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.
SAN FRANCISCO — The medical-marijuana political movement in America began the night police busted into Dennis Peron's apartment with a warrant.
They twisted Peron's arms behind his back and placed him in handcuffs. They forced Jonathan West, Peron's boyfriend, to the ground, and an officer held him there, Peron said, with a boot on the young man's chest. When officers learned West had AIDS, Peron said, they put on rubber gloves.
"He was very skinny, very weak," Peron, a longtime marijuana and gay-rights activist and former pot dealer from San Francisco, recalled. "And they were very mean."
That night in 1990, Peron was arrested for possession and distribution of marijuana he said he was keeping to alleviate West's suffering. A year later, after West died at age 29, Peron began collecting signatures to put an initiative on the San Francisco ballot recommending to state officials that marijuana be allowed for medical use.
It was the first medical-marijuana initiative campaign in the country, and it passed with overwhelming support.
"This was my revenge," Peron said recently. "They did that to Jonathan. What are they doing to other people? I wanted to get even. I hated those guys."
Two decades later, what started that night in Peron's apartment has reordered not just the debate around marijuana but also the broader political landscape.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have started medical-marijuana programs — either through ballot initiatives or legislative action. A 15th, Maryland, allows medical use as a defense against criminal charges. Only once, in South Dakota in 2006, has medical marijuana been defeated in a statewide election.
Estimates show more than 600,000 people in the United States can now possess and use marijuana legally, according to a Denver Post survey of medical-marijuana states. Given the current growth rates in some state medical-marijuana programs and the