Colorado Voters Guide
Seventeen states—and Washington, D.C.—have legalized medical marijuana. This annoys the daylights out the DEA and Office of National Drug Control Policy, who refuse to acknowledge marijuana has any medicinal properties and work hard to maintain a state of complete prohibition.
This month, voters in three U.S. states—including Colorado—will decide whether or not to legalize marijuana for adult use (recreational or otherwise).
For some, a constitutional amendment that would allow adults 21 and older to possess (up to one ounce), consume (for non-medical or other uses) and grow (up to six plants), authorize the cultivation, sale and processing of industrial hemp and establish a regulatory and taxation system like the one set up for alcohol is a no-brainer. Others see many problems with the proposed amendment.
Here are some of the arguments and claims being made about Amendment 64 and its goal of relaxing our state’s drug laws. Note that some arguments are coming from members of the medical marijuana community while others come from pot prohibitionists:
Point: Marijuana is an addictive drug.
Counterpoint: A University of Cambridge study shows that marijuana is less addictive (9 percent) than either cigarettes (32 percent) or alcohol (15 percent), and has extremely benign physical side effects for those who quit. A John Hopkins study revealed that 13 percent of people who quit drinking coffee have “clinically significant distress or impairment of function.” Nicotine and alcohol are the true gateway drugs.
Point: Amendment 64 conflicts with federal law. Federal law will continue to ban the production, manufacture, transportation and distribution of marijuana in Colorado regardless of the voters’ decision on Amendment 64. If the measure passes, Colorado’s recreational marijuana users will believe they are operating under the protection of Colorado law while, in reality, they would be subject to federal criminal prosecution.
Counterpoint: Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 in 2001 with little to some federal reaction since. Additionally, states have traditionally led the way in fighting prohibition on a number of levels, including alcohol prohibition and minority rights. If more states vote for legalization, Colorado could be shown on the right side of history.
Point: The more available cannabis is, the more likely young people are to use the drug.
Counterpoint: A recent study done by the Center for Disease Control shows that between 2009 and 2011, when medical marijuana dispensaries flourished, usage of marijuana decreased amongst Colorado youth. Further regulating marijuana may deal a severe blow to the black market, where most kids acquire marijuana. Also, Amendment 64 would decrease the likelihood that teens would have access to marijuana by placing it within the confines of a well-regulated system where customers would be required to show valid identification, as opposed to the black market, where no protections for children are in place. Selling cannabis to minors would have strict penalties that would deter business owners from losing their enterprise.
Point: Would increase impaired driving. According to recent statistics, between 2006 and 2010, more than 400 people were killed in Colorado from car crashes involving a driver who was on drugs. Smoking pot reduces coordination and impairs decision making which will lead to a significant increase in the number of crashes and deaths due to people who are driving under the influence of marijuana
Counterpoint: Marijuana stays in the system for weeks, making it hard to conclude that a driver was impaired at the time of the accident. A recent study by the University of Colorado Denver that looked at medical marijuana states also suggests that traffic fatalities have decreased because more adults are choosing to use marijuana at home instead of driving to a bar to drink.
Point: Amendment 64 will devastate or destroy the MMJ industry.
Counterpoint: The MMJ industry has proliferated to the point where attrition is inevitable. Centers that remain open will be ones that focus on giving patients better care services, as opposed to appealing to recreational users with licenses. Additionally, patients with conditions that aren’t approved by Colorado’s health department could start treating their illness via the adult-use market.
Point: Would still allow cities to ban marijuana sales.
Counterpoint: Private citizens will still be allowed to cultivate and possess cannabis. They can also simply drive to an area that isn’t under a ban.
Point: A64 won’t prevent patients from losing their jobs, government benefits, student loans, etc., as it won’t be recognized by employers, the courts, etc., as a defense.
Counterpoint: These problems all exist in the status quo and, in some cases, are the result of harmful federal policy or pressure. In other words, even under Amendment 20, some patients have lost their jobs, housing, etc., because of their medical use.
Point: Fails to prevent federal intervention
Counterpoint: Amendment 20, which ushered in Colorado’s MMJ landscape, also failed to prevent all federal action. Additionally, there is nothing that can be written into state law that can trump the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act.