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Sep 19, 2011 8:34 PM by Andy Koen

Some marijuana advocates oppose legalization effort

A petition drive is currently underway to completely legalize marijuana use in our state. A group calling themselves Citizens for Responsible Legalization started running television ads in Colorado Springs on Friday promoting the effort.

Brian Vicente of the group Sensible Colorado says the proposed referendum would place similar restrictions on marijuana that exist for alcohol consumption.

"Adults 21 and older could actually purchase marijuana in small quantities from state licensed stores," Vicente said.

He argues that marijuana is already a $400 million industry and that expanding access to the drug will only help raise tax revenue.

"We've only really begun to tap the market with medical marijuana and there really is a larger market out there that should be regulated," he said. "We need to take it out of the hands of the cartels and actually regulate this industry like alcohol."

But some local medical marijuana advocates oppose the blanket legalization effort because they worry it will eventually harm them and their patients. KC Stark of Go Green Cross believes the rush to legalize will ultimately force the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies to begin cracking down all forms of marijuana use in the state.

"The only thing that protects us right now is that it's a medical issue and the Ogden memo, released by the (Obama) administration, recognized that," he said in reference to the stated position by Attorney General Eric Holder to not raid medical marijuana facilities in those states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

Marijuana is considered a schedule one controlled substance under meaning the US government considers it to "have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."

"I think they're going to find out it has the ability to destroy the entire industry," Stark said.

But Vicente disagrees. He feels the growth of the medical marijuana industry in Colorado creates a precedent for the federal government to allow open marijuana sales to exist.

"We think that the federal government would respect the rights of states to chose what they think is best to try out in their communities and so it really becomes a states-rights issue," Vicente said.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol hopes to collect enough petitions to get onto the 2012 ballot.

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