ACLU of Colorado Joins Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Campaign

Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado joined the coalition in support of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, a ballot measure that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the state of Colorado for adults 21 years of age and older. From the ALCU of Colorado endorsement:

In Colorado we believe our laws should be practical and they should be fair. Yet we are wasting scarce public resources in our criminal justice system by having police, prosecutors and the courts treat marijuana users like violent criminals. It is unconscionable for our state to spend tax dollars to arrest, prosecute and crowd the courts, and jail people for possession of a small amount of marijuana, especially when those being arrested and jailed are disproportionately people of color.

The war on drugs has failed. Prohibition is not a sensible way to deal with marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will move us toward a more rational approach to drug laws.

• Colorado authorities made 17,000 arrests for drug offenses last year. Every dollar spent policing low-level adult marijuana wastes scarce public safety resources that could be used to prevent and solve serious violent crimes.• One in five people in Colorado’s prisons are serving time for a drug offense. Every person we lock up for a non-violent drug offense uses a scare and expensive resource—a prison bed—that could otherwise be reserved for violent criminals who pose a real threat to the public.

• This initiative is a significant step toward dismantling the failed War on Drugs, and one of its defining injustices. Across the country, people of color, particularly youth of color, are far more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level marijuana possession, despite the fact that usage rates are at least as high among whites.

• Colorado has the authority and the autonomy to craft its own drug laws and to decide what conduct to criminalize, or not, under state law. When we look at the federal Controlled Substances Act, we see that Congress has purposely created a vigorous and independent role for states to enact and enforce their own drug laws.

• Colorado currently allows people to possess, cultivate and distribute marijuana for medical purposes. The federal government has never challenged this law as being an affront to federal authority.

The addition of the ACLU of Colorado is a big boost to the campaign as it works towards gathering enough signatures to make it on the 2012 November ballot. Currently, the campaign has collected 60,000 of the 140,000 signatures it plans to gather before the end of the year. Colorado law requires 85,853 valid signatures for a measure to qualify for the ballot, but since there are always some signatures disqualified, for a variety of reasons, a campaign needs to turn in a number of signatures well in excess of the threshold to make sure there are enough valid ones.

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