During their state convention last weekend, Colorado Democrats adopted a party platform that officially calls for the legalization of marijuana, stopping just short of endorsing the Amendment 64, a statewide ballot initiative which seeks to accomplish exactly that later this year.
The Democratic Party’s official support for legalization comes about a month after a slim majority — 56 percent — of Denver County Republicans voted to support Amendment 64, according to Mason Tvert, who’s leading the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. However, the position was not adopted because of the local party’s requirement of a two-thirds majority to change its platform.
Colorado Democrats, however, embraced the addition to their mission statement with a bear-hug, confirming the platform by a nearly unanimous vote on Saturday night. It features legalizing marijuana as one of their core policy positions, right atop their list of most-wanted criminal justice reforms.
“The language does say that the party supports Amendment 64, however that is different than an endorsement,” Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Matt Inzeo told Raw Story on Monday, clearly hedging his bets and noting that official “endorsements” come from an internal committee and not the platform at-large.
However, he added: “We feel it is important to reexamine our drug policy, the effects on public health, on the resources that have to be devoted to the criminal justice system, to our state’s budget, to our personal freedoms. All of these are hugely important issues that have been massively affected.”
That argument isn’t just a Democratic one, liberal as it may sound: posing legalization as a states’ rights and budget issue has also been effective in winning over some conservatives.
“This of course demonstrates that support for ending marijuana prohibition spans the political and ideological spectrum,” Tvert added. “Within the last couple months we’ve seen both Pat Robertson and Howard Stern voice their support for this effort. And now we see both Republicans in Denver and the state Democratic party join in.”
While Raw Story could not reach anyone with the Denver County GOP for comment, Inzeo was glad to elaborate on why Democrats have targeted drug reforms as a priority in their platform.
“We’ve been a state where we’re starting to see a broader data-set regarding individual use [of marijuana] and how it more broadly affects our communities.” he said. “I think there’s certainly a large group of Coloradans, and many of them are Democrats, who feel that where we are with federal policy in particular is massively counter productive. Considering the stakes in this debate, I think that’s absolutely a discussion that needs to be taking place both here in Colorado and across the country.”
Despite Colorado Democrats’ recent adjustment, President Barack Obama has maintained the status quo on drug laws, even after previously voicing support for a marijuana decriminalization scheme. Obama told Latin American leaders at The Summit of the Americas over the weekend that he still supports prohibition and dreads what might happen if drug gangs were refashioned into legitimate businesses under a legalization scheme.
Colorado leans heavily toward favoring marijuana regulation, even moreso than California did in 2010, when voters there defeated marijuana legalization by a narrow margin. Colorado lawmakers have already become the first in the nation to begin directly licensing medical marijuana businesses, and the state’s Department of Revenue has even sent a formal letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency asking that it recognize the plant’s inherent medical value.
Still, whether the voters will see fit to bring the marijuana industry above ground and make its products legally available to adult consumers remains to be seen.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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