Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

High Stakes: A Call To Legalize

CBS News


(CBS) A high-stakes political battle is underway in the cash-strapped state of California. At issue is the narrowly-defined liberty people have there to grow and sell a certain plant . . . and the desire of some folks to have the state government TAX it. John Blackstone reports our Cover Story:

In Oakland, Calif., Richard Lee runs a string of businesses, from coffee shops to glass blowing that are helping revitalize the once-decaying downtown.

But Lee's business empire is built on an unusual foundation: Selling marijuana

In the back of his Blue Sky Coffee Shop there's a steady stream of cash buyers, and not just for coffee.

"In the front you get the coffee and pastries, and in the back you get the cannabis," Lee said.

A salesman told customers, "You're welcome to pull the bags out and smell the herb as you like."

What's going on here is illegal under federal law, but permitted under California law that since 1996 has allowed marijuana for medical use.

A dozen other states have similar laws. One customer named Charles said pot is exactly what his doctor ordered.

"So that's what relieves my anxiety and allows me to cope and feel good," he said.

Lee has dubbed his Oakland neighborhood "Oaksterdam" . . . with a nod to Amsterdam and its liberal drug laws. His goal is to make this a tourist destination, with marijuana its main attraction.

"Does that worry people around here?" asked Blackstone.

"No, people around here love it 'cause they see how much we've improved the neighborhood," Lee said.

Next door to where lee sells marijuana, Gertha Hays sells clothes. She says the dispensary brings people from all walks of life. "There's no particular pothead," she said, "so everyone comes over there."

"So these aren't just druggies in there?" Blackstone asked.

"No, not at all. If you look and see who comes up and down thethe block you'll see it's so diverse," Hays said.

Part of the Oaksterdam neighborhood is a nursery growing a cash crop: Medical marijuana is now estimated to be a $2 to 3 billion business in California.

"Yeah, there's a lot of people making a lot of money," lee said.

There are now several hundred medical marijuana dispensaries in California . . . and much more marijuana being sold on the street.

"We estimate, overall, [the] California cannabis industry is in the neighborhood of around $15 billion," lee said.

While there is disagreement over the real size of the marijuana market it's big enough to have captured the attention of lawmakers trying to fill a huge hole in the state budget.

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