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October 25, 2012
A population of giggling munchers has been with us for a long time, but now, nearly 40 years after John Denver serenaded sweetly about the wacky weed, Coloradans are on the verge of making the smoking of pot a protected human right.
Rocky Mountain High, the folksie John Denver tune that lauded the lofty altitudes of the Continental Divide, ruined the fine state it was supposed to celebrate. Everybody knew that John (real name Deutschendorf) Denver was not singing about a natural granola smell the daisies and run through the meadows kind of high. He was crooning about cannabis. As a result of his stupid song, every hippie draft-dodging drop-out dopehead from Boston to Escondido migrated to the cozy mountain towns of Colorado. When pot practitioners flooded towns like Nederland, Telluride, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, et al., marijuana became commensurate with the Centennial State. A population of giggling munchers has been with us for a long time, but now, nearly 40 years after John Denver serenaded sweetly about the wacky weed, Coloradans are on the verge of making the smoking of pot a protected human right.
Amendment 64, the “Legalize Pot Like Alcohol” initiative is on the Colorado ballot, and a majority vote would place it into the Colorado Constitution, enshrining forever the Rocky Mountain High into law. The ballot language reads like this:
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?
In short, this Amendment would regard marijuana as a legal, adult product that would be regulated and taxed as such. The problem is that alcohol and pot are not the same. Not even close. According to VoteNoOn64.com legalizing pot would result in the following:
- Harms our children. Marijuana is an addictive drug. For children and young adults, smoking marijuana permanently affects brain development, impairs learning ability and contributes to depression. Adolescents are more likely than adults to develop problems with marijuana abuse and addiction. Marijuana abuse accounts for 67 percent of the adolescents in substance-abuse treatment programs in the United States.
- Conflicts with federal law. Federal law will continue to ban the production, manufacture, transportation and distribution of marijuana in Colorado regardless of the voters’ decision on Amendment 64. The U.S. Supreme Court has already made it clear that federal law supersedes state law in this area. If Amendment 64 passes, Colorado’s recreational marijuana users will believe they are operating under the protection of Colorado law while, in reality, they would be subject to federal criminal prosecution.
- Promotes increased use. The more available a drug is, the more likely young people are to use the drug. Marijuana use among students already is on the rise. Suspensions for drug violations at Colorado’s public schools increased 45 percent over the past four years, expulsions for drug violations increased 35 percent, and referrals to police increased 17 percent. Among the most vulnerable group, ages 12 to 25, it is projected that the number of regular marijuana users will double.
- Increases impaired driving. According to recent statistics, between 2006 and 2010, more than 400 people were killed in Colorado from car crashes involving a driver who was on drugs. Smoking pot reduces coordination and impairs decision making which will lead to a significant increase in the number of crashes and deaths due to people who are driving under the influence of marijuana.
The above fact sheet courtesy of VoteNoOn64
Many of my Libertarian friends and limited-government Conservative associates, including former Congressman and Presidential Candidate, Tom Tancredo, are supporting Amendment 64 under the assumption that any government interference in the “private behavior of responsible adults” equates to big-government nanny-statism. Their intentions are good but their instincts are very bad. By supporting the legalization and regulation of marijuana like alcohol, they are knee jerking themselves into a much greater conflict between government and individual rights that they can imagine. Amendment 64 gives birth to a new right; the right to possess and use pot. Who’da thunk that smoking pot would be equivalent to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Consider this likely scenario should Amendment 64 pass: An employer who has complicated equipment and rigorous safety protocols concludes that he needs to do drug testing on his employees to ensure they’re clean and sober. Mistakes cost him money and he bears the liability for his business. One of his employees has safety issues and tests positive for THC in his system, then admits that he smokes pot before he comes to work. The pot creates an obvious impairment and the potential that this employee will have an accident increases greatly. The employer fires the worker. Amendment 64, however, protects the man’s use of pot since he’s of age and he uses its within its legal constraints. Because the employer fired him for using a substance which he had a right to use and which was used legally, the worker could sue the employer for violating his human rights. Or worse, the employer could be forced to retain the employee who is clearly unfit and poses a liability to himself and others in the workplace. Are the rights of the employer and the clean and sober employees working for him being protected if Amendment 64 becomes law?
If you think it’s the default response of one who values personal liberty to support Amendment 64 based on the “limited government” premise then you must ask yourself what will happen to the individual liberty of the employer when he cannot fire a clearly unfit worker? What happens when the right of business owners to have a safe and sober workforce clashes with the constitutional rights of employees to smoke pot within legally regulated parameters? Where do the rights of the individuals in the larger community come into conflict with the proliferation of marijuana into workplaces, public spaces, parks, arenas, concert venues, and neighborhood sidewalks?
If Amendment 64 passes and the right to possess and smoke pot becomes legal in Colorado, school teachers, nurses, accountants, and everyone you count on to be responsible, honest, and precise, will have the right to come to work stoned.
To all you social Libertarians and small-government Conservatives; what happens when drug-related crime and traffic violations increase with the proliferation of marijuana? Government law enforcement will naturally have to grow to properly address these problems. What happens when employers become tied up in litigation with discharged employees who contend they have a right to smoke pot? The judicial branch of government will have to expand to process the criminal and civil cases that will occur as a result of legalized pot. How can you regulate pot like alcohol without creating an entirely new agency to deal with the many and complex layers of oversight necessary for the production and sale of retail marijuana? Government regulatory bureaucracies designed to manage this new industry will crop up in every town and county across the state.
If you are intimately acquainted with the public education system, as I am, you understand that American culture has no proper construct through which parents and other adults in positions of trust can model the responsible use of marijuana. Alcohol has been with humankind since fruit could ferment in the summer sun. Pot is a relatively new phenomenon in Western cultures that has proved time and time again to be unmanageable and destructive to families and the civil society. The education sector of government will have to grow as a result of the increased demand for counseling and Special Education services to meet the needs of students who are impacted by the drug culture in their homes, or by their own ingestion of marijuana. (Don’t forget that if it’s in the house–cigarettes, alcohol, Little Debbie Cakes–even with the parental directive not to partake, kids will be tempted to try it, and they will usually succeed.)
If you truly believe in limited government, Amendment 64 is anathema. Regulating marijuana like alcohol is a certain path to bigger government in Colorado. If you’re a parent concerned about the quality of schools and the safety of neighborhoods, Amendment 64 is a sure path to increased criminality, addiction, and educational problems. If you’re a Conservative who believes that in order for a people to be truly self-governing, prosperous, and happy they must be a moral people, Amendment 64 is a cultural nightmare waiting to happen.
By Marjorie Haun 10/25/12