Without a doubt, my favorite (and most dramatic) piece of legislation is Colorado Amendment 64 of 2012, commonly known as the recreational marijuana bill. This amendment to Colorado’s state constitution has been the catalyst to countless conversations, debates, and arguments. The potential consequences of placing what was once considered a highly addictive gateway drug in the hands of the public is nothing to be taken lightly.
Proponents of Amendment 64 stated that the purpose of this bill was threefold: to maximize the efficiency and allocation of law enforcement resources, to produce revenue for public purposes, and to enhance the freedoms of the people of Colorado. Understandably, there were many who opposed this bill and these adversaries made compelling cases for its removal from the ballot. The case against marijuana was very strong, and while some of the fears were rooted in justified concerns, the proposed bill alleviated many of the concerns directly. In its essence, Amendment 64 viewed marijuana as no different than alcohol and believed the two substances should be regulated the same. Identification and age verification would be required prior to purchasing marijuana, just like alcohol.
However, regardless of initial fears and apprehension, there are studies that show that the legalization of marijuana has led to a decrease in adolescent marijuana use in both Colorado and Washington (see, for example, American Journal of Nursing, issue 10 in 2017). According to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), approximately $90.3 million in revenue for CDE was generated by marijuana sales in FY 2017-2018. These funds went toward funding school construction, dropout prevention programs, anti-bullying programs, and hiring of resident health professionals.
The fears of handicapping law enforcement and subsequently causing danger to society with an influx of “high” drivers was also addressed in the bill. Very clearly, at the end of the legislation, there is a passage that states that nothing in the bill prevents law enforcement from arresting marijuana impaired drivers. Additionally, new devices are being developed that can measure THC on a subject’s breath and can determine if the subject has smoked or ingested marijuana in the last few hours.
Amendment 64 took a huge leap in combatting not only a failing war on drugs, but the failing war on freedom. Too many civilians have been incarcerated over possessing small amounts of marijuana and it’s time we as a people admit one simple truth: marijuana isn’t this ominous, dangerous drug. In my personal and professional opinion as a patrol officer for the Clemson University Police Department, it causes much less damage than alcohol abuse, but hey… what do I know?