Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Choosing sides on the marijuana amendment

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:20 AM

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol continues its push for Amendment 64, this time lining up support from the academic community in the form of a letter signed by some 100, or so, professors of various things. Four come from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and one from Colorado State University-Pueblo.

"The State of Colorado, as well as our nation, have successfully walked the path from prohibition to regulation in the past: Eighty years ago, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition at the state level, which was followed by repeal at the federal level," the unified voice of academia declares in a press release. "This year, we have the opportunity to do the same thing with marijuana and once again lead the nation toward more sensible, evidence-based laws and policies."

Dr. Dale DeBoer, chair of the economics department at UCCS, says his support for decriminalization is based on the ineffectiveness of prohibition, combined with evidence showing marijuana's no more harmful than the stuff you can legally buy today. As well: "To the extent that marijuana has health consequences," he writes in an e-mail, "these are better treated via health care (like with alcohol abuse) than through criminalization."

We asked the good professor if he agreed with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy's assessment that the passage of Amendment 64 could result in a $100 million windfall for the state of Colorado within five years.

"I am personally always suspicious of numerical estimates that I did not generate," he replied. "While these estimates are possible — and I have no reason to doubt them — I have not recreated these studies. As such, I take these numbers as possible but reserve some healthy caution in regards to them.

"That said, there must be some budgetary savings from narrowing the scope of the law and some revenue enhancement from taxation of a now illegal substance. Given my stance on your initial question, any financial gain should be welcome — but is not my main reason for supporting the movement."

As far as sounding out the amendment's chances of passage, well, all you have to do is hop on Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patient Rights' Facebook page to witness that, as usual, there's division even among those in the MMJ community. Those against the amendment have even, almost uniformly, changed their profile picture to a negative version of the "Yes on 64" logo — a move that equates to "the 21st-century lawn sign," as Vermont journalist Tyler Machado put it on Twitter.

Of course, that might just be the price you have to pay for progress, according to DeBoer: "Any change of this nature is difficult (witness the earlier political machinations surrounding prohibition)," he writes. "As such, I won't be surprised if this has to be tried again at another election."

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