Pubdate: Wed, 08 Nov 2006
Source: Daily Sentinel, The (Grand Junction, CO)
Copyright: 2006 Cox Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Le Roy Standish, The Daily Sentinel
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Colorado voters have pitched Amendment 44 aside like an assortment of
stems and seeds found at the bottom of an empty bag of weed.

Tuesday's election results showed that the amendment failed by a wide
margin statewide. Across Colorado 688,987 or 60.7 percent voted
against the amendment, compared to 445,280 votes or 39.3 percent, in

In Mesa County, voters turned the amendment down by an even greater
margin. Results were 31,637 votes or 68.2 percent against Amendment 44
and 14,240 or 30.7 percent in favor.

The amendment would have decriminalized possession of less than one
ounce of marijuana by adults over the age of 21. Currently state law
makes possession of an ounce or less of pot a class 2 petty offense
punishable by a fine of up to $100.

Though David Cox of Palisade and Rex Newkirk of Grand Junction are
among the minority of voters in this year's election, they say they
will continue breaking the law partaking of the green herb where and
when they choose.

For them the amendment was never about personal use, it was about
reforming a system.

"The idea of this wasn't to change our personal lives, but to
dismantle a criminal infrastructure by moving toward regulation," said
Cox, a member of SAFER Colorado, the organization that got Amendment
44 onto this year's ballot.

"I never expected it to pass the first time," he said. "Everyone who
was working on this was hoping it would pass, but anyone who is
realistic knew it wouldn't."

Cox, 25, says he has been smoking pot for the last seven years. But it
wasn't always that way.

"My mom caught me trying to smoke marijuana when I was 12," said Cox,
who works on his father's peach farm in Palisade. "And she put a stop
to it."

It wasn't until six years later that he got high.

"It was the most terrifying experience I ever had," Cox said. "I could
tell that this substance was a strong step away from reality."

Then, sometime before graduating from the University of Colorado at
Boulder with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, he got
stoned again.

"We had a fantastic time, a phenomenal time," he said.

Now Cox, will smoke up to four times in a week, but never to excess,
he said.

"I got too many dreams. I got too many other things to do with my life
then get high all day," Cox said.

Newkirk, 51, is the owner of a tower painting company, ABC Tower
Services, said he has been smoking since the eighth grade. "Marijuana
is not a drug; it's an herb, a plant," Newkirk said shortly before
torching a bowl of weed at Lincoln Park.

He got his start smoking marijuana when he and a friend scored some
bud and smoked it off the top of an empty can of chewing tobacco, he
said. Newkirk says these days an ounce of weed, which costs him $25,
will last a week or two. Nearly everyone he knows smokes marijuana.

"At least 85 percent of them smoke marijuana," Newkirk said. "I meet
very few people who don't smoke marijuana."

But there are people who begin smoking and find the smoke too thick to
handle. Those are the people Carol Mulligan, co-owner of Inner Journey
Counseling in Grand Junction, sees daily. She said the use of
marijuana pulls people into social circles they might not otherwise be
involved with, because in order to buy marijuana, you have to visit a

"It could be putting you into that lifestyle," she said. "It could be
the start of experimenting with other drugs and into another lifestyle."

But that is why people like Cox and Newkirk say it is time to legalize

Decriminalizing marijuana and making it available to purchase legally
could break up existing social circles. It could eliminate the "us vs.
them" feeling experienced by those who regularly break the law to buy
and smoke marijuana, Cox and Newkirk said.

"I like policemen; I fear bad laws," Newkirk said. "This is all about
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