PHILADELPHIA — Democrats plan to vote Monday on their national platform and rules for this week’s Democratic National Convention, and the contributions of Colorado officials are expected to make an impact in two key areas: marijuana use and how the party selects its presidential nominee.
The pot provision was championed by Dennis Obduskey of Park County, a member of the platform committee, and it calls on Democrats nationally to support a policy that would remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance and set a “reasoned pathway for future legalization.”
Obduskey said the measure won by the thinnest of margins — 81 to 80 — at an earlier meeting in Orlando and it’s already part of the platform. He said the effort was spurred by what he described as excessive rates of incarceration for marijuana violations.
“We have so many people in jail because of marijuana use,” Obduskey said. “We need to get this as a national policy and stop screwing around with it.”
“It’s not for me. It’s for everyone else,” he added. “I haven’t used marijuana since college. And that was in Boulder in the 1970s. Imagine that.”
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The other contribution from Colorado grew from a longstanding fight between supporters of Hillary Clinton and primary rival Bernie Sanders — specifically on the role of so-called superdelegates, who get to vote on the party’s presidential nominee but are not required to follow the electoral results of the states they represent.
The issue was a big one for Colorado this year, as Democrats in the state selected 41 Sanders delegates to 25 for Clinton. But Colorado’s 12 superdelegates, which include Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, overwhelmingly backed Clinton and their support, along with other superdelegates nationally, was instrumental in the former U.S. Secretary of State edging out Sanders to become the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Sanders supporters want that arrangement changed — a movement that gained steam this week following the resignation of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair in response to the publication of leaked emails that showed her staff working to undercut Sanders during the presidential primary.
The superdelegate fight has the potential to erupt on the convention floor this week, though two Colorado officials have worked to ease tensions.
Colorado delegates said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, along with Skip Madsen, a member of the rules committee from Denver, played a role in crafting a plan to create a commission to study the superdelegate issue, which includes a mandate to reduce the number of superdelegates.
“This is as good as we could have gotten, considering the situation,” Madsen said. “This is a win for Bernie.”
Said Webb: “If Stephen Curry and LeBron James can shake hands and come together, than so can we.”
Copies of the proposal were distributed Monday morning at a breakfast for Colorado delegates at a hotel near the convention center and reaction to the idea was cautiously optimistic among Sanders’ delegates. It’s expected to come up Monday as part of a vote on a broader rules package for the convention.
“It’s voter suppression at its finest,” said state Rep. Joe Salazar, a Sanders delegate, of the superdelegate process. He described the reform proposal as a start but that it would require opponents to keep fighting.
“It’s a step and we’ll have to be diligent,” Salazar said.