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Legalization of Marijuana to Be on the November Ballot in Colorado

Marijuana has been a political issue in Colorado for some time. Colorado is one of the few states that legalized marijuana for medical use, and in November, voters in Colorado will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. If Coloradans vote in favor of the measure, referred to as Amendment 64, Colorado may become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. While using, possessing and growing certain amounts of marijuana may become legal, the law would still limit possessing and cultivating certain amounts. Moreover, the law would stand in direct contrast to federal law, which identifies marijuana as a controlled substance.

The November ballot measure, Amendment 64, aims to treat marijuana like alcohol for adult use. The ballot measure would legalize marijuana for people 21 and older, allow sales of marijuana at special stores and impose a state tax on the sale of the drug. As of the beginning of the summer, the electorate has been in favor of the measure. A poll taken by Rasmussen Reports in June showed 61 percent of Colorado voters supported the legalization and regulation of marijuana. While the measure would essentially decriminalize recreational use of marijuana in comparison to current law, the measure would still impose limits.

Comparing and Contrasting Current and Potential Colorado Law

Under current law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a Class Two petty offense, and a person convicted of the offense faces up to 15 days in jail and a fine up to $100. If Amendment 64 is passed, possession up to one ounce of marijuana would be legal, but possession of one to two would remain a punishable petty offense. Individuals would also be subject to criminal penalties if they sell marijuana under the measure.

If Amendment 64 passes, it will still be illegal for individuals to sell marijuana. Only businesses with appropriate licenses will be allowed to legally sell marijuana. Finally, the measure also limits the growth of marijuana by individuals.

Under the current law, someone who grows just one marijuana plant is subject to a class one misdemeanor and faces a fine up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in jail. If the measure is passed, it would allow individuals to grow up to six plants for personal use; however, growing seven or more plants for personal use would be illegal and an individual who violates the law would face the same punishment as they would today. Under the current law, someone growing seven plants faces up to $100,000 in fines and up to three years in prison. Supporters of Amendment 64 say that while possessing large amounts of marijuana and selling large amounts of marijuana without a business license will remain illegal, the actions will become as uncommon as black market alcohol sales. However, marijuana use, sales and growth will still be subject to federal law.

If Amendment 64 passes it will directly conflict with federal law. For example, the possession of only one marijuana plant is a felony under federal law punishable by a fine up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. The viewpoint held by The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is marijuana use is associated with cognitive impairment, addiction and respiratory disease. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration focuses primarily on large scale drug trafficking. Therefore the implication is that individuals possessing small amounts under Amendment 64 may be left untouched by federal authorities.

If you face drug charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.