Sep 13, 2010 11:06 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Marijuana debate sparks heated emails

El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen says she supports Amendment 20 (medical marijuana) on the caregiver level.  Lathen says voters should decide on dispensaries.

Colorado Springs Councilmember Sean Paige says he supports Amendment 20 on both the caregiver and dispensary level.

Even on Amendment 20, they're not in complete agreement, but the big disagreement between these two public officials isn't about medical marijuana.  It's just about marijuana.

Paige took part in a medical marijuana debate sponsored by News First 5 on August 18.  Lathen was in the audience.

In early September, Lathen wrote a guest column in the Gazette newspaper saying Paige supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

"The basis for that were comments he made at the KOAA debate," explains Lathen. "At the debate, he talked about one of the greatest drivers of crime in our society is the prohibition of drug use, and that's the real problem."

Paige says he does not support legalizing marijuana and says Lathen may have taken his comments out of context.  He emailed Lathen asking for a printed correction.

"I've never supported legalized marijuana, and that's not my position," says Paige.

Lathen says in her email, which the Gazette has published online, she has apologized for misinterpreting his comments. 

You can watch the entire debate for yourself.  Just head to the home page of News First 5, and click on Marijuana Forum Video found on the right side of the page.

Here is the text of the emails sent between Lathen and Paige:

September 8, 2010

Dear Amy:

Nowhere in my writings or statements have I said I support the complete legalization of marijuana, and you and I have never spoken on the issue, so you had no basis for making that claim in your Gazette column over the weekend. I do support respecting the rights granted medical marijuana patients under Amendment 20. I believe a dispensary ban is a roundabout way of denying those rights, and of negating Amendment 20, by limiting patient options and choking off supply. I believe the best (and the constitutional) way to move forward is regulating, monitoring and taxing medical marijuana. But I do not support full legalization - something that a modicum of research, or a quick phone call or email, would have verified. 

I know this sort of misinformation has gotten wide circulation on the dispensary ban side, where accuracy, fact and truth count for little, but you're the first to get caught in the act. I expect a written correction and apology, in print, as soon as possible. 

Sean Paige


September 8, 2010


I don't read blogs and heard of your upset when contacted by an Independent reporter late yesterday.  I made no negative assertions toward you and in stating that the argument of legalizing marijuana is a legitimate discussion to have, implied no ill will whatsoever.  I invite you to deal with conflicts like this by giving me a call because I will not be aware of your concerns via the Gazette blog.  I am very accessible and here to respond if ever you have any concerns and so I am glad that you sent an email.

That being said, I always seek to be factually correct in all communications and so will share a few reasons why I was under the impression that you do favor legalization.   Some examples occurred during the live debate on KoAA where some of your comments strongly led several in the audience, including myself to believe that you support legalization.  Specifically, I note these comments, "But let's get real about it.  What's the biggest driver of crime in this society right now?  It's prohibition against drug use.  It's illegal drug use..."  "The real problem is the blood bath on the Mexican border."  "It should be done in the open.  If it's legal, no one should interfere."  "This is a freedom issue"... "It's about personal freedom"... "to use it if you want to use it."

This drug is the same drug regardless of whether one is using it for medical reasons or recreational use and you repeatedly expressed that no one should stand between an individual and that choice, specifically calling out the DEA (a legal enforcement body) and expressing in various ways that they should get off folks' backs.

These are just some of the comments which led me to an understanding of your position.  If I misinterpreted these comments I very happily apologize.  I also find this encouraging because I am hoping that this means that you will be willing to openly join in opposition to legalized marijuana while preserving the intent and patient care under Amendment 20.

 Amy Lathen 


Thanks for the explanation but it doesn't help correct the record in the public forum, which is where you put out the misinformation. A short letter of correction to The Gazette, setting the record straight, would be appreciated. I don't think I should have to be the one to do that. It wasn't my error. 


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