‘No’ on Amendment 64
The idea of legalizing marijuana holds substantial appeal to many people, both young and old, who see pot as a mostly benign substance, the use of which should not be criminal.
However, Amendment 64 on this year’s Colorado election ballot is not the right way to go about achieving that goal. For one thing, if it passes, it would make this state an oasis of pot legality in a nation of marijuana prohibition.
As Gov. John Hickenlooper said in announcing his opposition to the measure, “Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them.”
The Amendment would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation, Hickenlooper added, and would send the wrong message that using drugs is just fine.
Even more disturbing is the fact that Amendment 64 would enshrine a right to possess marijuana in the state Constitution. That’s a stronger protection than is given to alcohol.
And, while backers of Amendment 64 maintain that won’t mean marijuana users will be treated any differently than those who use alcohol, others aren’t so sure. Opponents of the ballot measure and the Legislative Council’s Blue Book analysis of the measure say the constitutional right raises a variety of legal questions about such things as how employers and landlords may deal with known pot users.
Then there is the fact that, even if Colorado voters approve Amendment 64, marijuana will continue to be illegal under federal law.
Supporters of the measure say that shouldn’t be a problem — just look at how medical marijuana has been largely ignored by federal authorities recently.
But there’s no guarantee that will continue. This administration or a future one could decide to crack down hard on marijuana users in this state. The Obama administration threatened to do just that in California when that state was considering a similar measure a few years ago.
There is a rational argument to be made for legalizing marijuana nationwide. After all, existing laws have failed to prevent the possession, sale and use of pot among adults and teenagers in virtually every community in this country.
And, while our prisons aren’t packed with people convicted of simple marijuana possession, there is a community cost to arresting and prosecuting those caught with marijuana — a cost that could be saved if possession of marijuana were legal.
There are also solid reasons to question national legalization: It might make pot more available to youngsters, and it could increase the number of people driving under the influence of marijuana.
Additionally, the number of people who use pot will undoubtedly rise. And, as Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey noted, most will use it responsibly. But a portion of them won’t and, just like alcohol abusers, they will add to the crimes and social problems communities must handle.
That debate should continue nationally. In the meantime, we urge Colorado voters to reject Amendment 64.