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Backers of a ballot proposal in Colorado to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana are urging voters to “regulate marijuana like alcohol,” The New York Times reports.

The proposal is likely to be on the November ballot, the article notes. Mason Tvert, a co-director of the group that has led the ballot drive, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, says the goal of the initiative is “to make our communities safer by regulating this substance, taking it out of the underground market, controlling it and better keeping it away from young people.”

Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado. The number of dispensaries has grown, and 80,558 state residents had medical marijuana cards as of November 2011, according to the state Department of Public Health. There is much debate within Colorado about medical marijuana—85 communities in the state have banned or stopped openings of dispensaries.

Proponents of marijuana legalization have also submitted signatures for a ballot proposal in Washington state, according to the article.

Colorado’s Attorney General, John W. Suthers, opposes medical marijuana. “It’s largely state-sanctioned fraud,” he said. “We have thousands and thousands of people lying to doctors, saying they have a debilitating medical condition.”

Supporters of the proposal acknowledge the medical marijuana law has led to abuse, and say legalizing marijuana would solve the problem. They argue that Prohibition demonstrated the problems with banning or improperly regulating a substance that many people use anyway.

Medical marijuana providers are largely supporting the ballot proposal, the newspaper states.

Earlier this month, Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh said 23 marijuana dispensaries located near schools in Colorado that received warning letters telling them they must shut down should take the warning seriously. He said the letters informed the dispensaries and their landlords they have until February 27 to shut down, move or face federal penalties. Owners of the dispensaries and the property on which they are located could lose their assets and property. He added that criminal prosecution is also possible.

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