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Legalizing Marijuana in Colorado: How’s That Shakin’ Out?

In November, the people spoke on Election Day, legalizing marijuana in Colorado and also in Washington.  Here’s an update if you’re wondering just what’s up since then.

The vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado did not pass with overwhelming support from the major cities within the state. The bulk of the vote came from centers of tourism such as Aspen, Vail, and Telluride, where over 70 percent of voters approved the measure. In urban or conservative areas, the vote was down: In El Paso County, it passed by only 10 votes.

Washington Versus Colorado

The nation is watching both states closely, but there are some significant differences between the laws passed in Washington compared to those legalizing marijuana in Colorado. In Washington, the measure approved use starting just a month after the election, even though the state has a year to set up its regulatory system. 

In Colorado, officials are ahead of the game in that area. They have broader experience from the medical marijuana dispensaries that already exist.  However, the vote was not certified until a month after the election, and the governor has until January 6 to sign off on it. The process of recreational use will not get underway until 2013.

In both states, most law enforcement officials are backing down from arresting people for possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia. They figure, what’s the use? However, in Colorado, some small towns and counties are enacting their own legislative bans against recreational marijuana use. The people just don’t want it in those places and they will not make it easy for those who want to cash in on this newly approved crop.

That’s just fine with black market distributors, who oppose the new laws because legalized marijuana cuts down on their business.  Whoever would have imagined that small town mayors and international drug kingpins would stand shoulder to shoulder on anything?

Workplace Drug Screening

Still, some people are hesitating to light up because they worry about losing their jobs.  Many companies with offices in multiple states mandate drug screening for job applicants, for employees chosen randomly, or for employees involved in workplace accidents. What if someone lights up at home and then is screened on the job? Will he lose his job if the company implements a broad nationwide policy against drug use?


Concern About Addiction and Crime

In Weld County, Colorado, legalized marijuana is not yet a done deal. According to Whitney Phillips in The Greeley Tribune, reprinted on the Huffington Post, district attorney Ken Buck stands on his commitment to continue prosecuting cases of marijuana—maybe even after the amendment takes effect in 2013. His decision depends on the federal government’s awaited stance on the issue.  Amendment 6 of the United States Constitution states that federal law is the “Law of the Land,” superseding the laws of the individual states.

Buck states that most marijuana use comes to the attention of law enforcement officials through a related crime, like assault or driving while intoxicated. He points out that an ounce of marijuana, the amount approved by the new law, produces up to 60 joints, and that’s a lot of weed.

The connection between marijuana use and crime is unavoidable. Law enforcement officials like Buck will continue to press arrested users to seek treatment if abuse issues seem relevant. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the THC in marijuana crosses the barrier between the lungs and the bloodstream and reaches the brain quickly. People who use marijuana chronically have demonstrated a poor ability to retain information for weeks after use has stopped.

Of adults who use, 9 percent become addicted. That figure leaps to 17 percent among those who start using as teens. For daily users, from 25 to 50 percent become addicted.

Read More About It:

NIDA Drug Facts on Marijuana: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.

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