Our View: Vote 'no' on Amendment 64

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

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We long have held that a high threshold should be surpassed in order to amend the Colorado Constitution. Most ballot amendments in recent years haven’t come close to measuring up.

Such is the case with Amendment 64, which would allow for the possession, sale and taxing of marijuana in Colorado. While we can sympathize with some of the arguments proponents make, the state’s Constitution isn’t the place to address marijuana legalization, especially when such legalization will be in direct conflict with federal law. Residents should vote “no” on Amendment 64.

There are things to like in Amendment 64. Foremost, we appreciate the transparency. In the past, we have urged marijuana proponents to use the state’s laws to petition for legalization and allow the people to decide. Amendment 64 certainly does that. Also, we support decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The public would be better served if our law enforcement, our courts and our jails no longer pursued such cases.

But Amendment 64 goes far beyond decriminalization. It would require state legislators — by July 1, 2013 — to develop regulations governing the licensing and oversight of marijuana establishments including marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail stores that sell marijuana. It would require the state to enact legislation allowing for the growth, processing and sale of industrial hemp.

This is uncharted territory. In general, the state’s businesses are regulated by Colorado’s Revised Statutes, which can be amended as necessary by vote of the Colorado Legislature. Trying to license and regulate the sale of marijuana in the state’s Constitution, which can be amended only by public vote, is not only impractical, it’s silly.

As we already have noted, if this amendment is approved, it will be in violation of federal law. The state’s Constitution will do little to protect the feds from shutting down marijuana businesses and bringing federal charges against those involved in the manufacture and sale of marijuana.

Perhaps most offensive, Amendment 64 would require the Legislature to enact an excise tax on marijuana and dedicate the first $40 million raised annually to the construction of public schools. Such a move is nothing more than a foolish political stunt. Moreover, binding legislators’ hands with constitutionally dedicated taxes has proven to be a recipe for unfixable fiscal crises.

In 2006, a group calling itself Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation put Amendment 44 on the ballot. The amendment did not affect the Constitution. Rather, it would have revised state statutes to make possession of an ounce of marijuana legal. We editorialized against the amendment, and it was defeated statewide, 59 to 41 percent.

Undoubtedly, attitudes (including our own) have mellowed somewhat in the six years since. We have seen the increase of medical marijuana use, including the proliferation of dispensaries that sell the drug. Just last year, 59 percent of Steamboat Springs residents voted to keep medical marijuana businesses in operation. And there is little evidence that the rise of the medical marijuana industry in Routt County has had significant impacts, positive or negative, on the community.

We, as well as voters, might have looked favorably on Amendment 44 were it before us now. Using state statutes to decriminalize pot possession seems a reasonable step in the light of 2012.

But that’s not what’s on the ballot. We should not amend our state’s Constitution to permit the possession and sale of marijuana. Vote “no” on Amendment 64.

Comments

Fred Duckels 1 year, 9 months ago

If legalization comes about it may help Kiewitt sell their complex in order to meet our needs.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 9 months ago

Amendment 64 would have virtually no change. It would merely be a symbolic vote to end the drug war against marijuana.

The medical marijuana is a good enough method for growing and selling marijuana with the theoretical legal protection of the feds losing the interstate commerce or state's right case. Thus, the feds have left the Colorado MMJ dispensaries alone on the fear of setting legal precedents showing other states to have dispensaries that are known not to be violating federal law.

But amendment 64 would not be able to provide a framework that would have a chance at surviving federal court case and anyone trying to use amendment 64 to sell could easily be busted by the feds.

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

This is a juicy issue, harkening to our very foundation: Are we one big country, or a collection of 50 little ones? It's Federalism and States' Rights -- who the hell are they in Washington, to tell us how to run Colorado -- and I eagerly anticipate the test:

Vote "Yes" just to see what happens!!

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mark hartless 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with Rhys. I just wish the pot smokers would have the guts to get away from the "medicinal" BS and tell the truth... they like to smoke weed. Good for them! Now do something uncharacteristic and demand your liberty to do so WITHOUT a prescription.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. wrote a pretty interesting book on the subject of states' rights a couple years back titled "Nullification". I would recommend it because it lays down some principles we weem to have forgotten about the purpose of having 50 different states. In that book he states correctly that the marijuana issue has become one of the most succesfull examples of modern-day nullification.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 9 months ago

Mark, Nullification may be interesting, but the Supreme Court has accepted none of that.

What Supreme Court has ventured is that there are limits to what the feds can do based upon the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. Colorado MMJ by registering "patients" and monitoring dispensaries is unique among the states to be able to say that mmj can be grown and sold within the state without crossing state lines. That any mmj that crosses state lines is a violation of state lines which Colorado will cooperate with the feds to catch and prosecute.

That would seem to meet the standards set by Scalia and others when they held that a California personal grower busted by the feds could be part of the interstate drug trade.

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mark hartless 1 year, 9 months ago

But Scott, If a state simply ignores the supreme court and goes right on letting its citizens smoke weed, (or drive 80 mph, or check illegal aliens for doccumentation, or build Wal Marts in the "Wilderness", or whatever) then what is Antonin Scalia gonna do about it?

Seriously, READ THE BOOK.

I personally think Nullification is one of the only hopes we have, pollitically speaking, of getting out of the grips of an insane federal government. States need to begin ignoring some of the foolish stuff comming out of Washing DC, whether from the left, or from the right.

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

When I'm done ropin' dogies and the machine lets me go, I prefer fiction to politics, for my casual reading. I thus remain blissfully ignorant of the latest. That said...

There will be some very interesting court challenges coming out of this, should the Feds (gov't now) decide to pursue any differences in our laws, given passage of this Amendment -- as I related, there are some very serious Federalism concerns, the authors of the Amendment think they have the legal holes covered, just as they did with MMJ, the interstate aspect seems to be the Feds' major concern, and a lot of attorneys will make a lot of money in the debating of these matters.

Our own Kris Hammond is our Knight in Federal Court, having capably represented Don Nord and others in the past. Let's just hope the casino doesn't pass, so he's not distracted with all the rich gamblers and pimps, and the poor pot growers have to go elsewhere.

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