By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
On the eve of Mother’s Day weekend, a group of women held a press conference at the State Capitol in hopes of changing the face of the pro-marijuana movement.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate gave final approval to a bill that would regulate Colorado’s booming medical marijuana industry.
The diverse group of women gathered at the capitol yesterday to formally launch the Women’s Marijuana Movement (WMM). With the tagline, “Safer for us. Safer for all,” the national group is working towards the legalization of marijuana for adults. As part of the group’s launch, WMM is offering e-cards that people can send to their mother to “let them know that they believe marijuana is a relatively safe and entirely acceptable alternative to alcohol.”
“(We need to) do away with the hippies and the Cheech and Chong stoner image and start putting these new faces to it,” said recreational marijuana user Crystal Guess. “The only way we can do it is to just come out of the closet and stop being so afraid to talk about it.”
Jessica Corry, a conservative lawyer who helped found the group, brought her two young daughters to yesterday’s press conference. She said WMM members are dedicated to “acknowledging that (marijuana) prohibition has failed.”
“We’re here to say enough is enough, the time is now to end prohibition and to take back our responsibilities as parents, as women, from gun-toting bureaucrats,” she said.
Corry and many of the other speakers yesterday pointed out the ways in which they believe marijuana is safer than alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 97,000 students have been victims of alcohol-related sex assault and date rape each year. University of Denver student Sarah Groten said that her personal experiences in college have led her to believe that marijuana doesn’t cause people to become aggressive like alcohol does.
“I’m much more comfortable and safer around guys who are stoned instead of drunk,” she said.
However, Adams County District Attorney Don Quick said that research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) proves that marijuana legalization could harm children. Research shows that a child’s marijuana use depends on the availability of the drug, the perceived risks or consequences of using the drug, and social norms regarding the drug, he said. The AAP argues that legalizing marijuana would negatively impact all three of those factors and lead to an increase in marijuana use by kids.
But Corry argued that “the failed prohibition on marijuana” has allowed plenty of kids to get their hands on marijuana and that it should be a parent’s job to keep the drug from their children.
“Too many parents have given away responsibility away to our government,” she said. “We need to take responsibility as parents to fight back for our children’s future.”
The WMM press conference was largely organized by Mason Tvert of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), a group dedicated to pointing out the ways they believe marijuana is safer than alcohol. Tvert is unsure whether he will have the funding to get an initiative legalizing marijuana in Colorado onto the 2010 ballot.
Still, Tvert believes more Coloradans are in favor of legalizing marijuana than in 2006, when a similar ballot initiative failed on a 61-38 percent vote. He said polling has shown support for legalization growing every year.
But Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, thinks that not only would Colorado voters reject such an initiative, they would also likely approve a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
“The expansive, dramatic increase of dispensaries on every street corner and the availability for people, that’s not in the intent of Amendment 20,” he said. “People I’m hearing from don’t like it.”
With only minutes to go until the Senate was to vote on a comprehensive medical marijuana regulatory bill, Renfroe wasn’t sure if he would support the measure.
He supported giving local municipalities the option of banning dispensaries from operating within city limits, but believed the bill would legitimize the retail dispensary model, which he opposes. He ended up voting against the bill.
Bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said while the bill wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t produce the dire consequences that Renfroe worried about.
“What we have really truly done in a bipartisan way is to go into uncharted territory, do what the voters asked us to doÉand basically bring this out of the shadows and let the truly chronically ill get relief,” he said.
The bill passed on a 26-9 vote.
Westword: Chris Romer’s “long, strange trip” is almost over. The state senator who last fall decided to take on the task of shepherding legislation through the Statehouse that defines and regulates this state’s booming medical marijuana industry saw House Bill 1284 pass the Senate yesterday, 26-9, with a major bipartisan push.
Associated Press: A push to regulate the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries appears to be nearing the finish line. The Colorado Senate passed the proposed regulations in a 26-9 vote on Thursday, sending them back to the House to review changes made to the bill. The lack of controversial changes makes it likely that lawmakers will be able to pass regulations before they must adjourn next week.