Legalization of marijuana on the ballot

When voting for the president this November, Colorado voters will also be voting for legalization of marijuana possession of up to one ounce. Known as Amendment 64, the amendment to the Colorado constitution would make Colorado one of the first states to fully legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes. If it passes it would be legal to grow, transport, and sell marijuana for anyone 21 years or older. Furthermore, there would be no need for Colorado residency allowing out-of-state users to travel to Colorado to purchase marijuana and it would have a fifteen percent excise tax of which the first 40 million would go to construction of public schools.

Despite federal law, current state law allows for marijuana cultivation and use for medicinal purposes. If the measure passes, state and federal law will be dramatically different. Federal law states that possession of any amount is a misdemeanor offence with up to one year of incarceration and a $1000 fine and the cultivation of six plants or less is considered a felony with up to 5 years of prison and a $250,000 fine.

In Colorado there are approximately 10,000 marijuana related arrests a year accounting for nearly 60 percent of all drug-related offenses. Proponents argue that prohibition of marijuana is a waste of police spending and is allowing profits to go to drug cartels instead of to the state. They argue that the only way to end illicit cultivation is by regulating the production of marijuana.

On the other hand, opponents argue that legalization of marijuana will lead to increased use by adults and children. Marijuana is addictive and its use causes many short term side effects such as a distorted sense of time, paranoia, short-term memory loss, depression, and anxiety. These side effects can create dangerous situations, especially while driving. Opponents also argue that marijuana legalization could lead to larger social problems.

Similar measures are on the ballot in Oregon and Washington. Current polls indicate that Colorado residents are in favor of the amendment 51-40 with nine percent undecided, but this does not mean much. A similar measure was proposed in California in 2008 and although polls indicated 54 percent support, the measure lost by eight points 54-46.

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