Referenda M & N
Aug. 1, 2008
By Jerry Kopel
Published as Modernize Colorado Laws, Vail Daily, Aug. 9, 2008.
There will be a constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot dealing with
intoxicating liquors, and this one has nothing to do with liquor sales
at grocery stores.
House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 1008 which had only one negative voter
as it passed the legislature is now called Referendum N.
HCR 1008 was sponsored by Rep. Kent Lambert (R) - Colorado Springs and
Sen. David Schultheis (R) Colorado Springs. One part repeals language in
the original state constitution of 1876 dealing with "spurious poisonous
and drugged liquors."
The language required the legislature to prohibit manufacturing and
selling impure alcoholic beverages. According to Legislative Council
staff research "The federal government (now) regulates the manufacture
and import of alcoholic beverages to ensure the content is safe and the
labeling is accurate."
So the Colorado language is no longer needed, as it was when a mostly
male population of miners sought gold and silver, alcohol, and sex.
Population makeup changed as the years passed. By 1914, Colorado was a
hotbed of opposition to intoxicating liquors. Citizens put an initiative
on the ballot providing for statewide prohibition. It passed 129,589 to
The language, slightly simplified here to avoid duplication, provided:
"From and after January 1, 1916, no person,
association or corporation, shall, within this state
(1) manufacture or import into this state for sale or gift any
(2) sell or keep for sale or offer for sale, barter or trade any
However handling of intoxicating liquors for medicinal or
sacramental purposes may be provided for by statute."
From 1919 to 1933, intoxicating liquor
manufacture, sale, or transport was prohibited by the 18th amendment to
the U.S. constitution, which amendment was ratified by 36 states. In
1914, Colorado beat most of the other states to this decision by five
In 1932, Colorado citizens again went to the polls to vote on an
initiative to repeal statewide prohibition of intoxicating liquors
subject to national repeal of the 18th amendment. It was Article 22 ,
the same article number that prohibited intoxicating liquors.
It passed 233,311 to 182,771, and was followed by national adoption of
the 21st amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1933 which did repeal the
18th amendment. The Colorado law read:
"On June 30th, 1933, all statutory laws of
the state of Colorado heretofore enacted concerning or relating to
intoxicating liquors shall become void and of no effect; and from
and after July 1st, 1933, the manufacture, sale and distribution of
all intoxicating liquors wholly within the state of Colorado shall,
subject to the constitution and laws of the United States, be
performed exclusively by and through such agencies and under such
regulations as may hereafter be provided by statutory laws of the
state of Colorado; but no such laws shall ever authorize the
establishment or maintenance of any saloon."
In 2000, the citizens voted to remove, among
other obsolete provisions all the words beginning "On June 30th" above,
and up to and including "July 1, 1933". The vote was 1,063,345 to
In 2008, the legislature has placed the rest of Article 22 of the state
constitution on the chopping block. Saloons came in for rough handling
by the state supreme court in a 1936 decision which stated "(purpose of)
the people in the adoption of this article ... was to completely outlaw
and eradicate the old-time public saloon or barroom with its well-known
obnoxious characteristics, vices, and effects. .."
According to Legislative Council staff "saloons existed ... strictly for
consuming alcoholic beverages. Current licensed drinking establishments
are required by law to offer food or meals."
Doing away with the prohibition of saloons means the legislature could,
if it wanted to, re-establish saloons.
As for removal of all the other language, Legislative Council research
staff held it was no longer necessary, since legislative authority to
regulate continues to exist by statute.
* * *
When Colorado was first settled, for some decades after, our state was
considered semi-arid. So when the state constitution was voted on in
1876, there was a miscellaneous Section 7 of Article 18:
"The General Assembly may provide that the increase in the value of
private lands caused by the planting of hedges, orchards and forests
thereon, shall not, for a limited time to be fixed by law, be taken into
account in assessing such lands for taxation."
House Concurrent Resolution 1009, now listed as Referendum M, was
sponsored by Rep. Lambert and Sen, Schultheis. It would repeal that
According to Legislative Council research staff "amendments to the
1876 (in Article 10) limit the types of property tax exemptions that the
legislature can adopt, and an exception for planting trees or forests is
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)