Chris Richardson: What we know is right
October 31, 2012
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.