DENVER – Marijuana legalization activists in Colorado are turning in signatures Wednesday to put the question on ballots this fall.
The Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it will turn in some 160,000 signatures in favor of the ballot initiative, well above the roughly 86,000 signatures needed to put the question before voters.
The marijuana measure asks voters to make pot possession legal in small amounts for adults over 21, without a doctor’s recommendation. The measure would also direct lawmakers to put a steep excise tax on marijuana.
The state has 30 days to certify signatures and decide whether the pot measure will be on ballots. If approved, the marijuana question would be the first cleared for Colorado’s 2012 election.
Last month, marijuana activists in Washington state turned in signatures for a ballot measure in that state. Washington authorities are still reviewing those signatures before it’s cleared for the ballot.
Colorado is one of 16 states that allow marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Late last month, Colorado also became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana in a way that allows doctors to prescribe it as a medical treatment.
Colorado’s medical pot laws already conflict with federal drug law, which bans marijuana in all cases. But the state has stopped short of allowing marijuana for recreational use. A 2006 pot legalization measure on ballots failed badly.
The head of Colorado’s pot campaign, Mason Tvert, said Tuesday that if the petition is successful, activists will start an education campaign to persuade voters it’s time to enact a direct challenge to federal drug law.
“If this initiative passes, it will immediately remove the penalties for private adult marijuana possession, and we hope the federal government will allow Colorado to sensibly regulate it,” Tvert said.
A spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project said more states than Colorado and Washington are likely to decide legalization on ballots this fall.
“There is definitely a national awakening going on about the harms of marijuana prohibition,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the MPP, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that is the largest single contributor to the Colorado campaign.
Marijuana legalization will have opponents in Colorado, though. Republican Attorney General John Suthers has said it’s a bad idea, and that pot legalization for adults would increase the drug’s use among children.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has not taken a position on the measure.
“You know, the voters voted on that a couple years ago, and it got voted down,” Hickenlooper said in an interview last week with The Associated Press..
The governor concluded, “Before I come up with an opinion about that .. we’re going to have to sit down and look at the facts.”