Election Guide 2012: Colorado voters to decide on marijuana legalization | SteamboatToday.com

Election Guide 2012: Colorado voters to decide on marijuana legalization

Twelve years ago, Colorado voters passed Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana. It took almost a decade before the medical marijuana industry took off across the state, but it hasn't stemmed interest in outright legalization of the drug.

Colorado voters soon will decide the latest attempt at marijuana legalization, this one in the form of Amendment 64, which proposes amending the state constitution to allow adults 21 and older to possess and use small amounts of marijuana. The amendment also would establish the framework for retail trade of marijuana through licensed shops. An excise tax on marijuana purchases would put money in state coffers, with the first $40 million each year going to a public school capital construction assistance fund. The tax would first have to be approved by statewide voters, per TABOR regulations.

Amendment 64, petitioned onto the ballot by a group called The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is the first attempt to legalize marijuana in Colorado since a similar measure was defeated by 59 percent of voters in 2006.

Key points from Amendment 64:

■ Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal.

■ Only people 21 and older could purchase or possess marijuana.

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■ People would be allowed to possess as much as 1 ounce of marijuana.

■ Marijuana would be labeled and subject to additional regulations from the state to ensure that consumers are "informed and protected."

■ Consumption of marijuana in public would not be allowed.

■ People would be allowed to grow as many as six plants, three of which could be mature plants. However, only those with retail licenses would be permitted to sell marijuana.

■ People 21 and older would not be allowed help people younger than 21 get marijuana.

■ The state would regulate, among other things, security at marijuana retail shops and marijuana labeling. The state also could impose restrictions on marijuana advertising.

■ Marijuana sales could be taxed by as much as 15 percent by the state. The first $40 million raised annually would go toward building schools. Marijuana sales also would be subject to state and local sales taxes.

■ Local governments could ban marijuana retail stores within their jurisdictions or limit the number of marijuana retail stores within their jurisdictions.

■ Employers still would be able to enforce policies restricting the use of marijuana by their employees.

Supporters of the amendment say existing laws that criminalize marijuana have failed to prevent its use or availability and have contributed to an underground market. They say a state-regulated marijuana industry would be safer for consumers and will provide sales tax revenues as well as job opportunities. Supporters also argue that passage of Amendment 64 would send a message to the federal government as well as other states that marijuana reform is needed.

Opponents argue that even if Amendment 64 were approved, marijuana possession, manufacturing and sales would remain illegal under federal law, making the state vulnerable to criminal charges and other risks. They also say legalizing marijuana would send the wrong message about the health risks and other negative consequences of marijuana use; would increase the number of people driving while under the influence of drugs; and could increase the number of children and young adults who use marijuana.

Some Routt County medical marijuana dispensary owners have come out in opposition of the amendment, contending that it could jeopardize their ability to provide marijuana to their patients. They also are concerned that passage of Amendment 64 would invite federal intervention, potentially putting at risk all licensed marijuana businesses, including dispensaries.

Some information in this article was provided by the 2012 State Ballot Information Booklet.

Amendment 64

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly

to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first

$40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?

Yes or No

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