On November 8th, voters in the US state of Missouri were faced with two proposed ballot initiatives. The first would have legalized medical marijuana by removing it from the state constitution; while the second involved decriminalizing recreational use. Unfortunately for supporters of both these initiatives, they lost to an unlikely opponent: a constitutional amendment which makes any law allowing or prohibiting cannabis illegal automatically invalid if passed within 5 years after its passage date. This amendment was approved on November 3rd and will go into effect on January 1st next year..
The “decriminalized vs legal” is a debate that has been ongoing for years. The Lamar Marijuana Ballot Survives Challenge is the first election in which voters in Texas will be able to vote on whether or not marijuana should be decriminalized.
“The Secretary of State’s Office’s Elections Division (Division) requests that the Deputy Secretary of State dismiss the above-entitled Lobbying Complaint on the basis that the Complainant failed to explicitly identify breaches of Colorado lobbyist statutes under section 24-6-301, et seq, C.R.S.”
During a public hearing in November, Belinda Sturges questioned the authenticity of petitions submitted with the City of Lamar that put issues 2A and 2B on the November General Election ballot for Lamar citizens. Those ballot issues, among other things, dealt with determining the amount of a tax levied on recreational and medicinal marijuana sales, as well as allowing voters to approve or reject the public sale of marijuana goods. Both questions were answered affirmatively. Mayor Crespin and City Attorney Lance Clark of Lamar indicated at the time that they were aware of the doubts about the petitions’ authenticity, but that since the subject was under legal review, they couldn’t provide her with any answers at the time.
“On November 10, 2021, Belinda Sturges (Complainant) filed a Complaint with the Division, claiming that Cindy Sovine (Respondent) violated Colorado lobbying regulations,” according to the State Elections Division. Complainant claims that (1) Respondent engaged in lobbying without disclosing her earnings on TRACER, (2) Respondent circulated insufficient petitions, (3) the parties carrying the petitions were not disclosed, and (4) Respondent “represented she was working for SOCO Rocks who only had a name reservation with the SOS.”
“On November 10, 2021, Respondent filed a response to the Complaint, which included a scope of work agreement for ballot campaign management services, communications with the Secretary of State’s office, communications with the City Clerk of the City of Lamar, and messaging related to the ballot question,” according to the complaint.
“The Division wants to dismiss the Complaint on the basis that the Complainant fails to demonstrate specific breaches of Colorado lobbying statutes under section 24-6-301 et seq, C.R.S.”
The whole document, “In the Matter of Cindy Sovine Lobbyist Complaint L2021-03,” may be accessed at the Secretary of State’s Office and was released on December 1, 2021.
“The City Charter was really followed twice, and I came on after the petitions were out, so my position is historical or after the fact,” Sovine stated to the Prowers Journal about the conclusion of the claim. On the initial petition, all of the requisite signatures were obtained. Actually, there were two because the first time they ripped the binders apart, which wasn’t meant to happen, so the city discarded everything, and rightly so. The second petition followed the same procedure as the first, and the campaign followed the same procedure.”
Sovine indicated that she was lobbying for SOCO, but that she is not affiliated with the organization since she has dealt with similar issues in various local municipalities around Colorado, largely at the state level.
“Lamar had the most detailed specifications I’ve ever seen, inquiring about the sorts of message we’d use, how we’d apply it, and in what format… It all demonstrates how serious the city took the campaign,” she said, adding that most cities use a two-question ballot because those with just one discover they have breached the single topic restriction on the ballot, which is generally invalidated, forcing them to go back and adopt a two-part question.”
“They can open it up to any municipality to legalize sales like any other city,” she said, referring to Prowers County’s choice to tax marijuana sales. “They can open it up to any community to legalize sales like any other city.”
Sovine admitted that the city would spend a year to investigate the implications of legal sales before drafting regulatory regulations.
“The council is expected to examine how many shops will be in Lamar and establish a framework for granting licenses to applicants.” These new enterprises will create additional employment in the neighborhood and, perhaps, help existing businesses by bringing in more consumers. But why would you put these establishments in out-of-the-way areas if you want to maximize sales tax revenue? You’ll still make sales, but they won’t be as high as they would be in a more mainstream, accessible place.”
Sovine was questioned whether, as the petition starter and bearer of the cost of placing the issues on the ballot, they might anticipate a higher priority when it comes time to give a marijuana merchant a sales license.
She said that after the city decides what sorts of licenses to accept and how many, the selection criteria must be addressed.
“Pulling names out of a hat is a lottery, and I don’t believe the city would function in that manner.” That manner, you may have a partner who has never done business in this town with a new drug for sale over which you have minimal control, which is risky and limits your capacity to start with local ownership. State-level applications are time-consuming, and applicants must first get a suitability license as a business owner. This is not for the faint of heart, and it involves risk, so before a municipality begins the application process, it should look into a company’s previous activities in other areas.”
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