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Amendment 64: Legalize marijuana?


In November, Colorado voters will be asked to decide whether the limited possession of marijuana should be legalized.  Amendment 64, if passed, will make Colorado the only state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use.   It will legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, and will allow people to grow up to six marijuana plants in their home. 

Arguments for passage of the amendment generally reflect the libertarian view that adults should not be prevented from doing anything that is not harmful to others.  It’s also argued that marijuana is not addictive and is less harmful than alcohol and, at any rate, the so-called War On Drugs has been a failure.  Why not legalize?

A contrary view is taken by some health care professionals, economists, and law enforcement professionals.  Among the latter is the Colorado Drug Investigators Association whose website, www.healthydrugfreecolorado.org, posts these “Top Ten Reasons NOT to Legalize Marijuana.”  The article is reproduced below with permission of that organization.

10.  IT WOULD STILL BE ILLEGAL.    In July 2011 the federal government reaffirmed marijuana as a Schedule I substance; i.e., no accepted medical use and high abuse potential.  Therefore, its possession and use remains a federal crime. Since federal law preempts state law, marijuana would still be illegal in Colorado.

9.  MARIJUANA POSSESSION/USE IS NOT IMPACTING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.    Proponents often make misleading statements about marijuana arrests and the jail population.  In Colorado, the use and possession of less than two ounces (120 – 168 cigarettes) is treated as a traffic violation with a fine and not jail time.

8.  WHY REPEAT AMSTERDAM’S MISTAKE?    The wrong type of people would be attracted to Colorado and for the wrong reasons.  We need tourists attracted by our pristine streams and beautiful mountains, not as the mecca for getting “stoned.”

7.  NEGATIVE IMAGE OF COLORADO.    If marijuana is legalized under Colorado law, our state would be considered the “pot capital” of the nation.  This notoriety would have a negative impact on attracting new businesses and families deterred by Colorado’s image and quality of life issues.  This could also impact decisions to send students to Colorado institutes of higher education.

6.  HARM TO EXISTING BUSINESSES AND THE ECONOMY.    Substance abuse studies have shown that businesses and employers will experience greater rates of absenteeism, industrial accidents and tardiness as well as less productivity with a potential work force regularly using marijuana.  This not only results in economic losses, but conflicts with the federal Drug Free Workplace requirements and companies losing federal contracts. Businesses would be less likely to stay or move into a state where drug use related risks are high.

5.  BLINDSIDE ECONOMICS.    At best, potential tax revenue generated by legalizing marijuana will cover only 15% of the collateral costs to our community such as increased drug treatment, emergency room visits, crime, traffic accidents and school drop-outs to name just a few of the costs related to marijuana use.

4.  MARIJUANA USE WOULD INCREASE.    Marijuana use and its negative health, behavioral and societal impacts will increase among both youth and adults.  The best estimates from experts project that the number of regular users would at least double and likely triple in the most vulnerable 12 – 25 age range.

3.  TREATMENT AND ADDICTION RATES WOULD RISE.    Regular marijuana use can be addictive and lead to deteriorating behavior, particularly in young people.  In 2009, 830,000 youth had marijuana addiction characteristics.  Sixty-eight percent of youth in drug treatment are there for marijuana use.

2.  ADVERSE EFFECT ON THE EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT.    As parents and citizens, we have a responsibility to prepare our youth for a healthy and successful future.  The basis for their future lies in providing them with a quality educational environment.  If marijuana is legalized, it is estimated that 20 – 30 percent of our school-aged children will become regular marijuana users.  That will negatively affect their attendance, concentration, memory, brain development and thus academic achievement and participation in a positive educational setting.

1.  DEATHS FROM IMPAIRED DRIVING WOULD INCREASE.    Marijuana use affects coordination, decision-making and perception which directly result in impaired driving.  Annually, approximately 50 people are killed in Colorado traffic accidents due to people driving under the influence of marijuana.  With the increased use of marijuana, we can project that figure will at least double.

A final note about marijuana potency…    Today’s marijuana potency is five times higher than that of the 1970s.  During the ‘70s when marijuana use was at an all-time high, the THC potency was between 1.5 % and 3 %.   During that same time users would speak about being “stoned,” “wasted,” “out of it,” or “spaced out,” clearly indicating that even 3 % potency causes intoxication.

In 2009, the average THC level was 10 % which is well over a 300% increase from the 1970s.  Some marijuana has tested at 30 % potency.  At a similar rate for increased potency, there has been a corresponding increase in emergency room visits for marijuana use.