Colorado pot push bypasses Aspen for Telluride
A state group advocating the legalization of marijuana is launching a citizen initiative in Telluride that might well have taken place in Aspen.The group, Sensible Colorado, eyed several mountain towns in which to spearhead a two-pronged ballot initiative that it hopes eases Colorado toward a new approach to pot use and regulation, according to Executive Director Brian Vicente, who’s working with Telluride residents to get a pair of initiative petitions on the streets.”We looked a little bit at Crested Butte, a little bit at Aspen,” he said. Aspen, though, looks to have a relatively lackluster ballot in November, and Sensible Colorado is looking to capitalize on a strong turnout. Telluride has a hotly contested Town Council race shaping up, while Pitkin County’s fall ballot boasts a school board race so far.”The more people who turn out, the more votes we get in favor of drug policy reform,” Vicente said.The Telluride initiatives are aimed at getting the Town Council to either adopt two measures this summer or put them before voters in the fall. One would direct town police to make the arrest and prosecution of marijuana possession cases involving adults its lowest priority. The message, Vicente said, is that citizens would prefer the police focus on violent crime and property crime.The other measure would put Telluride on record as supporting the creation of a system to license, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol whenever possible under state law.Sensible Colorado’s ultimate goal, according to Vicente, is the statewide regulation and taxation of marijuana in Colorado by 2008.While Vicente is leading the charge in Telluride, there’s plenty of local support within the community for the initiatives, he said.Sensible Colorado also picked Telluride, in part, because San Miguel County, of which Telluride is the county seat, has the fourth-highest rate of marijuana prosecution in the state, according to 2002 statistics from NORML, a marijuana-law reform group. Pitkin County had the 47th highest rate among 64 counties, according to Norml.com.In addition, Vicente’s group may find a sympathetic ally in San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters, who has written the book “Drug War Addiction: Notes from the Front Lines of America’s No. 1 Policy Disaster.”Coincidental to Sensible Colorado’s campaign in Telluride, Forbes.com reported this week that economist Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 U.S. economists who are endorsing a report that details the costs of marijuana prohibition and potential revenues to be gained by taxing its sale.The report, “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition,” estimates that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year nationally and $81.6 million in Colorado, according to Sensible Colorado.The report was written by Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, and largely paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., group pushing the liberalization of marijuana laws.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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