Our View: Pot question is right step | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: Pot question is right step

A campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado appears headed to the November ballot, representing the logical next step in getting clarity on what state residents truly want when it comes to the availability and enforcement of the popular recreational drug, as opposed to the medical use allowed under current law. This clarity has been missing up to this point.

For many marijuana advocates, legalization is the ultimate goal, and they say the passage of Amendment 20 in 2000 was the first major stepping stone for achieving that goal. But the medical marijuana industry that was borne out of Amendment 20 has been extremely controversial, particularly in the past few years, when dispensaries began cropping up in communities across the state, including Steamboat Springs.

This past fall, voters in Routt County, Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek voted against banning medical marijuana businesses in their communities. Many other Colorado municipalities have gone the opposite direction, with their residents approving bans on dispensaries.

Now, an advocacy group in Colorado has turned in a ballot petition with about 160,000 signatures. If 86,000 of those signatures are from valid state voters, the legalization initiative will make the November ballot. The measure would make possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Residents could grow as many as six marijuana plants in their homes, and marijuana retail stores would be permitted, though communities could choose to ban such stores.

A similar statewide measure badly failed in 2006, but it remains to be seen how Coloradans' attitudes toward pot have changed in the six years since, particularly with the explosion of the medical marijuana industry.

We're not prepared to endorse or oppose the legalization of marijuana in Colorado — the consequences of legalization are far-reaching and will be debated and discussed in the months to come — but we do think the ballot initiative is the proper path to take. This fall, when the Steamboat Pilot & Today editorial board supported the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Steamboat Springs and Routt County, it said that if marijuana advocates want to see marijuana OK'd for recreational use by residents, then they ought to bring it to the voters. Now that they appear poised to do exactly that, we find ourselves in complete support of bringing the question to the ballot.