Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Rocky Mountain High

The voters in Colorado approved a constitutional measure called Colorado Amendment 64 in November 2012 to approve recreational use of marijuana. Colorado had previously approved medical marijuana use in the State. The Governor of Colorado signed it into the state constitution in December 2012 and the first stores opened this month. Governor Hickenlooper stated at the time, "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."

The problem with the legalization of marijuana is the legalization is not a coordinated effort between the Feds and the States.  Marijuana use, possession and sale remain illegal under federal law. No matter how many states pass medical and recreational use of marijuana laws, it remains an unresolved conflict with federal law and yet the Justice Department remains silent on the issue.

Passing recreational marijuana laws seems to be the next step after jumping into the passing of medical marijuana use statewide. Passing recreational marijuana laws to stave off budget deficits or shortfalls in sales tax hardly seems the right way to create sources of revenue but that seems to be the motivation of state lawmakers. Kind of like the video lottery and legalization of gambling in States.  Alcohol, gambling, drugs...potentially addicting behaviors being used to fund government coffers.

Pot makes you dumb in a different way than alcohol. Alcohol makes you dumb too but for a day or two at most unless you become addictive to alcohol which is a whole other problem. Pot makes you dumb for weeks and if you are a long time, consistent toker, you become dumb and dumber. The lingering effect and under the influence of marijuana is troublesome especially for police and employers. What is an acceptable level of "under the influence" for employers with Drug and Alcohol Policies and for Police who administer driving laws?

I am of the opinion that marijuana use for medical purposes may indeed have merit. But legalization for recreational use is a bit of a conundrum to me. Both seem to be the wave of the future. Decriminalization, making possession of a small amount for personal recreational use, is what is driving this major social change in State Legislatures across the country.  I think we are in for court battles and challenges for years to come as we navigate this minefield of change to what is considered as part of the war on drugs at the federal level.

I know one thing for certain.  The candidacy of Emmett Reistroffer for an at-large seat on the City Council will be interesting to watch over the next couple of months. I do not support changing city policy on this issue before state legislators weigh in on the issue. Based on the politics of this state, that will probably happen when hell freezes over.

Look at those lines of people outside the dispensaries in Colorado. Times are changing and I'm feeling old and slightly out of touch but I am willing to consider new ideas if we can put the horse before the cart or the toke before the flame hits it.

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