Chris Richardson: What we know is right


In response to the Steamboat Today’s editorial (“Vote no on Amendment 64,” Oct. 9 Steamboat Today) and Roger Sherman’s letter to the editor (“Legalization not simple,” Oct. 25 Steamboat Today) regarding Amendment 64, I would like to contest that it is, in fact, a simple civil rights issue of whether Coloradans feel they have a right to possess and consume cannabis.

The admittedly failed federal War on Drugs is more than 40 years old and has run up a trillion-dollar tab that we are all paying for, as will generations after us. In this same 40-year period we have been deprived of the diverse capabilities of industrial hemp for no reason other than private vested interests.

Reversing the stigmas and stereotypes that every president since Nixon has reinforced is no easy task regardless of how baseless they may be. The cannabis community has endlessly fought for reform as democratically as possible. Numerous times legalization was properly voted the No. 1 topic for President Barack Obama’s town halls, but no discussion was had. Despite U.S. Patent No. 6630507 stating medical benefits of cannabis, and even a federal program called Compassionate IND that distributes free medical marijuana to select individuals, it remains a Schedule 1 narcotic, meaning no officially recognized medical value and the harshest of penalties for those who violate the laws against it.

Numerous petitions for rescheduling marijuana have been organized during the past 30 years with virtually no response from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Even more puzzling is the legality of synthetic pharmaceutically-owned and manufactured THC. Legalization attempts have been made in the past, but the Goliath guns of corporate interest can be overwhelming when compared to David’s slingshot. Just like Amendment 44 before it, after fighting tirelessly for 40 years, this year’s Amendment 64 is a sight for sore eyes

Amendment 64 isn’t perfect — very few pieces of legislation are. It forces action on issues that have remained stagnant for far too long. It requires prompt response and clarification from otherwise inactive government. It is no more a violation of federal law than Amendment 20 because of the Schedule 1 status. Yes, the litigation to sort out the issues and constitutionality of the federal law will be difficult and expensive, but so is running 200,000 people through the legal, and sometimes detention, systems every year for victimless crimes. The fear of potential consequences has dictated the destructive policies of the past four decades, and that must stop. My father once told me, “Doing what’s right is never easy,” and I can’t help but to think that when trying to govern morality, it is not a matter of what seems best, but what we know is right.

Chris Richardson

Steamboat Springs


Brian Kotowski 4 years, 5 months ago

Ending the mj prohibition is a good idea, but until the feds agree it amounts to spitting into the wind. As HuffPo noted earlier this year:

"... [since 2010] the administration has unleashed an interagency cannabis crackdown that goes beyond anything seen under the Bush administration, with more than 100 raids, primarily on California pot dispensaries, many of them operating in full compliance with state laws. Since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 aggressive SWAT-style raids in 9 medical marijuana states, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, according to data compiled by Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group."

If/when the raids descend on CO, one shouldn't whine - we all know the score. I'm voting against 64, primarily for logistical reasons. The regulatory burden & accompanying bureaucracy it will impose makes my teeth hurt. The state constitution isn't the way to go. The Colorado Revised Statutes are the low hanging fruit; start with decriminalizing small amounts for personal use and go from there.


rhys jones 4 years, 5 months ago

It's more than ironic that the Feds have been ignoring all scientific evidence staring them in the face for over 40 years -- starting with Nixon's own commission, which recommended full decriminalization in the early '70s, citing, among other things, an IMPROVED ability to drive effectively (better motor response and reaction times than even the straight control group) not to mention the ever-increasing list of medical benefits -- it's downright suspicious.

What immediately occurs to me are the big-money interests who might feel threatened by legal mj, big pharmaceuticals (remember our local crusaders?) and Jack Daniels toward the top of this list. I wonder how much money has been spent in payoffs to keep it illegal; everybody in Washington is in somebody's pocket.


mark hartless 4 years, 5 months ago

Sad but true, Rhys. Every interest fights for what benefits them, even if it costs the rest of us.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Though, Colorado is notable for not having federal raids. Best guess is because Colorado is the only state that tracks MMJ from seed to customer. That means Colorado can defend itself from federal action by saying none of it's MJ is entering the interstate drug trade without also violating state law.

It would be a credible federal case. The current federal law is set by Raich v Gonzales where the Supreme Court, in a split decision, ruled for the feds saying there is no way to tell if the mj from a personal mmj grower became part of the interstate drug trade. The dissent was more of a common sense argument that a personal grower was not part of the interstate drug trade.

But Colorado dispensary regulations allow the state police to cooperate with the feds on any interstate drug trade and such trade would also violate state laws. But the state can also argue that the dispensaries that follow the law can be shown to not be part of the interstate drug trade.

Thus, feds are ignoring Colorado for a reason.

The reason other states have not followed Colorado law is because there are costs with implementing a new law and no one knows yet if it will make a difference. Thus, the path to ending the federal drug war includes provoking the feds to find out if Colorado law is legally recognized that Colorado regulated mj is not part of the interstate drug trade.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.