Sides take issue with pot proposal

GRAMNET officials release statement opposing state Amendment 44

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Proponents say one of November's most controversial ballot questions is an attempt to stimulate debate, educate the public and free adults from the risk of turning into criminals for a relatively harmless activity.

Opponents contend that the proposed measure is a strike against law enforcement and families, opens the door to drug abuse and gives drug dealers carte blanche access to youths.

Amendment 44, a measure that voters will decide during the Nov. 7 general election, proposes allowing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana for anyone 21 or older.

On Tuesday, the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team sent out a scathing press release heavily criticizing Amendment 44 and encouraging local voters to cast their ballots against the proposal.

"Amendment 44 is by far the best thing to ever happen to Colorado drug dealers and undoubtedly one of the worst things to ever happen to Colorado families and children," GRAMNET's statement reads.

It adds, "We encourage you to use your constitutional right to vote and ask that you send a message to our state and federal legislators by sending a resounding 'no' to Amendment 44 and the legalization of marijuana possession."

The release is attributed to eight officials in Moffat and Routt counties, including Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead, Routt County Sheriff John Werner, and Bonnie Roesink, district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, which covers both counties.

The release also goes on to list effects of marijuana use.

The initiative earned its way onto the November ballot after the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation obtained about 130,000 signatures on a petition, reaching the mark required by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office by nearly 2 to 1. SAFER is a nonprofit organization based in Denver that began in January 2005. Its goal is to lobby for societal change allowing marijuana -- a substance the group contends is less harmful than alcohol yet is still illegal -- to be treated in a similar manner as adult possession and use of alcohol.

Mason Tvert, campaign director for SAFER, said his organization's push to place Amendment 44 on the ballot was done, in part, to educate the public about the effects of marijuana use. He described marijuana as "a less harmful drug than what anyone can go to Wal-Mart and buy."

"Our goal is, while we'd love to change our laws, to educate the public that marijuana isn't harmful," Tvert said. "It is a drug. It is an intoxicant. But right now, we're lying to people. Why can't we just tell people the truth -- that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol?"

Currently, marijuana possession up to one ounce is a Class 2 misdemeanor and can result in a $100 fine.

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