Betty Aldworth: Colorado can lead on sensible marijuana regulation
October 27, 2012
In 1932, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment to overturn the failed experiment of alcohol prohibition. This fall, Colorado voters will vote on a similar amendment which will end the similarly irrational policy of adult marijuana prohibition.
The similarities between alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition are striking: Both policies were devised to control the behavior of adults, but neither reduced consumption of marijuana nor alcohol. In both cases, prohibition has enriched cartels, empowered gangs and made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding adults.
There is no arguing whether limited law enforcement resources would be better spent combatting violence and other crimes that actually cause harm to others, but instead 10,000 Coloradans are arrested, prosecuted and burdened with criminal records each year.
In addition to wasted law enforcement resources, our state is quite literally throwing away tens of millions of dollars each year that could be collected in tax revenue. The Colorado Center on Law & Policy estimates that Amendment 64 could result in more than $100 million in tax revenue annually, with the first $40 million going to rebuild Colorado's crumbling schools and build new schools.
Amendment 64 makes the private use and possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older; establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allows for the cultivation, processing and distribution of industrial hemp. Localities will have the right to ban adult marijuana establishments or limit the number, and public marijuana use will remain illegal.
Moving the market for marijuana off the streets and behind the counter will allow adults to purchase this product in a strictly controlled fashion. Moreover, there now is evidence that regulating marijuana might help decrease teen usage in Colorado. Since our state established a tightly regulated legal medical marijuana market in 2009, marijuana use among high school students has dropped 11 percent in the state, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, where marijuana is entirely unregulated, it increased 11 percent.
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Colorado citizens recognize that marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, has failed, and that it is our duty as a state to establish a more rational and cost-effective policy. We are tired of Congress dictating how Colorado uses its scarce law enforcement resources. We are tired of Congress criminalizing adults for what they choose to do in the privacy of their homes. And we are tired of the federal government handing the exclusive market for marijuana sales to murderous cartels.
It is time for Colorado to lead. Let's replace the ineffective and wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible approach.
Please join me in voting "yes" on Amendment 64 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Aldworth is the advocacy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.