A Myriad of Reasons to Vote for Amendment 64 (Marijuana)

Colorado's Amendment 64, the ballot initiative that will decriminalize personal adult use of marijuana and regulate marijuana sales in Colorado, will benefit the entire state, not just marijuana users.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy report on Amendment 64, concludes that Amendment 64 is likely to produce $60 million in new revenue and savings to Colorado. In addition to creating new jobs, particularly in construction, it will generate $24 million a year in state revenue for schools, specifically the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction program.

As opponents of the measure launch their final ad blitz this week, take a look at who supports Amendment 64.


  • Aurora Sentinel
  • Boulder Weekly
  • The Aspen Times
  • Pagosa Springs Sun
  • OutFront Colorado
  • Dave Perry, Editor, Aurora Sentinel
  • Jeralyn Merritt, Attorney and Founder of TalkLeft.com
  • Greg Campbell, Former Editor, Fort Collins Weekly

Organizations: (sample, see link for full list)

  • The Colorado Democratic Party (2012 platform expresses official support for Amendment 64)
  • Colorado Latino Forum
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 7 and Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association (OPCMIA) Local 577
  • Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
  • National Lawyers Guild, Colorado Chapter
  • Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
  • ACLU

A report released last week analyzed 25 years of FBI statistics on marijuana arrests in Colorado. In addition to the frequently mentioned shortcomings, it found Colorado's marijuana laws are applied in a racially discriminatory manner:

Although young African Americans and Latinos usemarijuana at lower rates than young whites,in thelast ten years police in Colorado arrested Latinosat 1.5 times the rate of whites and arrested blacks at 3.1 times the rate of whites.

Marijuana possession in Colorado is currently a petty offense punishable by a fine. It is a criminal conviction and results in a criminal record. Many companies obtain and sell criminal records on the internet, providing them to prospective employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards and banks. Here's one company's ad providing criminal records for $12.95 (from the report):

If you are the parent, grandparent or aunt or uncle of a young adult, consider the repercussions of a conviction for possession of marijuana, including a criminal record, reduced employment, educational and professional opportunities and the loss of federal student aid money.

The argument that marijuana possession will still be against federal law, while true, is a red herring. The feds can, but don't, charge people for personal use amounts of marijuana absent aggravating factors, such as: the person has a serious prior criminal history; the activity is gang-related; the offense occurs on federal property or near a school or other prohibited place; the person is also being charged with more serious criminal activity or is on supervised release, probation or state parole; or the offense is tied to an immigration offense like unlawful re-entry. The U.S. Attorneys in the four federal districts in California issued this memo in 2011 specifying threshold amounts of 200 kilos of marijuana or 1,000 plants for federal prosecution. The courts would be overwhelmed if prosecutors started filing charges for simple possession of two ounces or less of marijuana or a dozen plants. While the law allows the feds to bring such charges, they rarely, if ever, do so in Colorado, as is evident from recent statistical reports.

Assuming I'm reading them correctly, Colorado federal sentencing statistics for 2011 show that for simple drug possession, which includes both simple possession and distribution of a small amount of marijuana, a total of 9 people in Colorado were convicted and sentenced in federal court in 2011 (page 4). That number pertains to illegal possession of all drugs, not just marijuana, and since it applies to the offense of conviction, would include defendants who were originally charged or under investigation for more serious crimes but were allowed to plead to the lesser simple possession offense. There were only 8 federal convictions and sentencings for marijuana offenses in Colorado in 2011, and that includes both possession and felony distribution (page 2.)

According to the 2011 statistics of the U.S. Courts, see Table D-3, no federal prosecutions for marijuana offenses were commenced (as opposed to concluded) in Colorado in the 12 months ending September, 2011 (pages 223, 229.) This report says that out of 785 criminal defendants whose cases were concluded in the 12 months ending September 30, 2011, only 6 involved marijuana (Table D-9, p. 257.)

Drug possession for personal use is a misdemeanor under federal law. U.S. Magistrate judges (in addition to District Court judges) hear these cases. In Colorado, only 2 cases involving food and drugs were concluded by Magistrate Judges in the 12 months ending September 30, 2011. (Table M-1, p. 345.)

The FBI has just released the 2011 statistics for state arrests in the U.S. The numbers are very different than the federal numbers. State authorities, not federal, are arresting people for simple marijuana possession. According to this statistical report by the Colorado courts, , from August 1, 2010 to August 1, 2011, 4,752 people were criminally charged in Colorado with the petty offense of possession of marijuana (page 22.) What the numbers mean: Passing Amendment 64 in Colorado will make a big difference, regardless of federal law, because federal prosecution for simple possession, absent another aggravating factor, is unlikely, at best.

Other facts: Amendment 64 does not authorize drug possession by minors. It does not protect adults who provide marijuana to minors. Driving under the influence of marijuana will remain illegal and continue to be prosecuted. Amendment 64 merely removes criminal penalties for adult personal possession, and provides a regulatory scheme to tax marijuana sales and provide revenue to the state instead of those involved in large-scale, organized criminal ventures. Amendment 64 will cut into the profits of organized criminal groups. (Short ad running on this here.)

Under Amendment 64, all sales of marijuana will be subject to state and local sales tax. The General Assembly must also enact an excise tax of up to 15 percent on wholesale sales of non-medical marijuana, the first $40 million of which will be directed to the state's public school construction fund each year.

Amendment 64 is a step forward for Colorado. It offers the opportunity to move beyond the failed drug polices of the past. Its time is now. Vote Yes on Amendment 64.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Full Employment in the Prison Industrial complex! (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 09:42:29 AM EST
    YeeHaw!  Lock'em up, Joe.  

    if passed would the doj and suprem court (none / 0) (#1)
    by antagonist on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 09:02:36 AM EST
    allow it to stand. how does this law compare to the law in Cal or Oregon that was over turned within the past year that allowed the growing of marijuana?
    I am a bit hazy on the exact law but it was overturned by using the commerce law. If those in power don't want it, it ain't gonna happen

    That is exactly (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mojo56 on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 01:10:31 PM EST
    what I was going to ask. Here in San Diego, despite the will of the people, all the shops selling marijuana have been forced to close. A friend of mine who owned a shop said it was pressure from the feds that forced him to close.

    I think local LE has a hand in it (none / 0) (#4)
    by nycstray on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 06:45:32 PM EST
    my (former?) PC was happy to have the feds come in and continually bust up shops (and threaten property owners etc). Don't hear it happening in neighboring cities so much. Things have quieted down though . . . .perhaps it will start back up after Tuesday . . . .

    One former shop is now turning into a community grocer/farmers market/crafts market :)


    i am curious, ms. merritt, (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:10:38 PM EST
    you've provided a list of those supporting this measure, is there a comparable list of those publicly opposed to its passage, and their rationale? i'd be interested (as, no doubt, would many others) to know the identities of those individuals/businesses/public officials openly expressing opposition to passage of amendment 64.

    Some of the most visible objectors... (none / 0) (#9)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:22:02 PM EST
    are Gov. Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Hancock, the Denver Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Post.  

    Here's a search that will start you on your way to their reasoning.


    ah, i see it's the classic (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 01:50:28 PM EST
    "if we legalize it, all the kids will be on dope, all the time, and they will be getting run over at crosswalks, by drivers high on pot!!!!!!!!!!!"

    nonsense. interesting how they always conveniently leave out the fact that: 1. if legal, it would be regulated just like alcohol, making it just a bit harder for children to get their hands on it. and, 2. the fact that it's illegal now, doesn't seem to have stopped people from driving under the influence of it, just as people drive under the influence of alcohol. anything that will give you a buzz, will be used irresponsibly, by some small segment of the population, always, whether it's legal or not.

    i suspect the prosecutor from weld county (i believe) has more mundane issues in mind: his job. i'm going out on a (short) limb, and guessing probably half his office's case load involves simple possession charges. take that away from him, and he loses his justification for having the number of assisstants he has, and the number of jail beds, in the local hoosegow.

    he may also be thinking of running for higher office. DRUGS! makes for much better sounding political ads, than, say, domestic violence/abuse does. i didn't get to hickenlooper's reasons, but must admit to some surprise that he would be opposed, given his general reputation. oh well, you just never know. also, there is the "THEY'LL ALL BE HIGH ON THE JOB!!!!!!!!!" contingent. nonsense, no more than they already are now. frankly, if the jobs in question weren't so stultifyingly dull, maybe people wouldn't feel the need to be on drugs, just to get through the day working for you. just a thought.

    anyway, i see it's the standard, harry anslinger BS, simply gussied up with a nice, new, fashionable suit.

    at least CO has it on the ballot. here in va, it would never get that far, because too many jobs and too much money makes legalizing it pretty much a no go. my fair commonwealth has an overabundance of people who live in perpetual fear, of pretty much everything. how they avoid wetting their pants/skirt, everytime they walk out the door of their house, remains a mystery to me.

    i wish you luck in CO. maybe if it passes there, and western civilization doesn't immediately collapse as a result, it will serve as an example for other states. or not.


    Actually, Ken Buck... (none / 0) (#13)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 03:10:18 PM EST
    already ran for US Senate against Michael Bennet and lost.  His stupidity, like comparing being gay to being alcoholism, his no abortion under any circumstances stance and open hostility of Latinos and women cost him that election.  Thankfully.  

    You are right, the arguments that we're hearing are the same old Reefer Madness nonsense that has been around forever.  Mixed in are some other equally silly ones like no business will want to relocate/stay in a State of full of potheads and we'll become a narco vacation destination like Amsterdam.  

    It will an interesting experiment if it does pass.  Colorado voted against the 18th Amendment and I'm hopeful we vote against this prohibition as well.  


    cpinva (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:17:46 PM EST
    google is your friend. I'm not interested in the opponents. I'm supporting the measure.

    gee, i just thought you'd show the positions (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 01:57:11 PM EST
    of those who oppose the measure, simply to demonstrate how ridiculous their reasons for doing so are, by comparison. sort of like, i don't know, showing mitt romney's positions on an issue, and comparing them to obama's, to demonstrate why obama's positions are superior to romney's. kind of like what you'd do in a court case, or what i'd do in one of my cases.

    remember, "knowledge is Good". :)