Colorado expands on drug experiment
Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana use expands America’s controversial, multi-level experiment in drug use. Washington’s similar law takes effect this year, and many people believe Oregon will not be far behind.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use, including home-grow provisions in 15 states. Many states, including Oregon this year, have dispensary programs for easy access to medical marijuana.
Colorado and Washington, by voter margins of 56-44 and 55-45, respectively, legalized recreational use of marijuana. Both states limit possession to one ounce and prohibit consumption in public. Distribution to minors, trafficking to adults and driving under the influence are banned.
However, unlike Washington, Colorado allows recreational marijuana to be home-grown for up to six plants in an “enclosed, locked space.” And in Colorado, people are allowed to give one ounce of marijuana to another adult.
Washington’s recreational marijuana law prohibits home-growing and creates new provisions for DUI convictions similar to allowable blood-alcohol levels.
All of this unfolds amid the striking paradox of federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance together with heroin, LSD, methamphetamine and others. They are defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse … with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Federal laws against any distribution or use of marijuana, however, will not be pursued against people following new state legalization programs not in conflict with new DEA enforcement priorities. Those include distribution to minors; directing revenue to gangs or cartels; diverting marijuana to other states where the substance is illegal; using legal sales as a cover for trafficking; using violence and/or firearms in cultivation and distribution; driving under the influence; growing marijuana on public lands; possession or use of marijuana on federal property.
The DEA, however, is not buying the pro-legalization arguments. Its position is clear in a highly-documented 2013 report, “The DEA Position on Marijuana,” which addresses marijuana-related concerns about mental and physical health, relationship to crime, stepping-stone drug use and rising use by youth.
“Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins,” the report states, “will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior and drugged drivers.”
Clearly, the DEA hopes this week’s new “Rocky Mountain High” does not spread across the land.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.