Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Examining the 2012 Campaigns to Legalize Cannabis: Colorado. By Patrick Wood

The following blog post was written by Patrick Wood, a student at SUNY- Geneseo in New York. Patrick was an intern for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation during the summer of 2012, and we thank him for his excellent work on this and other projects throughout the summer. This is the first of a three part series written by Patrick. 

The official campaigns of the initiatives to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington all make big claims about what the initiatives will do for their states if they are passed. How do these claims stand up to the facts?

This post examines Colorado’s Amendment 64 as the first of a three part series regarding these cannabis legalization initiatives.

Colorado’s Campaign for Amendment 64 says on its website that the initiative will do four things:

·                     Reduce teen marijuana use
·                     Minimize teen access to marijuana
·                     Reduce exposure to more dangerous drugs
·                     Take Sales Out of the Hands of Criminals

Evidence supporting that legalization would both reduce teen marijuana use and minimize teen access to marijuana:
”If the existing enforcement machinery were [left in place for minors], this smaller market (with older users drained off by the licit supply) might find it hard to function; marijuana from illicit sources might be less  available to kids than it is today”. - Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 164

“Although legalization would make drugs cheaper and more readily available, sales to minors could be discouraged by harsh punishments and by restricting legal sales to designated shops. The present system has not been effective in discouraging drug experimentation by the young in part because suppliers are subject to punishments whether they sell to adults or children. “ Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker in It’s Time to Give Up the War on Drugs

Evidence supporting that legalization would reduce exposure to more dangerous drugs:

“There is no control on the quality of the cannabis sold on the black market. Cannabis may be cut with other, more harmful substances, and its THC content may vary in unpredictable ways. Minors are also able to purchase cannabis in the absence of any age restrictions, and the retail cannabis black market is not separated from that for cocaine and heroin. Individuals seeking to buy cannabis may therefore be introduced to other illicit substances they otherwise would not know how to obtain.” – Wayne Hall “A Cautious Case for Cannabis Depenalization” in Mitch Earleywhine’s Pot Politics  

Evidence supporting that legalization would take sales out of the hands of criminals:

“If, as we have argued, federal marijuana enforcement influences the extent of marijuana consumption only negligibly, while worsening the effects on users of the remaining consumption and increasing the wealth and power of criminal organizations and their use of violence and corruption, then federal marijuana enforcement ought to be cut back.” - Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 163                            

“One is that legalization would save the law-enforcement and social costs of arresting hundreds of thousands of adults each year. (Most proposals would keep marijuana illegal for those under 21.) Another is that pot's underground economy—estimated at $15 billion to $30 billion annually—would be largely wiped out if marijuana were legalized throughout the country.” - Beau Kilmer in “The Marijuana Exception” published in The Wall Street Journal

“A rational [black market marijuana] trafficker ought to fear legalization above all things…” Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 177 


“The high prices due to the [drug] war have provided huge profits for cartels and others who evade detection and punishment. Estimates place the world market value of illegal drugs at several hundred billions of dollars--in the same league as the markets for cigarettes and alcohol.” - Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker

Further information supporting that the Colorado initiative would have numerous benefits is available at:

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