Voters have a big decision to make this November. In fact, it is very similar to a decision Colorado voters had to make exactly 80 years ago. In 1932, the people of the state considered the pros and cons of alcohol prohibition, ultimately choosing to end that failed experiment.
This fall, the question is whether to continue the possibly even more irrational policy of marijuana prohibition.
The similarities between alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition are striking: both policies were devised to control the behavior of adults, but neither reduced consumption of marijuana or alcohol. In both cases, prohibition has enriched cartels, empowered gangs, and made otherwise law-abiding adults criminals.
There is no arguing whether limited law enforcement resources would be better spent combatting violence and other crimes that actually cause harm to others, but instead 10,000 Coloradans are arrested, prosecuted, and burdened with criminal records each year.
In addition to wasted law enforcement resources, our state is quite literally throwing away tens of millions of dollars each year that could be collected in tax revenue. The Colorado Center on Law & Policy estimates that Amendment 64 could result in more than $100 million in tax revenue annually, with the first $40 million going to rebuild Colorado's crumbling schools and build new schools.
Amendment 64 makes the private use and possession of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older; establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allows for the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp.
But more than that, Amendment 64 is an evidenced-based approach to repair the terribly flawed policy of marijuana prohibition that is based not on fact, but on fear.
In 1971, President Nixon handpicked a national commission and tasked it with taking a hard look at marijuana. They approached the subject objectively and produced a comprehensive report. Their conclusion? The harms of marijuana are quite limited, and the use of marijuana by adults should not be considered a criminal offense.
Many studies have since supported that conclusion, and yet reefer-madness style scare tactics are still used in an effort to frighten Colorado's voters.
It is time to replace the ineffective and wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible approach.
Please vote "yes" on Amendment 64 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Betty Aldworth is advocacy director for Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the Yes on 64 campaign in Colorado. Follow the organization on Twitter at @COmarijuana2012.
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