Amendment 64 sounds good to us | AspenTimes.com

Amendment 64 sounds good to us

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

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.

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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 http://www.regulatemarijuana.com.