Pubdate: Fri, 21 Sep 2012
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Aspen Times


Amendment 64, the Nov. 6 referendum facing Colorado voters that would 
essentially legalize marijuana on a statewide level, makes perfect sense to us.

States should have the right to decide this issue. Seventeen states, 
including Colorado, already allow marijuana cultivation and use for 
medical purposes despite federal law, which still makes marijuana as 
an illegal substance and a primary but inconsistent target of its 
failed war on drugs.

Passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, as well as similar ballot items 
in Oregon and Washington, would put further pressure on the U.S. 
government to rethink its antiquated prohibition policy on cannabis. 
Somewhat surprisingly, even Arkansas voters will weigh in this 
November on the medical marijuana issue. How the voters will react on 
Election Day in the four states is anyone's guess, but it appears the 
tide is turning on the issue - even in the Bible Belt.

Marijuana, in smoked or edible form, has proven to be a safe remedy 
for a variety of medical ailments, not to mention a harmless 
pleasure-seeking activity. Outlawing it makes about as much sense as 
the government's prohibition of alcohol from 1919 to 1933, which is 
to say, none at all.

People can act a little goofy from the effects of pot, but they 
mostly behave peacefully. Alcohol is legal for those 21 or older, but 
it can lead to all kinds of tragic behavior, from crashing motor 
vehicles (and killing or injuring innocent people) to spousal abuse 
(and killing or injuring innocent people) to throwing up at a 
workplace meeting after a night of heavy drinking (and embarrassing 
yourself and your peers). The disease of alcoholism and its harmful 
health effects are just as serious.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 
nationwide, 37,000 deaths per year can be attributed to the health 
affects of alcohol. The number of deaths related to marijuana use? 
None. Alcohol use is linked to about 5 million violent crimes in the 
U.S. each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Studies 
find no link between marijuana use and violent behavior.

A Denver Post poll conducted earlier this month shows that 51 percent 
of voters support the ballot item, while 40 percent oppose it. Crazy 
things tend to happen on Election Day, and the vote could wind up 
being closer than the polls suggest, which is one reason we hope our 
readers turn out to vote and are mindful of the measure.

On Thursday, former law enforcement officials joined forces with 
other supporters, including the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like 
Alcohol, for a news conference to endorse Amendment 64. They outlined 
the following reasons for their support:

With marijuana legal and regulated, law enforcement agencies can 
redirect their limited resources toward violent-crime prevention.

Legalization cuts off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, 
which generate a large portion of their revenue from black-market pot sales.

Legalization protects the lives of police officers who must enforce 
ineffective prohibition laws.

It reduces teenagers' access to marijuana by taking marijuana off the 
underground market, putting it behind the counter and enforcing 
strict age limits.

An economic analysis of Amendment 64 conducted by the Colorado Center 
on Law and Policy states that passage of the initiative would 
initially result in $60 million annually in combined revenue and 
savings for state and local governments in Colorado, which could 
increase to more than $100 million after a few years of 
implementation. It also could create more than 350 new jobs and 
provide a new (albeit small) revenue source for cash-strapped 
government programs, such as those in education.

Maybe in our endorsement of Amendment 64, we're preaching to the 
choir here, given that pot-friendly Pitkin County is likely to give 
overwhelming support for the ballot measure. Frankly, we'd be 
surprised if more than 25 percent of the county's voters opposed it.

But since the issue hasn't gotten a lot of attention in places such 
as Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, it behooves us to remind 
everybody that it's on the Nov. 6 ballot, and it deserves your 
support. For more information on the issue, visit the website
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom