The Denver Post
It came as something of a surprise to read that Breckenridge residents had overwhelmingly voted on Nov. 3 to legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, as well as associated paraphernalia.
It was a surprise because I used to work there for a few months in 1977-78, when I edited the Summit County Journal. Back then, you would have had to work at it to find that marijuana was illegal.
The only pot arrests I recall were "stupidity busts." Someone forgot to remove the plants from a condo's window sill before calling to report a burglary, or left a bag in plain sight on the front seat when pulled over. Indeed, I distinctly remember two guys passing a joint in broad daylight while they changed a flat tire right outside the sheriff's office window.
But even if a municipality can set priorities for law enforcement (Denver voters made it the "lowest priority" in 2005), a town can't actually legalize marijuana, since the plant also comes under state and federal law. Colorado voters legalized medical marijuana with Amendment 20 in 2000, but that had little effect until recently.
Although the Bush administration offered lip service to federalism and respecting states, Bush told federal drug agents to ignore tolerant state marijuana laws. Thus a pot dispensary that was legal under California or Colorado law was still a target for the federal DEA.
That has changed. President Barack Obama has told federal agents to ignore cannabis operations that are legal under state law, and thus the recent growth in Colorado dispensaries.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Denver Post