Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 64 (2012)

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Amendment 64
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Type:initiated constitutional amendment
Constitution:Colorado Constitution
Referred by:The Cannabis Therapy Institute
A Colorado Marijuana Legalization Amendment, also known as Amendment 64, was on the November 6, 2012 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

The measure legalized marijuana in the state. A similar measure was on the 2006 ballot in the state, where it was defeated.[1][2]

The initiative was filed eight different times with the Colorado Attorney General around the date of May 20, 2011 in hopes of making the 2012 ballot. All of the initiatives asked whether or not to legalize the use and possession of, at most, an ounce of marijuana for residents who were 21 and older. In addition, all eight initiatives allowed the state to regulate retail sales of the drug. The proposal was filed eight times, with some differences, in order for supporters to see which one would pass the Title Setting Review Board, and allow for circulation of petitions.[3]


In April 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold the firing of a man who used medical marijuana while not at work. Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who has a prescription for the drug in the state, contested his termination by claiming he was protected by the Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. The law prohibits employers from firing employees for engaging in legal activity outside of work, however it is silent on the matter of federal versus state law. The court refuted the claim by ruling that the statute does not extend to protecting individuals who violate federal outside of work.[4]

Amendment 64 explicitly stated the intention of a state sales tax to be used to fund the regulation of the marijuana industry as well as education improvements throughout the state. In 2013, voters approved a ballot question, Proposition AA, that enacted a 15% excise tax and a 10% sales tax on retail marijuana. This is the proposed execution of the tax funding regulation and education intended by Amendment 64. The proposed tax rate, 25% in total, with the option of an increase to 30% has caused much controversy and there is a large movement running the campaign against Proposition AA. Read about all the details of Proposition AA and the controversy surrounding it here. And stay tuned to see what voters will decide in the fall.

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are official election results:

Colorado Amendment 64
Approveda Yes 1,383,139 55.32%

Results via Colorado Secretary of State.

Text of the measure

Ballot language

The ballot language of the measure read as follows:[5]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?[6]


In 2006, 59% of Colorado voters rejected Amendment 44, which would have legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for those 21 or over. Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado under the terms of a bill signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter, but some marijuana activists say that the time is right to expand the legality of marijuana to cover recreational use also.[1][1]




  • The Cannabis Therapy Institute in Boulder, Colorado, announced on June 11, 2010 that it planned to put together a campaign to qualify an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would make recreational use of marijuana legal. The campaign launched in support of the proposed initiative was[7].[1]
  • Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado stated: "I think people in this state have come to understand that marijuana is not the dangerous substance that law enforcement and the federal government have made it out to be."[8]
  • According to Tony Ryan, a former police officer with the Denver Police Department, and who was helping with the initiative: “During my 36 years as a Denver cop I arrested more people for marijuana than I care to remember, but it didn’t amount to one bit of good for our citizens. Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t do anything to reduce marijuana use, but it does benefit the gangs and cartels who control the currently illegal marijuana trade.”[9]
  • State Senator Shawn Mitchell stated, "It’s clear the War on Drugs isn’t working, and we need to try different approaches to this in society."[10]
  • Denver resident Wanda James stated about recreational legalization, "If you would like to come home and have a joint and relax with your wife or your husband, I see absolutely no issue with that whatsoever. There are more ways to relax than just someone having a can of Coors or Jim Beam."[11]
  • In an article published by Care 2, the article gave three reasons to legalize marijuana. One reason stated, "Critics say that if legalized, marijuana will flood the streets, and all of our children will be reduced to couch-dwelling pot heads. According to the latest report from the federal government, however, marijuana use by Colorado high school students has dropped since the state and its localities began regulating medical marijuana in 2009. Amendment 64 would regulate marijuana and restrict its sale to licensed stores, as is currently done with alcohol. Doing so dramatically reduces consumers’ exposure to harder drugs (often available from the same dude selling the illegal marijuana) and their temptation to experiment with them." Read the other two reasons here.
  • According to Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, "The nation wastes billions of taxpayer dollars annually on the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. This is an election about Colorado law and whether the people of Colorado believe that we should continue wasting law enforcement resources to maintain the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. Our nation was founded upon the idea that states would be free to determine their own policies on matters not delegated to the federal government. The Controlled Substance Act itself acknowledges that Congress never intended to have the federal government fully 'occupy the field' of marijuana policy. We hope the Obama administration respects these state-based policy debates."[12]



  • The group Smart Colorado was the main opposition to the measure.
  • State Senator Steve King stated about the initiative effort and possible ballot measure: "I honestly believe that when Coloradans go to the ballot box they're going to vote no to dope in Colorado."
  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was against the measure.[13]


  • James D. Kellog, founder of, stated in a column published by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about marijuana legalization: "The Constitution of the United States guarantees that American citizens are generally free to make choices about their lives. But when it comes to marijuana and other drugs, we must tread carefully. Coloradans should ponder a simple question. Can our communities conceive an effective plan to keep legalized pot out of our kids' hands? Perhaps we should look to alcohol for the answer."[14]
  • Corey Donahue, a marijuana legalization activist, stated that the measure does not go far enough to legalize marijuana. Donahue argued: "It's going to have regulations, so it's going to create more rules. Regulation isn't legalization."[15]
  • In a letter written to the Colorado Attorney General urging him to oppose the measure, Smart Colorado Attorney Jon Anderson stated, "As you know, Colorado has the most expansive medical marijuana industry in the country. To further expand their drug profits, this industry will invest enormous sums of money to erase all state restrictions on growing, transporting, and selling marijuana in Colorado. It is critical that Colorado voters understand the serious legal and policy implications of passing such a dangerous law."[16]
  • A panel of state legislators stated that legalizing marijuana wouldn't automatically produce a large revenue from the new tax on the drug. According to reports, legislators would be required to refer any tax on marijuana to voters in order for them to approve it. According to State Senator John Morse, "Now all of a sudden we got a new constitutional amendment that may say, 'Hey, we can dictate how legislators vote all the time.' It would be offensive to our system of government in my view, but it may turn out to be the law of the land."[17]
  • Amie Baca-Oehlert, vice president of the Colorado Education Association stated, "Drugs and kids don't mix. As an educator and as a parent, I am not comfortable supporting something that I know is harmful to children," Baca-Oehlert said. "Marijuana has impacts, negative impacts, on attention span, brain development, all of these things that impact learning."[18]

Analysis and studies

Editor's Note: The following studies do not reflect the views of the neutral Studies are conducted reported on this article as they are presented, and conflicting arguments may be made against certain studies.


Colorado Center on Law & Policy analysis

A budgetary analysis done by the Colorado Center on Law & Policy analysis on the measure concluded the following results:[19]

  • Could generate as much as a total of $60 million in savings and revenue.
    • $12 million dollars of annual savings in criminal justice costs
    • $24 million in excise tax revenue
    • $8.7 million in state sales tax revenue
    • $14.5 million in local tax revenue
  • Creation of several hundred new jobs.


Presidential election implications

According to reports, Colorado was a key state in the 2012 presidential election, and the marijuana measure had potential for broad implications that November. Reports said that President Barack Obama's and Republican candidate Mitt Romney's stance regarding marijuana legalization, regulation and taxation like alcohol had the potential to influence voters in Colorado.[20]


See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A majority of voters surveyed in a poll released on August 11, 2011 by Public Policy Polling stated they were in favor of legalizing marijuana. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.3%, and the question asked to voters who were surveyed was: "Do you think marijuana usage ought to be legal or illegal?"[21][22]
  • Another poll conducted by Public Policy Polling was taken on the issue of marijuana legalization. The results of the poll were released on December 9, 2011. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%.[23]
  • The results of a survey conducted by Rasmussen Polling on June 6, 2012 were released on June 9, 2012 showing strong support for the Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative. According to the findings, 61% of those polled support the legalization of marijuana if it was regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. In contrast, 27% were opposed to any legalization and the remaining 12% were undecided. 500 likely voters were polled and the poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points.[24][25]
  • According to a poll released by Public Policy Polling on August 8 of 779 likely voters, 47% said they supported Amendment 64, while 38% of those surveyed opposed it. The poll had a margin of error of +/-3.5%.[26]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Aug. 4-7, 2011 Public Policy Polling 51% 38% 11% 510
Dec. 1-4, 2011 Public Policy Polling 49% 40% 11% 793
Jun. 6, 2012 Rasmussen Polling 61% 27% 12% 500
August 8, 2012 Public Policy Polling 47% 38% 15% 779


2012 measure lawsuits
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Ballot text
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Motivation of sponsors
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Initiative process
See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Bruce v. Colorado Title-Setting Board

A lawsuit was filed on July 11, 2011 against the proposed ballot measure, stating that the proposal does not make it clear that taxes would be raised. Douglas Bruce, of Colorado Springs, filed the lawsuit with the state Supreme Court.

However, Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado stated that the five-business day allowance to challenge the measure has already passed. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State claimed that since the ballot measure language was revised, the legal challenge could move forward.[27]

Blue book lawsuit

Proponents of the measure filed a lawsuit to delay the printing of 2012's ballot information booklet, also known as the blue book.

According to reports, the booklet was sent to voters in the state to provide details on ballot measures that are on the general election ballot. According to supporters of Amendment 64, the lawsuit argued that the legislative committee struck final draft key language in the section describing arguments in support of the initiative.[28]

However, on September 13, 2012, the lawsuit was dismissed by Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt due to what reports say was a "jurisdictional issue."[29]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado

In order to qualify the initiative for the 2012 ballot in the state, supporters were required to gather 85,853 valid signatures by the August 6, 2012 petition drive deadline.


The eight filed proposals were heard on June 1, 2011 by the Colorado Office of Legislative and Legal Services. Suggestions that the committee gave pertaining to the wording of the proposals included clarifying the state's medical marijuana laws and other references to it. Other suggestions included technical matters such as using both "ensure" and "insure" throughout the proposals. According to reports, more specifics about what the phrase "under the age of 21" meant were requested.[30]

Election Review Board

During the week of June 15, 2011, it was reported that all eight filed ballot measures were under review by a state election review board. Supporters of the measure will wait to hear from legal challenges before deciding on which measure they will move forward with and collect signatures for.[31]

Challenges were made to the proposed ballot measure language by marijuana legalization supporters during the week of July 6, 2011. Challenges included the accusation that comparing the drug to alcohol was flawed. There was no limit to alcohol purchases in the state, but the ballot proposal included a provision that marijuana possession had limits, according to the challenge. Other supporters of legalization said that it was too much to ask voters to approve marijuana with no limits, hinting that it could fail if placed on the ballot.[32]

Signature collection

Despite protests from other marijuana supporters who claimed the measure was flawed, signature collection began on July 7, 2011. According to one of the petition drive organizers, Mason Tvert, the campaign aimed to appeal to Republicans and older voters instead of those who are already on board with the proposal.[33]

As of September 1, 2011, the campaign to put the initiative on the ballot had collected 35,000 signatures, according to reports.[15]

It was reported on September 24, 2011 that supporters had collected nearly half of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.[34]

Signature gathering

According to reports, supporters of the initiative planned to turn in signatures on January 4, 2012. Supporters stated they would submit more than 155,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's office. Signatures were submitted that day.[35][36]

However, on February 3, 2012, the Colorado Secretary of State announced that the initiative effort had fallen short about 2,500 signatures. According to reports, supporters of the proposal had until February 15, 2012 to submit the additional signatures required to make the ballot.[37]

Supporters of the initiative turned in the additional signatures needed to make the ballot.[38]

On February 27, 2012, the Colorado Secretary of State verified the signatures, placing the measure on the 2012 ballot.[39]

Related measures


See also: Marijuana on the ballot

Approveda Colorado Proposition AA, Taxes on the Sale of Marijuana (2013)
Approveda Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 64 (2012)


See also: Local marijuana tax on the ballot

Approveda City of Denver Additional Marijuana Sales Tax, Question 2A (November 2013)
Approveda Town of Eagle Marijuana Occupation Tax, Question 2F (November 2013)
Approveda Ballot Issue 2E: City of Littleton Marijuana Sales Tax
Approveda Ballot Issue 1B: Pueblo County Marijuana Sales Tax
Approveda Ballot Issue 2A: Town of Frisco Marijuana Excise Tax
Approveda Ballot Issue 2F: Town of Silverthorne Marijuana Excise Tax
Approveda Ballot Issue 2C: Town of Breckenridge Marijuana Excise Tax
Approveda Town of Carbondale Marijuana Sales Tax Ballot Measure (November 2013)
Approveda Measure 2C: Town of Fraser Marijuana Sales Tax
Approveda Question 2A: City of Manitou Springs Marijuana Sales Tax
Approveda Question 2G: Town of Red Cliff Marijuana Sales Tax

See also


Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Colorado Daily, "Colo. pot advocates plan 2012 legalization push," June 11, 2010
  2. 9 News, "Marijuana advocates use Kush Con II as legalization springboard," December 17, 2010
  3. Denver Post, "8 initiatives to legalize pot seek spots on 2012 Colorado ballot," May 20, 2011
  4. Washington Times, "Judge says federal law trumps Colorado's on medical marijuana," April 27, 2013
  5. Colorado Secretary of State, "Results for Proposed Initiative #30," accessed October 3, 2012
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Associated Press, "Colo. groups look to legalize marijuana in ’12," November 6, 2010
  8. Denver Post, "Colorado pot backers aim for legalization vote in 2012," May 19, 2011
  9. The 420 Times, "Former Cop And Judge To Collect Signatures For Marijuana Ballot Measure In Colorado," August 2, 2011
  10. Denver Post, "State Sen. Shawn Mitchell comes out in favor of ballot measure legalizing pot," October 1, 2012
  11. CBS News, "Colo. bid to legalize marijuana leads in polls," October 14, 2012
  12. Boulder Journal, "Colorado Amendment 64 pot legalization gaining support on both sides of aisle," October 20, 2012
  13. CBS Local, "Hancock To Make Big Pitch Against Marijuana Ballot Initiative," October 15, 2012
  14. Glenwood Springs Post Independent, "We must be careful with legalization of marijuana," August 1, 2011
  15. 15.0 15.1 Denver Post, "Infighting plagues Colorado marijuana legalization bid," September 1, 2011
  16. Denver Post, "AG Eric Holder urged to oppose Colorado marijuana ballot issue," June 13, 2012
  17. Daily Camera, "Colorado lawmakers warn about constitutional hazards of marijuana legalization," September 5, 2012
  18. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named coor
  19. Opposing Views, "Study Says Passage of Marijuana Legalization Law Could Yield $60 Million in New Annual Revenue in Colorado," August 20, 2012
  20. Reuters, "Marijuana initiative could make or break Obama in Colorado," June 2, 2012
  21. Stop the Drug War, "Majority in Colorado Poll Want Marijuana Legalized," August 13, 2011
  22. Public Policy Polling, "Colorado loves Hickenlooper, Bennet would rout Buck in re-do," August 11, 2011
  23. Public Policy Polling, "Colorado favors gay marriage, marijuana use, loves Tebow," December 9, 2011
  24., "NEW POLL: High Support for Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, 61% Say Regulate Like Alcohol and Tobacco," June 11, 2012
  25. Rasmussen Reports, "61% in Colorado Favor Legalizing, Regulating Marijuana," June 9, 2012
  26., "Poll: Colorado Pot Amendment Could Pass — And Hurt Obama," August 8, 2012
  27. Denver Post, "Colo. pot proposal faces another legal challenge," July 11, 2011
  28. Denver Post, "Colorado marijuana legalization campaign goes to court over ballot book," September 10, 2012
  29. Huffington Post, "Colorado Marijuana Legalization Proponents Lose Battle Over Deleted Text In State Voter Guide Book," September 13, 2012
  30. Denver Westword Blogs, "Marijuana legalization ballot measures language not likely to change much," June 1, 2011
  31., "Pot legalization before Colo. elections panel," June 15, 2011
  32. The Republic, "Pot, booze analogy sparks complaint about Colorado ballot proposal on legalizing marijuana," July 6, 2011
  33. The Republic, "Supporters of legalizing recreational pot in Colo. kick off petition drive for ballot measure," July 7, 2011
  34. The 420 Times, "Colorado Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Signature Bomb," September 24, 2011
  35. GJ Sentinel, "Pot backers could get question on 2012 ballot," December 28, 2011
  36. Denver Post, "Colorado effort to legalize marijuana turns in signatures, tackles skepticism from female voters," January 5, 2012
  37., "More Signatures Needed for Colorado Marijuana Initiative," February 4, 2012
  38. Hawaii News Daily, "Colorado Marijuana Initiative Turns in Final Signatures," February 17, 2012
  39. Times Call, "Marijuana-legalization initiative qualifies for Colorado ballot this fall," February 27, 2012