Council, commissioners oppose marijuana amendment

DANIEL CHACÓN AND BOB STEPHENS Updated: October 9, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: October 9, 2012

The Colorado Springs City Council and the El Paso County Commissioners on Tuesday gave a thumbs down to Amendment 64, the statewide measure that would regulate marijuana like alcohol.

But for council, it wasn’t without controversy.

Calling Amendment 64 “a bastardization of the Colorado Constitution, the council voted 5-1, with council President Pro Tem Jan Martin opposed and City Councilman Tim Leigh refusing to vote on the matter.

“I wasn’t afraid of medical marijuana dispensaries, and I’m not afraid of this bill,” Martin said.

Leigh wanted to abstain, but council rules prohibit abstentions. Leigh excused himself, saying the council shouldn’t be making pronouncement or crafting resolutions for statewide politically-charged issues.

“The easy vote today would be to vote with the majority of my co-councilors and support the resolution against Amendment 64,” Leigh said. “But that’s the hypocritical and intellectually dishonest vote. Frankly, being honest, we should admit the war against drugs is a failed war (and) that we’re spending billions every year attempting to prevent adults from using substances that are arguably less harmful than alcohol — the real gateway drug.”

City Councilwoman Brandy Williams left early, leading some to speculate that she didn’t want to vote on a hot-button issue. But she said later that she had to attend another meeting and that she would’ve voted with the majority.

City Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko was out of town.

Several speakers encouraged council to shoot down the resolution. Others, including District Attorney Dan May, urged support.

“Amendment 64 is bad public policy. It’s bad for Colorado, and it’s bad for our youth,” he said.

“It allows anyone from the world to come here and buy it or to sell it to anybody out in the world of unlimited amounts,” he said. “There is no one-ounce limit for retail sales to consumers.”

El Paso County commissioners voiced unanimous opposition to Amendment 64.

“It’ll be the genie out of the bottle,” May told commissioners.

Commission chairwoman Amy Lathen, sponsor of the resolution, said passage of the amendment on Nov. 6 would have a negative economic impact.

“Marijuana and other drugs help decimate part of the work force and it would just get worse,” Lathen said. “Besides, marijuana use is federally illegal. It would affect the money that comes here from the federal government for all sorts of things. It would be a big states rights issue.

“Forget all that and look at what it would do to our young people. Increase accessibility and acceptability, and you increase usage. Why on earth are we doing this?”

Sheriff Terry Maketa said: “The thing that scares me most is Internet sales. Underage kids could just check the box that they are 21 and complete the transaction. I’m concerned about abuse by our youth, which could lead to crime.”

But others say alcohol is more dangerous.

More than 300 doctors across Colorado – including 27 in Colorado Springs – endorsed Amendment 64 on Tuesday.

“In my 35-plus years as an emergency physician, I saw hundreds of injuries, accidents, and deaths due to alcohol, but virtually none associated with marijuana. It is time to embrace a more commonsense policy, and stop criminalizing adults for using a substance less harmful than alcohol,” Dr. Larry Bedard, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in a statement.

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