Dirty Tricks in Pot Legalization Campaign

September 14 2006, 12:04 PM
The war over the state initiative to decriminalize adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is heating up. SAFER Colorado, the proponent of the measure, suffered a defeat in court Wednesday when Denver District Court Judge John McMullen refused to block the description of the measure in the supposedly impartial "blue book" that will go out to 2 million households. In a nutshell, opponents of the measure are arguing that the initiative, now known as Amendment 44, would allow adults to give marijuana to juveniles, ages 15 to 17, so long as no money was exchanged.
But because giving less than an ounce of marijuana to someone without payment is defined as a "possession" violation under state law, federal drug agents and other opponents of the measure, persuaded the Legislative Council to state in the voter booklet that Amendment 44 would allow adults to give marijuana to youngsters between the ages of 15 and 17, as long as it wasn't sold. It would remain illegal for any minor to accept or possess marijuana.
But, as SAFER points out, this isn't true, because Colorado has a statute making it a felony to contribute to the delinquency of a minor. SAFER charged in its lawsuit that federal government agents from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, exerted political pressure on the Legislative Council to include the false statements.
Supporters of the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative argued that the booklet language is false and misleading, because the state law against contributing to the delinquency of a minor would still make it a felony to encourage or aid anyone under 18 to possess or use marijuana -- or violate any federal or state laws.
§ 18-6-701, C.R.S. (2005), "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," criminalizes "induc[ing], aid[ing], or encourag[ing] a child [under the age of eighteen] to violate any federal or state law." Thus, transferring any amount of marijuana to a minor [defined as an individual under the age of 18] would be illegal. Violation of this provision is a Class 4 Felony. Passage of Amendment 44 would not change § 18-6-701 C.R.S. Judge McMullen, in dismissing SAFER's lawsuit over the blue book language, did not agree with the opponents' interpretation. He merely ruled he had no ability to order a change in the wording before the election.
McMullen agreed with an assertion by the Legislative Council's attorney, Richard Kaufman, who cited Colorado Supreme Court precedent stating that courts have no jurisdiction in the Legislative Council's wording of the booklet because that is a legislative process, protected by the Colorado Constitution's separation of powers clause. McMullen said a court could only take up a legal challenge after the amendment was voted on.