Our View: Vote ‘no’ on Amendment 64 | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: Vote ‘no’ on Amendment 64

We long have held that a high threshold should be surpassed in order to amend the Colorado Constitution. Most ballot amendments in recent years haven't come close to measuring up.

Such is the case with Amendment 64, which would allow for the possession, sale and taxing of marijuana in Colorado. While we can sympathize with some of the arguments proponents make, the state's Constitution isn't the place to address marijuana legalization, especially when such legalization will be in direct conflict with federal law. Residents should vote "no" on Amendment 64.

There are things to like in Amendment 64. Foremost, we appreciate the transparency. In the past, we have urged marijuana proponents to use the state's laws to petition for legalization and allow the people to decide. Amendment 64 certainly does that. Also, we support decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The public would be better served if our law enforcement, our courts and our jails no longer pursued such cases.

But Amendment 64 goes far beyond decriminalization. It would require state legislators — by July 1, 2013 — to develop regulations governing the licensing and oversight of marijuana establishments including marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail stores that sell marijuana. It would require the state to enact legislation allowing for the growth, processing and sale of industrial hemp.

This is uncharted territory. In general, the state's businesses are regulated by Colorado's Revised Statutes, which can be amended as necessary by vote of the Colorado Legislature. Trying to license and regulate the sale of marijuana in the state's Constitution, which can be amended only by public vote, is not only impractical, it's silly.

As we already have noted, if this amendment is approved, it will be in violation of federal law. The state's Constitution will do little to protect the feds from shutting down marijuana businesses and bringing federal charges against those involved in the manufacture and sale of marijuana.

Perhaps most offensive, Amendment 64 would require the Legislature to enact an excise tax on marijuana and dedicate the first $40 million raised annually to the construction of public schools. Such a move is nothing more than a foolish political stunt. Moreover, binding legislators' hands with constitutionally dedicated taxes has proven to be a recipe for unfixable fiscal crises.

In 2006, a group calling itself Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation put Amendment 44 on the ballot. The amendment did not affect the Constitution. Rather, it would have revised state statutes to make possession of an ounce of marijuana legal. We editorialized against the amendment, and it was defeated statewide, 59 to 41 percent.

Undoubtedly, attitudes (including our own) have mellowed somewhat in the six years since. We have seen the increase of medical marijuana use, including the proliferation of dispensaries that sell the drug. Just last year, 59 percent of Steamboat Springs residents voted to keep medical marijuana businesses in operation. And there is little evidence that the rise of the medical marijuana industry in Routt County has had significant impacts, positive or negative, on the community.

We, as well as voters, might have looked favorably on Amendment 44 were it before us now. Using state statutes to decriminalize pot possession seems a reasonable step in the light of 2012.

But that's not what's on the ballot. We should not amend our state's Constitution to permit the possession and sale of marijuana. Vote "no" on Amendment 64.