Colorado Amendment 64
|Use and Regulation of Marijuana
|Election was held: November 6, 2012|
Colorado Amendment 64 was a ballot measure to amend the state constitution, outlining a statewide drug policy for cannabis. The measure passed on 6 November 2012, and along with a similar Washington measure, marked "an electoral first not only for America but for the world". Now enacted as Article 18, section 16 of the state constitution, the law addresses "personal use and regulation of marijuana" for adults 21 and over, as well as commercial cultivation, manufacture, and sale, effectively regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol.
|Elections in Colorado|
Adults 21 or older can grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants privately in a locked space, legally possess all cannabis from the plants they grow (as long as it stays where it was grown), legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis while traveling, and give as a gift up to one ounce to other citizens 21 years of age or older. Consumption is permitted in a manner similar to alcohol, with equivalent offenses proscribed for driving.
The legislation defines industrial hemp as any part of the cannabis plant, growing or not, "with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration that does not exceed three tenths percent (0.3%) on a dry weight basis." The amendment declares that industrial hemp should be regulated separately from cannabis with higher THC concentrations, and requires the Colorado General Assembly to "enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp" by no later than July 1, 2014.
The amendment provides for licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores. Local governments can now regulate or prohibit such facilities. This amendment requires the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of cannabis, requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund.
Though support for liberalizing drug policy has traditionally been considered a liberal or libertarian cause, Amendment 64 garnered a number of high-profile conservative endorsements, including, most notably, an endorsement former U.S. Representative and 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo, who claimed, "Throughout my career in public policy and in public office, I have fought to reform or eliminate wasteful and ineffective government programs. There is no government program or policy I can think of that has failed in such a unique way as marijuana prohibition." Similarly, Temple Emmanuel's Rabbi, Steven Foster, endorsed Amendment 64 because, "as clergy, we have the responsibility to talk about what policies serve our community best. You do not have to use marijuana—or even approve of marijuana—to see that our current laws are not working."  Many supporters of Amendment 64 did so because they wanted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state's law enforcement resources. Proponents believe that permitting recreational use will allow officers to focus on prevention of violent crime and that it will remove some of the burden on the state's prosecutors and courts.
Other justifications for support include: (1) increasing the state's revenue (much of the additional revenue is required to be used to fund primary education) (2) subjecting otherwise illicit substances to health and safety regulations for the protections of users, (3) enhancing individual freedom, (4) eliminating a black market (black markets tend to result in crime regardless of the goods sold because market participants are already criminals, and therefore have less to lose by committing additional crimes). (5) providing empirical evidence for studying the effects of legalization to identify whether the harms associated with drugs are actually caused by the policy of prohibition.
Yet another argument favoring Amendment 64 is that regulation of marijuana may actually reduce marijuana usage by teens: According to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the organization responsible for much of the campaigning in support of Amendment 64, marijuana use by teens is likely to go down because commercial access would be limited to persons 21 and older. The campaign also points out that teens who currently seek marijuana have to turn to criminals for their supply and that these criminals may expose teens to other, potentially more dangerous drugs like heroin, meth, or cocaine. Supporters also point out that Colorado's experience with medical marijuana supports their conclusion: The CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors a number of statistics for America's youth. The CDC study suggests that marijuana use among Colorado's youths fell by 2.8 percent from 2009 (24.8 percent) to 2011 (22 percent), while the national rate of youth use increased by 2.3 percent from 2009 (20.8 percent) to 2011 (23.1 percent). Furthermore, the CDC found that the availability of drugs on school grounds in Colorado fell 5 percent from 2009 (22.7 percent) to 2011 (17.2 percent), while the national rate increased by 3.1 percent over the same time.
The group No on 64 objects to Amendment 64 chiefly because it claims the amendment would lead to increased use of cannabis, a consequence the group considers harmful. In particular, the group sees cannabis as addictive and as damaging to children because they believe it "permanently affects brain development, impairs learning ability and contributes to depression."
On October 14, The Denver Post's editorial board announced its opposition to Amendment 64. The board began by saying, "We believe possession and use of marijuana should be legal," but ultimately encouraged readers to vote against the amendments because "Drug policy simply has no business being in the state constitution." 
The policies took effect when the Governor ratified the ballots, which was to happen within 30 days of the election. Governor John Hickenlooper officially added the law to his state’s constitution on Monday December 10, 2012 making the private consumption of marijuana legal in Colorado.
Since the amendment passed there has been concern over its conflict with federal substance prohibition laws. Shortly after its passing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stated “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 Goldfish too quickly.” On 10 December 2012 Governor Hickenlooper signed Executive Order B 2012-004 to create the Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64 to "consider and resolve a number of policy, legal and procedural issues". The task force is expected to hold its next-to-last meeting on 25 February 2013.
The outcome is nevertheless expected to have broad impacts south of the border, including in Mexico where less than a week after the U.S. vote Mexican senators submitted a proposal to legalize marijuana in their country.
- Decriminalization of non-medical cannabis in the United States
- Legal history of cannabis in the United States
- Legal issues of cannabis
- List of Colorado ballot measures
- Drug policy of Colorado
- Cannabis Law Reform
- Civil liberties
- Prohibition of drugs
- Washington Initiative 502
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- Amendment 64: (3).b
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- Amendment 64:(9)
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