Ballot odds and ends: Proposed changes to the Colorado constitution range from hemp to age limits on legislators
October 14, 2018
Amendment X: Deleting the definition of industrial hemp
When Colorado voters legalized marijuana in 2012 with Amendment 64, they also created a constitutional definition for "industrial hemp." This election cycle, Amendment X looks to remove that definition.
The Colorado Constitution defines industrial hemp as "the plant of the genus cannabis and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed three-tenths percent on a dry weight basis."
According to the Colorado Blue Book, the definition of industrial hemp in federal law sets the same limit for THC concentration.
Amendment X proposes to delete that definition and instead define industrial hemp with the definition used in federal law or state statute. The amendment would allow Colorado to maintain compliance with federal regulations in the event that federal laws change.
Current federal law classifies all varieties of cannabis, including industrial hemp, as controlled substances.
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Being the only state with a definition of industrial hemp in its constitution, Amendment X would allow Colorado's hemp industry to remain competitive, according to proponents of the measure.
Those against the amendment, however, suggest deletion of the definition would deviate from the voter's original intent when they approved the legalization of marijuana.
Passage of Amendment X, according to the Colorado Blue Book, will have no impact on revenues or expenditures for any state or local government agencies.
— Lance Maggart,
Sky Hi News
Amendment A: Removing slavery from constitution
The United States outlawed slavery over 150 years ago, but an exception was made in the case of punishment for a crime for which a person was duly convicted. The Colorado Constitution mirrors this language.
However, a measure on the upcoming ballot, Amendment A, seeks to remove the exemption, making slavery and involuntary servitude illegal under all circumstances.
Black's Law Dictionary defines slavery as a situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune and liberty of another person. Involuntary servitude, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a condition of servitude in which a person is forced to work for another person by the use or threat of physical restraint or physical injury, or by the use or threat of coercion through law or the legal process.
Proponents of Amendment A include Abolish Slavery Colorado, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. They say it's important to remove the exception for moral and ethical reasons.
Colorado had a similar measure, Amendment T, on the ballot in 2016, which narrowly failed with 50 percent of voters against the change. Supporters say that they believe that was due to confusing ballot language.
Opponents say that Amendment A is redundant and unnecessary.
Currently, the state pays its prisoners 33 cents to $2.49 per day depending on the assignment. At least four states — Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Georgia — don't pay their inmates at all.
Though the measure would not have a direct impact on prison reform, supporters say the change reflects the state's values of freedom and equality and is important symbolically.
— McKenna Harford,
Sky Hi News
Amendment W: Changing judge retention format on the ballot
Every two years electors in Colorado get the chance to vote on the retention of judges and this year one ballot measure proposes changing the way that question is posed.
Since 1966, judges and justices in the state of Colorado have been selected and retained through a nonpartisan system that calls upon voters to make a determination about whether or not a particular judge or justice should be retained in office.
On this year's ballot, Amendment W seeks to change the format of those retention questions, which is purely cosmetic and does not change a voter's ability to vote on the retention of judges and justices.
The judicial retention section on Colorado ballots is currently broken down into separate segments. If the amendment passes, the format would change by moving the retention question language from the section beside each judge's name to the heading of the various courts. Each judge's name would then be listed below the heading alongside the spaces for voters to select if they should be retained.
According to the Colorado Blue Book, Amendment W helps make the ballot more concise and reader-friendly.
A well-designed and shorter ballot will allow voters to complete it more efficiently, which may encourage voter participation.
However, opponents of the amendment, per the Blue Book, find the amendment unnecessary and "risks confusing voters."
"Voters may be uncertain whether they are casting votes in a multi-candidate election or for each individual justice or judge," the Blue Book states. "This potential confusion may increase the likelihood that voters will skip judicial retention questions."
The fiscal impact of passing Amendment W, according to the Blue Book, would decrease county clerk and recorder workload by a minimal amount and may reduce ballot printing and mailing costs.
— Lance Maggart,
Sky Hi News
Amendment V: Lowering age limits for state reps, senators
A typical 21-year-old in Colorado can buy alcohol, book a hotel room or gamble at a casino, but they can't run for the state legislature.
A measure on this year's ballot is looking to change that.
Amendment V would lower the required age to serve as a representative or senator from 25 to 21.
On a bipartisan level, two senators, Vicki Marble and Michael Merrifield, and two representatives, Kevin Van Winkle and Jovan Melton, sponsored the measure in the legislature.
It was approved for the ballot in May.
Proponents of the measure argue that a 21-year-old is legally an adult and excluding 21- to 24-year-olds serve no purpose since voters can determine for themselves whether a candidate is mature, able and competent enough to serve.
"I can remember being 21 and frustrated and thinking, 'I can do a better job,' or 'I should have right to have my opinion be heard,'" Merrifield told The Denver Post last year.
"Right now, we have a pretty fired-up segment of the population, and we've given them all the responsibilities of an adult. But we have not given them this particular right to represent themselves."
Colorado's current age requirement, along with Arizona and Utah, is the highest minimum age to serve in the house in the country. Three states have no minimum age requirement and 10 states have a minimum age requirement of 18 years.
Proponents also argue lowering the age would encourage civic engagement from younger residents of the state.
However, opponents feel that the current age requirement strikes a balance between youth and experience.
They argue that younger candidates may lack the expertise and maturity to be effective legislators.
Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average age of Colorado legislators in 2015 was 55 years.
In 2008, a similar measure to lower the required age to 21, Referendum L, was on the Colorado ballot and failed with 53.5 percent of voters against the measure.
Amendment V needs 55 percent of the vote to pass.
— McKenna Harford,
Sky Hi News