Marijuana complaint filed with Secretary of State

Attorney Brian Vicente (center) addresses reporters in Denver's Civic Center Park today, as petition organizer Emmett Reistroffer, left, and executive director Mason Tvert, right, look on. (Kersgaard)

Marijuana legalization advocate Mason Tvert today filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State’s office alleging that opponents of his group have stolen signed petitions from people circulating them on behalf of Tvert’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol organization.

The complaint says that on July 17 Miquel Lopez took a petition out of the hands of someone trying to sign it at Denver’s Skyline Park, threw it in the trash and then stood in front of the trash to prevent anyone from retrieving it. The complaint alleges that a few minutes later Corey Donahue removed the petition from the trash and gave it to Robert Lopez who then left the scene with the petition, which Tvert said had around a dozen signatures on it.

Miguel Lopez and Donahue are known to oppose Tvert’s effort and to support a broader approach to legalization. The Colorado Independent earlier reported that they supported Legalize 2012, but the director of that effort said they are not affiliated with Legalize 2012. “They have no capacity whatever with Legalize 2012,” said Laura Kriho.

When reached by phone, Miguel Lopez said is was Tvert’s organization that was interrupting an event his group was sponsoring and that the petitioner had been asked to leave. “Their petition was creating a distraction while we were holding a rally and giving an educational talk. The individual we took the petition from was not trying to sign it; he was trying to destroy it. They were warned not to be there,” he said.

Tvert said that Lopez’s account is a fantasy. “That is entirely false based on the accounts of all the witnesses, but I wouldn’t expect them to acknowledge what they did.”

Donahue and Robert Lopez could not be reached. A message left on the Legalize 2012 phone was not quickly returned.

Lopez says Tvert’s group is not petitioning to legalize marijuana but is only advocating incremental change, whereas their group supports nearly complete legalization. It is possible that multiple legalization initiatives will be on the 2012 ballot.

Miguel Lopez made news earlier this year when his videotaped confrontation with lawmakers led to one legislator tearing up a piece of pro-marijuana legislation.

He also ran for governor in 2010
, managing to finish behind Republican Dan Maes.

Secretary of State’s spokesperson Rich Coolidge said as far as he knew this was the first time ever anyone had turned in a complaint alleging the theft of a petition.

“That just tells you this is an unfortunate precedent,” said Tvert. “It may be the first time in Colorado that anyone has sunk this low. This should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. If Miquel and Corey care about democracy and the democratic process as they say they do then there is no excuse for them to steal petitions and undermine the democratic process in Colorado.

“…Harrassing and attacking volunteers, violating laws, and preventing Colorado voters from having their signatures counted is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We will be pursuing this case and any in the future to the fullest extent of the law,” he concluded.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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