Following last week’s passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, legalizing the use of recreational marijuana under certain provisions, state officials aren’t the only ones busy at work trying to answer questions about the implications of the statewide vote.
The administration at Colorado College is also trying to work out the details.
College representatives were very clear, however, that the rules regarding marijuana use on campus have not changed.
The whole Rocky Mountain state is reacting to the ballot results in which voters legalized recreational marijuana use with 55 percent of the statewide vote. Nonetheless, the federal, local and hyperlocal impacts remain unclear.
Since marijuana is still illegal federally, Student Activities Specialist Paul York explained, it is still prohibited by the Pathfinder student handbook. According to York, the college is currently working with its legal counsel to see how the legal change will affect campus.
Pat Cunningham, the head of Campus Safety, agreed with York and said that while everyone is waiting to see how the government and local police handle the change in the state constitution, the campus will be handling marijuana in the same way.
“It’s still a violation of school policy, so we are going to do what we always do– document it and forward it on,” Cunningham said. “The issue of medical marijuana on campus came up this year, and because it’s still against school policy, we still documented it the same.”
The local government has already expressed its disapproval for the amendment, and back in October, both the Colorado Spring City Council and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions opposing it.
They expressed the fear that this would have a serious detrimental impact to the Colorado Springs community.
“Colorado would become the pot distribution center of the United States,” Commissioner Amy Lathen said, explaining why the resolution to oppose Amendment 64 had passed unanimously on the board. “This is [a] horrific proposal.”
Several members of the board have expressed interest in the provision in Amendment 64 that allows local governments to choose to prohibit marijuana in retail stores in their districts.
Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder said that he is going to do some research on how his constituents feel, but he feels confident that Manitou will not pursue a ban.
“The voting trend in Manitou would not lead me to believe our people would be for a ban,” Snyder told The Gazette.
Emeritus Professor of Political Science Robert Loevy believes that Colorado Springs will be unable to successfully ban the retail stores in the city.
“We have a record here of not opting out,” Loevy said. “We put medical marijuana in the state constitution with the same opt-out choice. El Paso County tried to exercise that option but they couldn’t do it because the majority of Colorado Springs voted to allow medicinal marijuana dispensaries. This is why I think the chances of Colorado Springs opting out is very low.”
He explained that while the more rural districts of El Paso County have expressed sentiments against recreational marijuana use, the districts closer to the city will probably vote more positively towards allowing it.
Before these local governments can make any decisions, however, they have to first see how the federal government will react.
Gov. Hickenlooper has already been in contact with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss how the federal government intends to proceed, although few details about the conversation were released.
“My sense is that it is unlikely the federal government is going to allow states one by one to unilaterally decriminalize marijuana,” Hickenlooper told The Denver Post last Wednesday. “You can’t argue with the will of the voters.”
The governor will be signing the amendment into the Colorado constitution on Jan. 5, after which the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal for possession and consumption by adults.
The state will then have one year to develop a system of regulation for the retail sale of marijuana.
The effect that this will have on the Colorado economy is under heavy debate, however the Huffington Post recently reported that a petition by 300 economists, including 3 Nobel laureates, has been signed supporting the findings of Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which says that legalization and taxation of marijuana for the entire United States would yield at least $13.7 billion in revenue.
Proponents of legalization point to the taxes collected from medicinal marijuana taxation as evidence of the beneficial effects of regulation.
Last year, the state of Colorado collected millions of dollars in taxes from the sale of medical marijuana, which is more than twice what they received from medical marijuana the year before.
The city of Denver alone collected a staggering $3.4 million and Colorado Springs brought in more than $700,000.
Professor Loevy told The Catalyst that he believes that initiated constitutional amendments, like Amendment 64, are one of the biggest issues facing Colorado right now.
This system allows people with money from outside the state to propose amendments, hire people to collect the signatures, advertise to convince the voters to pass these amendments in Colorado, but not their own state.
This makes Colorado a test state for millionaires in states like California.. Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion in the ‘60s, one of the first to decriminalize medical marijuana, and now, the first (along with Washington state) to fully legalize it.
Along with making Colorado a test state, initiated constitutional amendments also serve as a process for direct democracy.
The people of the state are allowed to vote for the laws that they want to govern them. For this reason, Loevy explained, most of these ballot laws that are passed get added to the constitution and go uncontested.
“Elected officials wish to get re-elected so when they see a majority voting something into the constitution they are unlikely to oppose it,” Loevy said. “However, you can never tell. Sometimes politicians get courageous near the end of their term, or else feel strongly enough to pursue it against voter wishes.”
Loevy also commented on the importance of the president’s stance on legalization.
He explained that the ball is in President Obama’s court now and that he may choose not to oppose the law since he was elected partly because of his youth support in Colorado, but Loevy noted that he also has a record of looking favorably on Colorado marijuana legislation.
“President Barack Obama had his Attorney General issue a statement that they would not prosecute people for medicinal use of marijuana in states that have voted for it,” Loevy said. “Even though his Attorney General has referred to medical marijuana as a fraud due to the amount of healthy people that are taking advantage of it.”