Updated October 19, 2006 at 8:40 a.m.
We believe that America's 30-year war on drugs has been a costly and unproductive national failure. We believe there has to be a better way and that the progressive decriminalization of certain drugs may be a significant part of the solution.
That said, we cannot support Amendment 44, which would amned the C9olorado Revised Statutes to legalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults ages 21 or older. There simply is no justifiable reason for the law.
Proponents of Amendment 44 argue that it "strikes a balance between individual choice and public safety." They argue that marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol and that possession of a small amount of marijuana should be a matter of personal choice. They also argue that legalizing such possession would ease unnecessary strains on law enforcement and the courts system.
We agree that, in many ways, alcohol use has brought more harm to society than marijuana use. So, too, has tobacco.
But the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are legal is not a legitimate argument for legalizing marijuana. As the saying goes, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
There also are practical problems with Amendment 44. The amendment would make it legal to possess an ounce of marijuana, but it would still be illegal to buy and sell marijuana. It seems illogical to make legal something that first requires an illegal act.
We also don't believe that cases involving possession of small amounts of marijuana are clogging the court system. Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana already is a Class 2 petty offense in Colorado, punishable by a fine of up to $100. For comparison, here are some other Class 2 petty offenses: Theft by scalping a lift ticket, littering on public or private property and theft of transportation by taking the bus without paying the proper fare.
Finally, Amendment 44 would create conflicting state and federal laws. The case of Routt County's Don Nord, a medicinal marijuana user, is an example. Nord had a state permit to use marijuana medicinally, but that didn't prevent the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team - a federally funded law enforcement agency - from raiding his home and seizing his marijuana. As the Nord case showed, a state amendment can't keep officers from enforcing federal law.
We would welcome a debate on our national drug policies. We would welcome more money for prevention, education and treatment and less for enforcement. We would welcome reform, including appropriate decriminalization of certain drugs such as marijuana. But these are all issues best handled on the federal, not state, level.
Amendment 44 isn't needed and conflicts with federal law. Because possession of marijuana is largely decriminalized already, its greatest impact would be symbolic.
Vote "no" on Amendment 44.