Legal pot; goodie for Colorado (not)

By now the nation knows that Colorado voted yesterday to legalize recreational marijuana. Not by statute, as one might expect, but by constitutional amendment. Colorado is odd that way, sticking all sorts of stuff into its constitution when it ought to just be a new state statute. We became the “first” state to legalize weed only because we counted our votes before Washington state, which also legalized it.

I don’t happen to smoke pot. Never have. Didn’t even learn to recognize the smell until after I moved here. Such is the legacy of growing up in Oklahoma. And I was ambivalent about the proposed law. I can see a certain logic in legalizing the stuff. And Colorado’s law supposedly will give the resulting tax income to its schools. (“Drug money” to the schools. Hmm … )

Nevertheless, I’m not happy the law passed. I don’t want Colorado to be known as the first state to legalize pot, the place where you can vacation or live in order to have free access to pot. Nor do I want to be the state that people avoid because “that’s where all the pot-smoking hippies live.” I don’t want to be a magnet for drug sellers and users, and I’ve no doubt that legalizing it is equivalent to hanging a big neon sign on the state shouting “Get your marijuana right here!” like some costumed carnival barker. I just don’t want more of it around or, conversely, I don’t want to be around more of it. Nor do I want more of it around my grandkids. Besides, we’ve had enough problems with legal medical marijuana.

My primary objection, however, is that marijuana is illegal under federal law. How can one or two states declare it legal when federal law prohibits it? How does that work? Any lawyers out there want to explain this to me?

14 comments

  1. Personally, I think it should be legal everywhere. It’s much less toxic than cigarettes. And the effects of weed versus alcohol are much more pleasant to be around. Plus, someone driving stoned is much better than a drunk. I cannot stand the stuff myself, but it really is not a bad drug. And I know several people that use it for medicinal purposes, even though their doc won’t approve it because that is another 10 hoops to jump through. It’s just easier for them to buy it and smoke it. And I can tell the difference, too. I also know people who claim to use it for medicinal reasons, but they’re not. Unless it’s to chill out.

    Look at it this way… Now that I’m catching up on all that happened around the country, I’m really seeing a lot of results which are actually moving us forward rather than backwards which is the way the tea party wanted to take us.

    1. As our governor said, Colorado is known for a lot of great things; marijuana shouldn’t be one of them. There’s still been no clear explanation of how we can implement a law like this when possession violates federal law. I don’t feel that strongly about pot one way or the other, but if it’s going to be legalized, it should be done so via a change in federal law, not a patchwork of varying state laws.

      1. ” . . . if it’s going to be legalized, it should be done so via a change in federal law, not a patchwork of varying state laws.”

        You’re right about that of course, PT, but I can’t see any way that’s going to happen while Congress is composed as it is presently of cowboys, indians, religious fanatics and aliens. We have discussed this before, but I thought I’d put my two cents’ worth in. The “war on drugs” is an abject failure, so I agree with Michelle that legalization is the wave of the future. It’s just a matter of time. Legalize, control, tax. Probably better than alcohol, but with one exception: if smoking it gives you lung cancer, which I believe it does, then it should be available in a different form. An explosion of lung cancer cases would be hard on the healthcare system.

        Anyhow, the die is cast. Prepare for herds of hippies!

        1. It’s available in all kinds of food, sold here now to people with a prescription. Good thing, too, because plenty of people don’t smoke and don’t want to. (I agree with you; seems to me inhaling any kind of smoke would not be good for your lungs.) But perhaps if you’re struggling with chemo and nausea, smoking would be better than eating. I don’t know and hope I never have to find out.

          I do know that according to local media, we’ve had an uptick in incidents of child and pet poisonings when they’ve gotten into an adult’s pot — both smokable and edible forms. Pot brownies — what child wouldn’t go for those?

          1. Well, that I think is more of personal responsibility. People have to be reminded every year that poinsettias are poisonous for pets. Heck, even some regular people foods make pets sick. Adults need to be vigilant about what they leave out that kids and pets can get into. It’s like the Buckyballs thing. You don’t teach your kid to stay away or keep things out of reach, they’ll do something stupid that could have been prevented.
            (For the record, I’ve never smoked pot either.)

  2. Well, I’m in the other state that legalized it. I guess we’re second. Damn you for counting your ballots faster, but all our ballots are mail-in only. (And I like it that way). I hate waiting in lines, even though the counting takes longer.

    Anyway, I have no problems with the legalization, and voted for it. It’s always been an issue for me when the government sticks their nose into people’s business, and this is one area where I’ve always seen them doing so for no particular good reason. Oh, you can argue that it will cause a decrease in the motivation of youth, the fall of society, the collapse of morals, and all the other good stuff associated with marijuana. But, realistically, that’s all a lot of BS, and anyone who’s ever smoked pot knows this quite well. It is true that chronic smokers can have problems with it, but chronic alcoholics have it far worse in comparison, and both are small sub-set of overall users. Most people who drink alcohol aren’t alcoholics, and most people who smoke pot aren’t potheads.

    In addition, the benefits of making it legal are big when it comes to eliminating the illegal infrastructure currently in place to distribute and sell marijuana. Not to mention the benefits of the tax revenue, and the ability to control distribution to the public, and the quality of the product. Imagine if alcohol were illegal again. Poorly distilled product still crops up today, caught by inspection and regulation. Illegal pot probably won’t kill you (assuming it isn’t laced with something you don’t know about) but you have no idea of its quality and THC content.

    The feds can challenge this law. Federal law still trumps state law, but the feds have to make a legal challenge first, and we don’t know if they will. Many times in the past, states have been allowed to experiment with different ideas, and this may well be one of them. If it works out, marijuana will likely become legal nationally (eventually). If it doesn’t work out and appears to be a problem, the feds can challenge the law and eliminate it, providing a safeguard for the experiment, which is what it really is, an experiment.

    Now, I haven’t smoked marijuana for twenty years, and I have no plans on doing so in the future. But I will be watching this to see what it does. It is an interesting experiment, to say the least. And if it causes problems, I fully expect the feds to pull the plug on it. We shall see. Of one thing I will make sure – I will educate my children regarding the ill effects. While the brain is developing, it can have a permanent effect on IQ, as you noted. (Which is also true of alcohol when drinking starts while the brain is still developing). My children will be well-informed.

    1. I realize I may be part of the problem in that I’ve never used pot and therefore have no real understanding of its effects or of how benign or harmful it might be. That’s why I’m on the fence about all this. I question whether legalizing it will actually “control distribution to the public” or just add to what’s already available. But thinking of the legalization as an experiment, as you explained it, makes it easier for me to suspend judgment and just wait to see what happens. (Not saying I won’t still worry about my grandkids … )

  3. The federal government HAD to pass an amendment to the federal constitution in order to legalize it’s control (outlaw) of alcohol. Then to relinquish it’s control it had to amend it’s constitution again. It’s easy to forget that the so-called federal drug war is completely illegal. It’s also easy to turn a blind eye to a succession of congresses that abdicate responsibility to recognize it’s own limited authority. But we, all of us, do it every day. Hooray for states that defy illegal federal encroachment on their sovereignty.

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