Don’t plan on bringing “legal” pot to the Cowboy State

If Colorado voters approve an amendment to legalize marijuana at the polls Tuesday, they won’t be able to count on their neighbors to the north to turn a blind eye to pot possession there.

If passed, Colorado Amendment 64 — “The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012” — would make it legal for persons 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, leading to speculation that residents of surrounding “dry” states would then drive into Colorado to buy pot and carry their stash back across the state line.

Cheyenne, Wyoming sits just eight miles north of the Colorado border. “I guess the main thing people need to understand is that states are their own jurisdictions,” Laramie County Prosecutor Craig Jones told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle earlier this week. “If Colorado makes it legal, that doesn’t mean it is in Wyoming.”

Likewise, Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak told reporters that he plans to arrest pot-toting folks “and take them to jail just like we would anyone else.”

Both men said they are concerned about the possibility of people driving stoned, and they predict an increase in the number of DUIs in Wyoming if the amendment should pass.

The intent of the people who drew up Amendment 64 is to see that marijuana is regulated in much the same way as is alcohol, up to and including permitting the state legislature to tax wholesale sales. The first $40 million in revenue raised annually by the tax on marijuana would be given to a construction fund for public schools. The amendment also provides for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores.

The full text of the 3,666-word initiative is exhausting in its scope, covering such issues as the licensure to operate a “marijuana establishment” and addressing the rights of medical marijuana patients (“Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit any privileges or rights of a medical marijuana patient, primary caregiver, or licensed entity …”).

The amendment is also clear as to what will not be tolerated: Selling, distributing or transferring marijuana to minors would remain illegal, as would driving under the influence of marijuana. Nor will employers be required to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or affect the ability to employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

Polls, though inconclusive, show that “yes” voters may have an edge, but the issue, as can be expected, remains extremely controversial. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who has said the amendment would turn Colorado into “the marijuana capital of the country,” claims that a yes vote will cost the state money and jobs and ruin the state’s reputation as a whole.

Interestingly, the Denver Post declared in an editorial that although its editorial board believes the possession and use of marijuana should be legal, readers were encouraged to vote against the amendment because the board feels that drug policy should not be a matter of constitutional importance.

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