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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pot Is On Ballot

Voters will decide this fall on a ballot initiative that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority" of Denver police, the City Council decided Monday night.

Most council members oppose the measure, but a pro-marijuana group forced their hand after gathering enough signatures to put it to a vote.

"A number of us will be voting to put something on the ballot we won't be supporting ourselves," said Councilwoman Jeanne Robb.

Earlier this month the council considered enacting the ordinance, rather than referring it to voters, as part of a legal maneuver to get it thrown out by the courts. Council members decided not to do that, but they say the initiative, if approved by voters, still could be overturned by a judge.

The group SAFER, sponsors of the ballot initiative, also authored a successful 2005 ballot initiative that legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in Denver. State law, however, still prohibits marijuana use, and Denver police continue to arrest people for possession.

SAFER, which turned in thousands of signatures to get a spot on the November ballot, hopes the proposed ordinance will change that.

"We're pleased it's going to the voters," said Mason Tvert, director of SAFER.

City officials were stunned by the success of the 2005 initiative and they've vowed to fight SAFER's latest effort. Mayor John Hickenlooper and most other elected officials are expected to campaign against the proposal.

"I want to issue a challenge to those pushing this initiative," said council President Michael Hancock. "I hope you'll go and spend time with the children abandoned and left behind by drug-addicted parents. I guarantee you'll find marijuana is a gateway drug to harsher addictions."

That brought a sharp response from Tvert, who spoke to reporters outside council chambers. He accused council members and Hickenlooper of hypocrisy, since most of them drink.

"Alcohol contributes more to death and destruction than any other substance," said Tvert. "They are alcohol users opposed to people using a different drug."

SAFER is sponsoring the initiative out of frustration, Tvert said. The group says that arrests for marijuana possession have risen in Denver since 2005, even though voters changed local law.

"Why are we issuing citations to adults using a drug less harmful than alcohol?" asked Tvert. "We're forced to run this initiative because they don't respect the will of the people."

What's next for the pot initiative?

Denver City Council will hold a public hearing on the measure at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Denver voters will consider the proposal in November.

Rocky Mountain News

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