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Denver Councilman Calls Pro-Pot Signs 'Devious'


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Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown is fuming about the "Make Denver SAFER" message on campaign signs pushing a city ballot measure to legalize adult marijuana use.

He says the wording is designed to fool residents into thinking that Initiative 100 on the Nov. 1 ballot is about highly publicized efforts to combat rising crime and falling arrest rates by boosting police staffing.

The slogan is so vague, Brown said Wednesday, "I had no idea what they were for" until he read the small print at the bottom of the sign.

It states: "Paid for by SAFER and authorized by the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative Committee."

SAFER stands for the I-100's sponsor Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation. The measure would amend Denver law to make it legal for adults to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana.

"It is incredibly misleading, it is devious, it is deceptive," Brown said of the campaign signs. "This initiative does not put more cops on the street. It puts more marijuana on the street."

Supporters of the ballot measure say the slogan speaks to their mission to amend city ordinances to make adult use of an ounce or less of marijuana a legal and "safer" alternative to alcohol, which they contend fuels violent crime and deaths caused by drunken-driving collisions and alcoholism.

SAFER's Web site - www.safer choice.org - cites national studies that show alcohol-related disease and crime kill more than 85,000 Americans annually, while marijuana causes zero deaths.

"It is our belief that if people were allowed the opportunity to legally use marijuana instead of alcohol we would see drastic declines in . . . domestic violence, sexual assault and DUI," said SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert. "We don't see people breaking out in fights in bars and on the streets because of marijuana use. Those are alcohol-related problems."

Denver City Council members, however, strongly oppose the marijuana measure as a bad idea that will only encourage drug abuse and tarnish the city's image.

The council was forced to put I-100 on the ballot after supporters collected more then 12,000 signatures.

Brown called claims that marijuana is a safe alternative "a myth."

"Marijuana is a gateway drug," he said. "You start using that and where do you end up?"

Denver police and the city attorney say an ordinance change would have little impact because the vast majority of Denver's pot possession cases are prosecuted under state law as a petty offense, punishable by a fine up to $100.

Denver police Division Chief David Fisher is worried that passage of I-100 will "create a perception that something will be different in Denver as far as law enforcement, when in fact . . . the Denver Police Department will continue to enforce the law as we always have."

An undaunted Tvert said: "Our job is not necessarily to try to win a campaign. It's to educate voters about this issue. And if we're successful in that, we have no doubt that we can be successful in this election."

Marijuana initiative

- Initiative 100: Would amend Denver law to make it legal for adults to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana. It would also spare minors busted for possession from serving jail time and allow judges to impose drug treatment instead of a fine.

- The catch: Denver officials say changing local law will have little impact, because they'll continue prosecuting the vast majority of pot-possession cases under state law as a petty offense with a maximum $100 fine.

- The origin: The City Council was forced to put the measure on the Nov. 1 ballot after supporters collected more than 12,000 signatures.

Newshawk: Freaktan - 420Times.com
Source: Rocky Mountain News
Copyright: 2005 Rocky Mountain News
Contact: letters@RockyMountainNews.com
Author: Alan Gathright
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