Roger Sherman: Legalization not simple
October 25, 2012
Legalizing the sale, possession and use of marijuana in Colorado by passing Amendment 64 is not simply a question of whether we think it's appropriate for Coloradans to smoke pot. Amendment 64 raises serious questions about the proper role of our state constitution, the effect liberalizing our marijuana law will have beyond our state borders and whether we want to defy existing federal law.
The U.S. Constitution, which many people consider the finest, most succinct legal document ever written, is distinguished by the limited number of issues that its 27 amendments address. They almost all deal with extremely important — foundational — issues. Colorado's constitution, by contrast, has been amended more than 150 times for issues great and small.
Colorado voters already approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal uses. Its provisions conflict with some of the provisions in Amendment 64. Bringing them into sync will require expensive litigation that a cash-strapped state cannot afford — or, even worse, another constitutional amendment.
There's not enough space or time here to enumerate all of Amendment 64's potential unintended consequences. A few include: the damage to our image as we become the marijuana capital of the country; the likelihood that Colorado will be a magnet for out-of-staters coming in to purchase and transport pot to other places where it is illegal; and the likelihood that in impaired driving traffic fatalities will increase.
Lastly, even with Amendment 64, use, possession and sale of marijuana still will be illegal under federal law. That's confusing to our citizens, and it sets our state up for expensive federal lawsuits.
It's important that Coloradans are talking about whether legalizing marijuana is a good idea, but it is a dialogue and decision that properly should be taking place on a national level.
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Campaign director for Smart Colorado, an issue committee opposed to Amendment 64