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.
Voters in at least 40 jurisdictions will decide in this election whether they want medical-marijuana dispensaries in their communities.
The wave of ballot measures will provide the best insight since the state's medical-marijuana boom began into how a broad spectrum of Colorado voters feels about the current system. But medical-marijuana advocates insist that any decisions to ban dispensaries should not be viewed as a broader indictment of medical marijuana.
"If a large number of these measures pass, it's not because people want to deny medicine to their neighbors," said Betty Aldworth, executive director of the pro-dispensary group Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation. "It's that we haven't effectively educated voters on the needs of their neighbors."
The elections are an outgrowth of a bill the legislature passed earlier this year that gives cities and counties explicit authority to either ban or regulate dispensaries. Since Gov. Bill Ritter signed that bill into law, officials in 25 cities have decided to ban dispensaries, while officials in 19 other cities have enacted dispensary regulations, according to a list compiled by the Colorado Municipal League.
Voters in 26 cities — from tiny Hillrose in eastern Colorado to Aurora, the largest Colorado city currently without a dispensary — will have a choice on the ballot whether to allow dispensaries. Voters in 14 counties will also decide on allowing dispensaries in the unincorporated parts of the county.
A coalition of medical-marijuana- connected businesses has filed a lawsuit in El Paso County seeking to get that county's ballot initiative tossed out. Because the county first decided to regulate dispensaries — after which several opened — and now might ban them, attorney Jessica Corry said the measure amounts to a "regulatory taking" that would force existing, lawful businesses to close shop.
"We're fighting for not just the constitutional rights of patients but for that long-cherished Colorado ethos of live and let live," Corry said.
Other unresolved lawsuits argue that local bans are illegal, advocates say, because dispensaries are protected by the Colorado Constitution.
El Paso County's measure has drawn perhaps the most interest. A group called Citizens for Safer Communities has taken in about $3,800 in contributions — many from dispensaries — to fight a ban. Meanwhile, a group organized by Fountain resident Kenneth Lippincott to support bans in El Paso County and Fountain has collected about $2,400. That group's largest donor is St. Dominic Catholic Church in Security.