Though Proposition 19 failed to pass on the California state ballot in 2010, it had succeeded in pushing the issue of marijuana onto a mainstream stage for others to follow. Election Day is approaching fast, and so is the verdict for marijuana on a couple of state ballots. Within the past year, initiatives surrounding marijuana legalization and possession have been the talk of three different states: Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.
Back in 2000, Colorado voters had previously changed marijuana laws by passing a medical marijuana initiative. Now in 2012, Colorado’s newest initiative, Amendment 64, involves putting marijuana on the map for regulation like alcohol, and both Washington and Oregon have followed a similar path. From afar, all three initiatives call for regulation and taxation of the drug, but a closer look shows that each varies in degree and support.
We’ve broken down each initiative by highlighting its goals, as well as some viewpoints from opposing parties. Before casting an important vote, it’s always best to be well informed. Even for voters out of these states, these initiatives can be models for future marijuana awareness and progress.
Colorado Legislation – Amendment 64
- Makes the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older;
- Establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol;
- And allows for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.
- Harms our children. Marijuana abuse accounts for 67 percent of the adolescents in substance-abuse treatment programs in the United States.
- Conflicts with Federal law. 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.
- Increases impaired driving.
Washington Legislation – Initiative 502
- Legalizes possession of marijuana for adults ages 21+.
- Patients will finally receive protection from arrest because possession will no longer be a crime for anyone 21 or older. Patients will finally receive access to safe, secure, reliable, and quality-controlled marijuana that has been grown locally.
- Selling marijuana to minors will remain a felony.
- Tightly restricts advertising and bans advertising in places frequented by youth.
- Marijuana will only be available in stores that sell no other products, are located at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, and parks, and do not display marijuana in a way that is visible to the public.
- Prohibits public use and display of marijuana.
- Washington farmers and businesses will be allowed to apply for special licenses to grow and sell marijuana.
- State employees will not be involved in growing, distributing, or selling marijuana.
- State agencies will regulate numbers of stores per county, operating hours, security, quality control, labeling, and other health and safety issues.
- According to the state Office of Financial Management, a new 25% marijuana excise tax, combined with retail sales and B&O tax, will generate more than half a billion dollars in new revenue each year dedicated to improve community and school-based prevention programs.
- A new marijuana DUI standard that operates like the alcohol DUI standard will be established.
- Does not change Washington’s medical marijuana law – patients still may grow their own marijuana.
- Does not allow home growing for people who are not medical marijuana patients.
- Initiative 502 will retain cannabis as a schedule 1 controlled substance under state law. Instead of legalization, it will set up a narrow exception for certain activities, such as possession of a small amount.
- The regulation and taxation system – if not the entire initiative – will be rendered invalid by the federal government. The initiative forces the state to license businesses for, and collect taxes from, a substance that is a schedule 1 drug under both Federal and state law. This directly conflicts with our Federal Controlled Substances Act, as well as our State’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act, which will give the federal government complete legal authority to take it to federal court, and quickly preempt it.
- Initiative 502 mandates a new driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) provision for THC that will result in prosecution of the innocent. Colorado’s Legislature tasked a work-group to examine the science surrounding the exact 5ng/ml THC limit that Initiative 502 sets up. The work-group came to the conclusion not to recommend the limit, based primarily on a lack of science, and the potential for prosecuting innocent people. Colorado has rejected the limit three times.
- Initiative 502 completely ignores, and endangers young adults. It mandates a zero-tolerance driving policy for those under 21.
- Initiative 502 will instill complacency, and meaningful reform will be pushed back for years. The misperception and the resulting dismay could stop voters and our elected officials from supporting meaningful reform, or legal alterations, in the near future.
Oregon Legislation – Measure 80 (aka The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act)
- Protects Oregon’s children by ensuring that, like liquor, cannabis is only sold to adults.
- Regulates the growth and sale of cannabis, dramatically shrinking the black market.
- Restores the agricultural hemp industry. Hemp offers an alternative green fuel source, and its fibers can be used for clothing, food, and more.
- Generates tax revenue for the state. Eliminate millions of dollars spent on corrections costs.
- Creates jobs both through the cannabis and hemp industries.
- While most measures to decriminalize personal use of marijuana allow individuals to possess and perhaps grow a limited amount of cannabis, this measure allows individuals to grow and possess unlimited amounts.
- Gives sweeping authority to a new Oregon Cannabis Commission and then it puts commercial pot growers and producers in charge of the very commission established to regulate them, allowing them to self-select five of seven seats after the first year.
- Sets up a confrontation with the federal government and requires the state attorney general to expend funds not only on defending the measure itself, but on defending any individuals prosecuted for acts licensed under the authority of this measure, at unknown cost.
Colorado and Washington may stand a chance to pass in the ballots, as they’ve already established or brushed elbows with medical marijuana laws. But with so many initiatives up for a vote this fall, one outcome is for certain; public opinion against prohibition in America is changing and a pathway for reform is slowly but surely being revealed.