Legalized Marijuana Use in Colorado – Does this pose an Ethical Challenge for the State and Federal Government?

Rocky Mountain High in Colorado – words from a song by John Denver – that I never expected that the late singer would think meant something entirely different today in 2012.

On election night, Amendment 64 — the measure seeking the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults — was passed by Colorado voters, making Colorado the first state to end marijuana prohibition in the United States.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a vocal opponent to the measure, reacted to the passage of A64 in a statement late Tuesday night:

The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.

Although legalized in Colorado, it will take some time (perhaps up to a year) before adults can enjoy the legal sale of marijuana.

The Colorado Independent reported.

It’s a huge victory for the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pro-pot group behind Amendment 64. “Over the past eight years in Colorado, we have argued that it is irrational to punish adults for choosing to use a product that is far less harmful than alcohol,” Mason Tvert, co-director of the campaign, said in a statement. “Today, the voters agreed. Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better off as a society because of it.”

This is the second time Colorado voted on legal weed, in 2006 Coloradans voted the measure down, but not in 2012. Tvert told The Huffington Post in an August interview why he thought this year might be different:

The 2006 initiative would have simply removed the penalties for the possession of marijuana legal for individuals 21 years of age or older. The current initiative proposes a fully regulated system of cultivation and sales, which will eliminate the underground marijuana market and generate tens of millions of dollars per year in new revenue and criminal justice savings. It also directs the legislature to regulate the cultivation of industrial hemp, a versatile, popular, and environmentally friendly agricultural crop.More importantly, voters are more informed about marijuana than ever before. They have also experienced the emergence of a state-regulated medical marijuana system that has not produced any serious problems, but has provided a number of benefits. We now know that marijuana cultivation and sales can be regulated, and that medical marijuana businesses do not contribute to increased crime. We have also seen marijuana use among high school students decrease since the state began implementing regulations, whereas it has increased nationwide where there are no regulations. And, of course, localities and the state have seen how much revenue can be generated through the legal sale of marijuana that would have otherwise gone into the underground market. Voters in Colorado no longer need to imagine what a legal and regulated system of marijuana sales would look like; they have seen it.

It’s also worth noting that 2012 is a presidential election year, so we will benefit from increased voter turnout compared to an off-year election like 2006. Historically, the more people who vote, the more support marijuana reform initiatives receive.

In a related matter the State of Washington also passed a marijuana initiative – Initiative 52 – which regulates and taxes the sale of small amounts of marijuana for adults.   Under this approach  marijuana is taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco.  It is projected that the tax revenue could generated could be somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state.

“Today, the people of Colorado have rejected the failed policy of marijuana prohibition,” Brian Vicente, also a co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, said in a statement. “Thanks to their votes, we will now reap the benefits of regulation. We will create new jobs, generation million of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes. It would certainly be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”

The question is will the federal government allow a regulated marijuana market to take shape. Attorney General Eric Holder, said he would “vigorously enforce” federal marijuana prohibition.

In a report published Sunday by NBC News, President Obama’s former senior drug policy advisor said that if the marijuana initiatives pass, a war will be incited between the federal government and the states that pass them. “Once these states actually try to implement these laws, we will see an effort by the feds to shut it down,” Sabet said.

QUESTION – What are your thoughts on the changing tides when it comes to the legal use of marijuana?


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6 Responses to Legalized Marijuana Use in Colorado – Does this pose an Ethical Challenge for the State and Federal Government?

  1. Dave Meyer says:

    If alcohol is legal, there’s no reason marijuana shouldn’t be. It has fewer harmful effects and more positive ones. Will be interesting to see how the feds handle it.

  2. In terms of how it would conflict with individuals ethically I feel that it would be based on that exact scale, by the individual. In terms of creating an issue for the federal government I think it absolutely would. Once a few states have legalized it, citizens are going to appeal to their state governments to have it legalized in their state and if the state government doesn’t feel it appropriate citizens are then going to appeal to the federal government. They will then make the argument that with federal government growing more and more each day what is the issue with government making it a federal law to require all states to legalize marijuana.

  3. denniscoble says:

    If you want to hurt your neighbor’s property value, you donate your ground to be a graveyard. If you want to hurt the drug lords’ property, you legalize their product. All victimless crimes should be legalized, and add to the tax base.

  4. Visualriot says:

    I think that regardless of the position you have – the cat is out of the bag.
    It is too late. Once a few states have legalize – it is a matter of time. So yes add to the tax base.

  5. “….if the marijuana initiatives pass, a war will be incited between the federal government and the states that pass them. “Once these states actually try to implement these laws, we will see an effort by the feds to shut it down,”

    I wonder if the Federal Government would actually go to “war” with the States over States Rights, again.

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