Yes on 64, Please!

Cannabis use in Colorado was first prohibited by the state legislature in 1917; the US Government didn't follow up with a national ban until 1937. Contrary to the claims made by opponents of Amendment 64, we're under no obligation as a state to criminalize marijuana merely because there is an antiquated US law doing the same.

The marijuana issue boils down to a very simple fact for me: Under the Colorado Revised Statutes there can be no lawful adult marijuana use, unless under the supervision of a doctor. Any (healthy) adult in Colorado currently in possession of a few grams of cannabis is considered a drug-abusing criminal and our law enforcers consider drug interdiction one of the highest priorities. Hardly a day goes by that a state or federal law enforcement agency in Colorado doesn't execute a no-knock SWAT search warrant looking for evidence of marijuana use or production. We spend many millions of dollars annually to inadequately enforce a primitive system of harshly punishing the few we can catch. Then we brand them for life with a permanent record as a drug criminal. We take their stuff, break up their families, knock them down a few pegs and call it “justice”.

A healthy adult in Colorado can't visit a retail establishment and legally purchase marijuana. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding adult Coloradans go about their business, purchasing marijuana from whomever will sell it and using it responsibly in the privacy of their homes. There is no regulation of this business activity and the state collects no taxes on the revenue or wages. Much (though not all) of this unregulated and untaxed “income” goes to out-of-state or even international criminal interests.

Amendment 64 will legally define a tiny sphere of responsible adult use and production of cannabis as a lawful non-criminal act. An ounce of pot is the rough vegetable equivalent of a couple packs of cigarettes—yet still enough to last any regular consumer a month or two. Exporting the drug out of state, and even using or producing it on federal lands will remain a federal crime. A-64 doesn't change the federal position a single iota. What 64 changes is Colorado's policy of spending millions of dollars of our money to enforce the message that responsible adult cannabis use is somehow worse to society than tobacco, alcohol or even coffee. It's a step in the right direction for all of us.

We've heard some resistance to the design choice of a state constitutional amendment but Coloradans need to understand that there's nothing permanent about it going in our constitution. If the legislature, or an anti-marijuana organization were to be aroused enough to put another measure on the ballot then we could be repealing or amending A-64 as early as 2014. We should take note that the noble error of liquor prohibition here was enacted similarly with the support of only 52% of Colorado's voters in 1914.

If our businesses have anything to fear from cannabis it's that their own discriminatory policies might send highly-qualified applicants to the competition. New and vibrant industries will spring up to replace the departing skeptics. A state law allowing possession won't allow truckers to ignore US Department of Transportation regulations any more than a state medical marijuana card. Employers will still hold the upper hand in virtually all relationships with Colorado employees—especially where private conduct is prohibited by workplace policy.

The last question that needs to be put to rest is marijuana's impact on Colorado children. Our hard-working District Attorneys prosecute literally thousands of Colorado adults for simple marijuana offenses every year. Yet, a very tiny number of cases are brought against adults who give cannabis to children or crash their cars while impaired. Why is this? Giving cannabis to kids is a felony with a special-offender enhancement guaranteeing a sentence of 5 years in the state prison. Is it possible that our law enforcers, in concentrating on enforcing a total ban on all adult cannabis use, aren't paying enough attention to the types of irresponsible behavior that actually matter to the public? If dozens of kids are getting kicked out of schools for pot, as we're so often told, where are the dozens of headlines in the papers about the dirtbags going to jail for giving the stuff to kids?

Supplementing our constitution with Amendment 64 accomplishes one major symbolic feat: It sends a timely message that responsible adult cannabis users don't need to be punished for anything by the State of Colorado because they aren't committing a crime. I hope over half of the voters of this great state believe with me that the notion of total cannabis prohibition is a failed experiment which has reached its expiration date right here this year. It's time to stop letting our cannabis policy be dictated to us by people who are afraid of it!