In wake of California defeat, pro-pot Colorado groups set sights on 2012

Although California’s Proposition 19 failed to pass this election, supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado have already started campaigning for the 2012 election cycle. A Legalize2012 kickoff event spearheaded by the Cannabis Therapy Institute took place the day after Election Day in Boulder, where speakers and supporters gathered at the Best Western and launched an internet “money bomb” drive to start raising cash.

There’s reason to believe the Legalize2012 effort will succeed here.

California’s Prop 19 failed 54 percent to 46 percent at the polls, which in the eyes of pro-legalization leaders in Colorado was actually a very good sign.

In a release sent out Tuesday night, Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation or SAFER, was all blustery confidence.

“California started the race toward legalization but Colorado is going to finish it,” he said.

SAFER is joining with Sensible Colorado, another group pushing for marijuana policy reform, to craft a 2012 initiative. Leaders in the effort note that, despite a major negative campaign against Prop 19, 3.4 million Californians voted in support of the measure.

As Chris Good wrote in the Atlantic in the wake of the Tuesday voting, this year’s “GOP wave” Tea Party midterm was not the right election. He wrote that pro-legalization groups have long viewed 2012 as the target.

“Presidential elections offer broader electorates, and 2010 was an exceptionally bad year of turnout nationally for the type of voters one could expect to support marijuana legalization.”

A 2006 Colorado legalization initiative failed 61 percent to 38 percent 59 percent to 41 percent but a lot has changed on the ground since then in Colorado, where medical marijuana dispensaries now dot corners and strip-mall spaces and where a series of laws regulating and taxing the burgeoning industry have further mainstreamed marijuana use.

In its release, SAFER pointed to recent polling to bolster the case for 2012.

According to a 9 News/Denver Post poll released last week, 46 percent of likely 2010 voters would support such a measure, while just 43 percent would oppose it. The poll echoes previous and recent internal polls showing support for regulating marijuana around 50 percent among 2010 likely voters.The 2012 electorate should be even more favorably inclined toward supporting such a measure.

Colorado’s pro-pot groups, however, may have to get together and decide exactly what they want from voters if they are to succeed.

SAFER and Sensible Colorado are seeking to “establish a system of regulation for marijuana similar to that of alcohol,” where pot would be regulated and subject to so-called sin taxes.

The Cannabis Therapy Institute, meantime, is promoting the ideas of Jack Herer, the one-time Goldwater Republican and cannabis activist who believed in the “freedom-based model,” which “rejects the sin taxes and over-regulation promoted in law enforcement models” and holds that “Cannabis should only be subject to normal sales tax, like any other herbal product.”

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