Legislative Council's Lie of Omission

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Legislative Council's Lie of Omission

by Ari Armstrong, September 19, 2006

1. "Currently Colorado's Legislative Council is prohibited from hiring prostitutes for office visits. After January 1, 2007, Legislative Council will continue to be prohibited from hiring prostitutes for all married staff members."

2. "Currently Legislative Council may not spend tax dollars to buy kegs of beer for the office. Starting next month, Legislative Council will not spend tax dollars to buy kegs of beer for the office Monday through Wednesday."

3. "Currently in Colorado it is illegal to beat a child with a stick. After noon on November 15, 2006, it will continue to be illegal under state law to beat a child with a stick over one inch in diameter."

Why are the above three statements false? Because they omit a crucial relevant fact and thus misrepresent the issue. In the case of the first statement, Legislative Council will not be able to hire prostitutes for married or unmarried staff members. Neither will Legislative Council spend tax dollars to buy kegs of beer on Thursday or Friday (or the weekend, if that's relevant). In the third statement, it will continue to be illegal to beat a child with a stick over or under one inch in diameter. (The clever reader could come up with an unlimited number of examples.)

If someone spent tax dollars to seriously present any of the above three quoted statements to the public, that person would be fired, publicly humiliated, and possibly subjected to legal sanctions, right? Yet Legislative Council has committed a similar lie of omission in this year's Blue Book, the official voters' guide mailed to all voting households in the state at taxpayers' expense.

In other words, taxpayers are paying public officials to lie to them. Now that's value for your money.

The specific lie was described in detail last week. The language pertains to Amendment 44, which would legalize "the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older." One of the two deceitful passages claims that it "will continue to be illegal under state law if Amendment 44 passes... for individuals 18 years or age and older, transferring any amount of marijuana to a person under 15 years of age..." Of course, it will also remain illegal to transfer any amount of marijuana to a person age 15, 16, or 17. By omitting that crucial fact, Legislative Council lied to the public.

As the Rocky Mountain News argued in a September 15 editorial, "[T]he clear implication of that statement -- that the amendment decriminalizes such transfers [to minors], at least insofar as the state is concerned -- is simply false. It is a crime in Colorado to help any juvenile break any federal or state law, and under both federal and state law it will continue to be illegal for minors to possess marijuana even if Amendment 44 is approved. So someone giving a minor marijuana would be breaking the law as well."

The same day Boulder's Daily Camera missed this obvious fact in an editorial. The paper published my critical letter on September 17:

The editorial writers who wrote "Smokescreen on 44" (Sept. 15) didn't bother to read the relevant documentation. It is and would remain illegal -- a felony, in fact -- to distribute any marijuana to minors (those under 18), whether or not Amendment 44 passes. Legislative Council indeed lied in the Blue Book.

The editorial mentions 18-18-406, pertaining to marijuana possession, but the relevant statute is 18-6-701, "Contributing to the delinquency of a minor." That statute reads, "Any person who induces, aids, or encourages a child to violate any federal or state law, municipal or county ordinance, or court order commits contributing to the delinquency of a minor. For the purposes of this section, the term 'child' means any person under the age of eighteen years. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a class 4 felony."

If 44 passes, possession by those under 21 will remain illegal, so transferring any marijuana to someone under 18 would fall under this statute. The lawyer who filed SAFER's brief makes all this quite clear, as does the accurate editorial published Sept. 15 by the Rocky Mountain News.

The Camera quotes SAFER's Steve Fox, "We do not deny that the current language by the Legislative Counsel staff is technically accurate."

That quote from Fox is from a reply to Legislative Council dated Aug. 22. But Fox was wrong then, and he corrects himself in an affidavit distributed by SAFER in a Sept. 12 media release. Under point 11 of the affidavit, Fox states he wrote his reply to Legislative Council "[p]rior to [his] knowledge of the contributing-to-the-delinquency-of-a-minor statute." And under point 13, Fox writes, "On Sept. 8, 2006, attorney Robert Corry informed me by e-mail about the existence of the contributing-to-the-delinquency-of-a-minor statute. He shared the language of the statute, which demonstrated clearly that the transfer of any amount of marijuana to anyone under the age of 18 would be illegal after passage of our initiative." I find it difficult to believe that Legislative Council, which works with the statutes on a daily basis, just happened to forget about 18-6-701.

A lie of omission is still a lie. There is and can be no justification for Legislative Council looking at other parts of 18-18-406 but totally ignoring 18-6-701. In court, a person must swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anything less is perjury (leaving aside cases of faulty memory and self-incrimination). Legislative Council has violated the second provision.

It is Article V, Section 1, of the state's constitution that describes the requirements of the Blue Book. Subsection 7.5 requires: "A fair and impartial analysis of each measure, which shall include a summary and the major arguments both for and against the measure, and which may include any other information that would assist understanding the purpose and effect of the measure... The general assembly shall provide sufficient appropriations for the preparation and distribution of the ballot information booklet pursuant to this subsection (7.5) at no charge to recipients."

SAFER Holds September 19 Conference

At a news conference, SAFER's Mason Tvert announced a new group GOCAMP, or "Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana Prohibition." The group is intentionally positioned to oppose "Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana."

Mp3 files feature the media conference and comments by SAFER's attorney Robert Corry.

Tvert addresses the media and his supporters.

The conference featured around a couple dozen supporters of Amendment 44. A number of people from the media also attended.

Corry, at right, listens to the speeches.

Jessica Corry, at left, talks with reporters after the main conference.

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