Yesterday we reported on the marijuana law reform efforts being launched in Colorado, and the controversy surrounding the naming of “The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012.” Everyone seems to agree that the ballot initiative being pushed should not be called a legalization measure, but disagreement reigns on exactly what it should be called.

After we posted our story yesterday, we contacted the initiative filers for comment. Mason Tvert of SAFER Colorado responded and sent us us a press release on the initiative filing.

Colorado Group Launches Campaign to Place Statewide Marijuana Initiative on 2012 Ballot

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 would allow private adult possession; establish a licensing system for production and sales; and raise millions of dollars in tax revenue

DENVER — A broad coalition of organizations and activists launched a campaign today in support of a 2012 statewide ballot initiative that would end marijuana prohibition in Colorado and establish a system in which the substance is regulated and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.  The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has received approval of its initiative language and will begin collecting signatures Friday to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot.
“Voters in Colorado are ready to end marijuana prohibition and begin regulating and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol,” said attorney Brian Vicente, one of the initiative’s two formal proponents. “By regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol Colorado can tightly control its production and sale, generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, and redirect our limited law enforcement resources toward serious crimes.”

In summary, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012:

–  removes criminal penalties for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, and for the home-growing of up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed locked space., similar to the number allowed under current medical marijuana laws;

–  directs the Department of Revenue to establish a tightly regulated system through which it licenses retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities;

–  requires the general assembly to enact an excise tax of up to 15 percent on the wholesale sale of marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer (sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sales); 

–  directs the general assembly to establish a system of regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. 

The initiative does not change existing laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana, or the ability of employers to maintain their current employment policies.  It also preserves the rights of localities to ban marijuana establishments through either their elected representative bodies, or through referred or citizen-initiated ballot measures.

“This will be a high-energy, volunteer-powered grassroots campaign,” said initiative proponent Mason Tvert.  “We’re excited to begin petitioning and speaking to voters one-on-one about the benefits of repealing the wasteful prohibition of marijuana and replacing it with a tightly controlled system in which it is regulated and taxed like alcohol.” 

Initiative proponents have 180 days to collect the approximately 86,000 signatures of registered Colorado voters necessary to qualify the measure for the 2012 ballot. 

For more information on the campaign visit:

At roughly the same time, the Legalize 2012 organization sent us a FAQ sheet for reporters taking issue with the name of the new initiative, and also includes information on the ballot initiative they plan on filing soon.

As you know, there are at least two separate campaigns to change marijuana laws in Colorado through ballot initiatives for the November 2012 election. The first campaign to file its initiative is supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Sensible, and SAFER and is a “Marijuana Sentencing Reform Initiative”. Our campaign is called We are in the process of writing a “true legalization” initiative.

Having two cannabis campaigns in Colorado has the potential to either confuse voters or to educate them, so it’s important to discuss using accurate terminology early in these campaigns. Below are a few suggestions for future reporting about the MPP/SAFER/DPA/Sensible ballot initiative proposed for the Colorado ballot. It is important to get the wording correct when referring to their initiative, as not to confuse voters. This is going to be a long campaign, so we appreciate all your efforts to make sure the public has the most accurate information about both campaigns. Please let us know if we can clarify any of this further.

Q: What is the official name of the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative?
A: Officially, in the language of the initiative, it is called “Section 16. Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana”. Calling it anything other than that is inaccurate.

It is inaccurate to call the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012”. These words do *not* appear in the language of the actual ballot initiative. If the authors intended to use the name “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act”, they should have added it to the language of their initiative, right after the words “Section 16”. Common practice in writing initiatives is to give the law a “short title”, so that it is easier to refer to:

The same MPP drafters made this same mistake when they wrote what is commonly referred to as “Amendment 20,” Colorado’s medical marijuana law. “Amendment 20” was the number given the initiative when it was on the ballot in 2000. After it passed, it was no longer accurate to call it “Amendment 20”.

Since the MPP drafters failed to give “Amendment 20” a short title in the language, we are now and forever hereafter forced to refer to it as “Article XVIII, Section 14 of the Colo. Constitution” or “Section 14. Medical use of marijuana for persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions.” These are both cumbersome ways to refer to it, but they are the only accurate ways, because of the lack of an official act name or short title in the actual law.

If the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative is enacted, it must to be referred to as “Section 16. Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana” or “Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colo. Constitution”. Since the phrase “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012” does not appear anywhere in the actual language of the law, and only in the proponents’ marketing material, and since it will never be referred to it as that if it is enacted, we ask that reporters refrain from using this inaccurate phrase that will confuse voters.

Q: Why is the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative not legalization?
A: It is inaccurate to call the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative
“legalization” because they themselves fought to have that word removed from the ballot title, so not to confuse voters. We ask that reporters refrain from using the term “legalization” to refer to the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative, as the proponents themselves have said clearly that their initiative is NOT legalization. Since Legalize 2012 is working on a “true legalization” ballot initiative for 2012, the  MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER proponents agreed Legalize should be able to “own that term”. See quotes from the Title Board hearing on June 15:

Q: Why is the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative not like alcohol?
A: The MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER proponents argued successfully on July 6 to have the words “similar to alcohol” removed from the ballot title because it would be misleading to voters. Given this, their continued use of the phrase in their marketing material is disingenuous and should not berepeated by the media. We ask that reporters refrain from using this inaccurate phrase that will confuse voters.

Q: Why is the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative is like medical marijuana?
A: It is clearly the intent of the proponents to regulate marijuana like medical marijuana, not alcohol. The initiative gives all the power over marijuana to the Department of Revenue, just like medical marijuana, and gives preferential treatment to medical marijuana licensees. The proponents have said repeatedly that they intend to use the medical marijuana regulatory system because it is “already set up.”

Q: What can we call the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative?
A: Unfortunately, the only accurate way to refer to the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative is this: “Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution, the Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana Act.”

However, to make it simpler for the press, Legalize 2012 will not object if reporters use the phrase “Marijuana Sentencing Reform Initiative” to refer to the MPP/DPA/Sensible/SAFER initiative. A reading of their language shows that it would only make slight changes to the Colorado criminal code regarding marijuana (removing the penalty for possession of one ounce and 6 or fewer plants, but leaving all the other criminal codes). So it is merely sentencing reform, nothing more.

Q: What is the Legalize 2012 Initiative?
A: In contrast, the Legalize 2012 campaign will start by abolishing all criminal penalties for cannabis in Colorado, so we will ask that our initiative be called the “Cannabis Re-legalization Act of 2012”. We will put this into the language of the initiative, so it will always be called that.

Our language is being written by a large coalition of people from across Colorado with plenty of time for public input.  Our timeline is to finish the language by the Fall, and circulate the petitions early in 2012.

The Legalize 2012 ballot initiative will use the word “cannabis” and not “marijuana”. “Marijuana” is a racist term invented during the 1920s “Reefer Madness” campaign to make people believe that it was some new drug that Mexicans were using and going out and raping white women. No one knew that “marijuana” was really “cannabis”, a drug that had been in the US pharmacopeia until 1943. The MPP Sentencing Reform Initiative uses the term “marijuana”. The Legalize 2012 initiative will not use that word, and would like to encourage reporters to use the accurate historical and scientific term for the plant: Cannabis.

So what does it all mean? For now it means a lot of publicity for cannabis/marijuana in Colorado. But as I said yesterday, there will come a time when advocates, activists, and cannabis users in Colorado are going to have to decide what they are going to stand behind.

When the rubber hits the road in the fall of 2012, opponents of marijuana law reform will use dissension amongst our ranks against us, as they did last fall in California. And if all the two camps manage to do is split the pro-marijuana law reform vote in Colorado, they will ensure that neither ballot measure becomes law.

Joe Klare