Colorado's "joint" committee will meet on consecutive Fridays this month to discuss and make recommendations to the legislature regarding the much discussed implementation of Amendment 64, the referendum that ended pot prohibition in the parts of Colorado that are not part of the contiguous United States of America.
I would like to save the people of Colorado some time and a little money by letting the esteemed committee in on a little piece of reality.
Now, I know that some very sincere advocates for Amendment 64 said that their goal was to have marijuana taxed and regulated just like alcohol. The electorate bought it because I believe these cannabis champions were and may still be convinced that this sort of thing might actually work. As a result, supporters of Amendment 64, from Alma to Zirkel Mine, owe them a debt of gratitude for playing the political game, as it were.
But, as a humble servant to my state and its elected officials, I feel as if I have to tell you that the joint committee's work is appreciated but not necessarily needed.
Some of the recommendations expected to come from the committee include, whether or not to allow out-of-staters to "buy pot in marijuana stores", whether or not to allow employers to fire workers for smoking marijuana off the job, or the discussion about a "hefty" sales and excise tax. The goal of the committee is to find a way to implement Amendment 64, the will of the people.
However, there is an implementation plan already in place and as far as I know its been in place since before I was born. It works like this. You're brother-in-law shows up for a ski week, you call a buddy who knows a guy, you give him a Benjamin and voila, a transaction occurs quickly and quietly, no store front, no worries, no need to modify and somewhat conveniently although here it gets a little grayish for the typical law abiding citizen, no taxes.
Yet, apparently we expect that folks who, for decades perhaps, have been opposing pot prohibition as an unjust law in an act of perceived civil disobedience or anarchy (depending on your views) before it was made "legal" will all of the sudden bypass the simple and familiar way of doing things to rush out and pay "hefty" taxes. Make no mistake; we are talking about people who are comfortable with gray areas.
Oh yeah, make it legal for their employers to fire them for getting high on the weekend? I predict that this will not increase compliance and transparency. I suspect that maybe potheads, or pot smokers to be more politically sensitive, really just want to be left alone to smoke with their buds and buddettes as the case may be. There's really no reason to change anything, per se.
Think I'm exaggerating? Since the passage of Amendment 64 sales of "medical" marijuana are down 40 percent. At first, I thought "Wow! 4 out 10 people have been cured!" But then realized that they probably just went back to getting it from that neighbor they see at the bar.
As to the concern that people will come to Colorado from all over the world to buy marijuana, I have to tell you that people have been coming to our mountains for decades to ski our runs and smoke our bowls. Are you aware of how many "smoke shacks" (semi-permanent structures in the forest built in bounds as shelters in which to get high) there are at our ski resorts? You can find out online. Some sites even include maps.
I say we crowd source policy on this one and let it police itself. The foregone taxes will be made up in the reduction in spending on enforcement and the formation of "joint" committees. Seriously.
Jeff McAbee is a former Summit County resident now living on the Front Range. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Jeff_McAbee.