Many citizens in Colorado may be asking themselves “now what?” after voters in Colorado passed Amendment 64 Tuesday night.
The amendment, which will be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper within the next 30 days, legalizes the possession, use, growing and transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana or up to six marijuana plants for adults 21 years of age or older.
“In terms of enforcement, there is no enforcement — because there’s no state law to enforce,” said Tony Ryan, a retired Denver police officer and member of the board of directors for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Ryan said he supported the passage of Amendment 64 because current drug laws create an environment similar to that which existed during alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s, with the same results of a black market, criminal activity, underground activity and violent crime.
According to Ryan, what law officers will enforce is the regulations on Amendment 64, including the 21 and older age limit, no public marijuana use or personal selling and the limits on the amount of marijuana individuals can grow.
For those concerned about federal law enforcement cracking down, Ryan said that if regulations are followed, especially not smoking marijuana in public, the Drug Enforcement Agency “is not going to go around knocking on doors trying to smell marijuana smoke.”
“It’s monumental that we now have two states that have legalized, for adults, marijuana possession,” Ryan said. “Two states have taken the first step, which will maybe lead to a federal policy.”
CSU political sciences professor John Straayer sees a few problems with the bill’s wording, specifically that the Amendment instructs state officials to enact an excise tax of 15 percent on the wholesale sale of marijuana, with the first $40 million collected to be designated for the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund.
“You can’t tell legislators how to vote. They’re elected to make judgements,” Straayer said, adding that, no matter the source of collection, legislators are never likely to vote for a new tax ballot measure.
“I don’t think it will happen,” Straayer said.
In a statement to 9 News, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers reacted to the passage of Amendment 64. Despite his continued belief that marijuana legalization on a state level is “bad public policy,” Suthers promised that his office will work to implement the new laws.
“… voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution,” Suthers said.
Team Fort Collins, a substance abuse prevention non-profit organization in Fort Collins, also reacted to the amendment’s passage, providing information about their future plans to continue preventing alcohol and drug abuse.
“Team Fort Collins educators will integrate more information about the effects of marijuana use on the teenage brain,” said Ashley Kasprzk, executive director of Team Fort Collins.
“Since youth and young adults’ brains are developing, re-organizing and refining from the ages of 12 to 25, Team Fort Collins teaches youth the importance of letting their brains develop without interruptions from alcohol and drugs,” Kasprzk said.
Kasprzk said focusing on education is a starting point for the organization, and they also plan to address “the increasing misperception that marijuana is not harmful.”
Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said they are ready to work toward implementing this law.
“We look forward to working with state and federal officials to move on to a more sensible approach to marijuana,” Tvert said.
Click here to read about Gov. Hickenlooper’s Executive Order that officially legalizes marijuana for adults in Colorado.