM (Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana), and her 
husband, David (a retired Denver Police detective) were approached by 
their son when he was 17 because he felt he needed help. He suffered 
a subsequent mental breakdown and was labeled disabled by his doctors.

"I went to 30-some different cities in Colorado from back in June and 
July," Beverly said. "I first started working on this Dec. 29 of last 
year when it (news of the amendment) first hit the newspapers last 
year in Denver."

Dr. Robert Melamede, associate professor at the University of 
Colorado in Colorado Springs, has researched free radicals (highly 
reactive chemicals our bodies produce as a byproduct of how we burn 
fuel) and DNA repair for decades. Dr. Melamede has been interested in 
cannabinoids for years, having started to consume cannabis when he 
entered college at age 16.

"What we now know is that we all make marijuana-like compounds, and 
those compounds help to homeostatically regulate and balance our 
biochemistry, and they do that literally almost everywhere in your 
body," says Dr. Melamede. "Marijuana mimics the way our bodies 
normally work. In many respects, it can be viewed as an anti-aging drug."

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Governor Bill Owens and 
Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton disagree with Dr. Melamede's findings.

"I am particularly troubled by the message of the proponents that 
marijuana is a safe alternative to alcohol," said Suthers. "I think 
it is both a incorrect and irresponsible message. I am particularly 
concerned about the message it sends to kids."

Contrary to debate regarding the amendment's function to legalize 
marijuana distribution to minors, the amendment will preserve the 
Class 4 felony of distributing the substance to minors.

"The only thing that will change in Colorado if this initiative 
passes is that if someone over 21 is found to be in possession of 
less than an ounce of marijuana, they will no longer receive a $100 
citation and Class 2 petty offense and will no longer have that drug 
crime on their record," said Tvert.

Tvert says that there are no laws against private use of marijuana, 
only laws against public use and display. These laws will not change 
under the provisions of Amendment 44.

Michael Moore, a father a Drug Enforcement Administration employee 
from the Denver area field division, stands against the amendment.

"I wouldn't say it's a major issue, but it is an issue. It opens up a door."

Some Local and Regional Voices

Summit Cove resident Stan White has lived in Summit County since 
1982. He has two children.

"I think Colorado can be a better place to live by not lying to 
children ... As a parent, I just cannot lie to my children. I will 
lose their credibility," says White. "If we lie to our children and 
tell them that cannabis is bad, and then they try it and find it not 
to be bad while we tell them not to use hard drugs, then they're 
probably not going to believe us.

"It's really insane that the federal government places cannabis in 
the same category as heroin and LSD."

State Representative Gary Lindstrom supports the passage of Amendment 44.

"I was a police officer for several years, and I've always felt that 
(Colorado and national) marijuana laws are Draconian at best. They 
virtually have no purpose whatsoever," said Lindstrom. "I just think 
that the time has come."

Summit County Sheriff John Minor is against the legalization of 
marijuana and says he'll uphold the law whatever the outcome.

"I will follow the will of the people for justice with compassion," said Minor.



"Shall there be an amendment to section 18-18-406 (1) of the Colorado 
revised statutes making legal the possession of one ounce or less of 
marihuana for any person twenty-one years of age or older? (YES or NO)."
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