Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Colorado and Washington State Legalize Pot: Tourist and Real Estate Boom Expected

Call me out of touch, call me a nerd, call me a prohibitionist, or call me smart . . . but I think that it was a very big mistake for the states of Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana.  A Real big mistake.

Once the 2012 election is certified, residents of Colorado and Washington State can legally smoke marijuana.  Imagine that.

Yes, smoking a joint is still illegal under Federal Law.  But state law in the Rocky Mountain state now allows for people to light up whenever they want - without a medical prescription.  Same for Washington State.

Tourist are sure to flock to Colorado for this new recreational activity that may see more visitors roll up and than hit their amazing slopes. And if they don't want to travel to Colorado, they can travel to the Pacific Northwest - the new Amsterdam - and toke up while hiking Mount Baker or kyacking around Orca's island, or picking blueberries outside of Blaine.

As for me: I don't light-up.  I really don't want others to light up because of the impairment issues.  And I sure don't want my son to ever light up.

Of course, I understand there is a medicinal benefit to marijuana.  And I appreciate the benefits of the use of the drug for medical purposes.  So long as it is not abused.

But it hasn't really been abused, right? Hmm

It is also going to be interesting to see how the clash between federal and state law is going to oversee marijuana use in Colorado and Washington. 

Surely there are going to be many legal court battles . . . and many advocates on both sides of the issue are going to be weighing in.

Could the legalization be all part of a masterplan by real estate developers and hotel operators in Colorado and Washington State to increase business in this sluggish economy?  Will smokers and tokers decide to pick up and move to these two pot-friendly states that will allow residents to grow up to 6 pot plants of their own per household?  Will there be a new chain of state hotels that mix fine accomodations with licensed pot distributors?  Oh the possibilities.  Seriously . . . I'm not sold on any of this.

This was taken from the Denver Post . . . 

Voters approved an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado on Tuesday, making this one of two states to end prohibition of the drug but also raising new legal questions and setting up potential court battles.

The historic result, projected by The Denver Post on Tuesday night, drew raucous cheers and applause from the amendment's supporters, who gathered in hundreds at Casselman's in downtown Denver.

"We won! We won!" supporters cried as the results were splashed across a giant screen.

Amendment 64 led late Tuesday night with 53.3 percent voting yes and 46.7 percent voting no, with 1,863,535 votes or about 66 percent of active voters counted, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

"This is really groundbreaking," said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. "No modern jurisdiction has ever removed the prohibition on the production and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. ... Since no one has done this before, there are a lot of uncertainties."

Voters in Washington state approved a similar measure Tuesday; in Oregon a legalization issue failed.

The amendment will allow those 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of the drug at specially regulated retail stores. Possession would be legal but not public use. Adults could grow up to six marijuana plants at home. It sets up a direct challenge to federal drug law, which regulates it as an illegal substance. Federal authorities have not said how they will respond.

"This demonstrates that the people of Colorado are just as smart as we thought they were," said Mason Tvert, one of the directors of the Yes on 64 Campaign. "They were fed up with prohibition and decided they want a more sensible approach."

Prohibition of drugs is a bad thing?  Really?

Critics argued that passing the amendment would make Colorado a destination for drug tourists and prompt a federal crackdown. They cited concerns about increased use of the drug by children and more drugged driving.

Among the opponents was Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said in a statement Tuesday night that "the voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. 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 gold fish too quickly."

State criminal penalties for possessing the drug won't disappear until the election is certified, which could take up to two months.

The amendment doesn't spell out the details of how the commercial marijuana industry will be regulated. It leaves that up to the state Department of Revenue, which would oversee the specialty shops. Proponents envision something similar to the state's system governing medical marijuana, which involves security requirements, the monitoring of plants as they are grown and shipped and auditors who perform site checks.

Who is in charge?

"Colorado has a lot of work to do quickly in terms of setting up the appropriate rules and structures," said Rosalie Pacula, another co-director for Rand's Drug Policy Research Center. She noted that because the measure is a constitutional amendment, it will have to go back to voters for repairs if there are problems; the legislature will be unable to intervene.

The federal government's response is anyone's guess, she said, but it will likely be resistant. Other experts have said federal agents could arrest individual users, though that would be a departure from their usual focus on large-scale dealers.

In the year before the first stores open, the federal government may choose to challenge the measure in court by arguing that it is pre-empted.

Whatever happens, I sure hope that if you are going to choose to light up in Colorado, just like drinking, that you do it in serious moderation and remember that your body's ability to react slows, your perception changes, and you increase the chances that you might hurt yourself and others. 

Be smart.

As for me, I will refrain from smoking.  Instead, I'll continue to embrace my own drug of choice:  pizza.