Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ to decriminalize marijuana in Breckenridge
As medical marijuana “dispensaries” proliferate in the state and county, Breckenridge residents this Election Day will decide whether possessing less than an ounce of the intoxicating weed should be decriminalized. There are plenty of good reasons for doing so, not the least of which is that Breckenridge voters resoundingly approved a similar, statewide measure (Amendment 44) in 2006 (although that one failed statewide). Proponents point to the non-harmful nature of marijuana consumption compared to its more common and socially accepted cousin, alcohol. While police blotters and courts are filled with an extraordinary amount of problems directly related to alcohol abuse, it’s rare to ever find pot at the bottom of things like domestic abuse, bar fights, car crashes and the like.
That’s not to say pot is harmless. Despite statistics showing it to be less addictive than alcohol or even tobacco, many of us have known those who rely on pot as a daily opiate and fall prey to its ambition-depleting effects. Inhaling smoke of any kind is never good for the respiratory system, and there are studies showing other potential health effects from cannabis consumption. The old saw that too much of anything is bad holds true here, though, and the same can be said about many things – from alcohol and tobacco to food and even video games.
But that’s not really the issue here. What the Breckenridge code change would do is one thing: decriminalize less than an ounce for adults. It will not make it more available to minors, won’t make it legal to smoke it on the street, won’t get you out of trouble if you’re stoned behind the wheel. What it says is that if you, as an adult, choose to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, you won’t be busted for it. It’s still a much more stringent law than those that apply to alcohol – a substance you can own as much as you want of and consume in public.
So what about the notion that decriminalizing sends a message to our kids that pot is “OK?” It’s hard not to arrive at that conclusion, the same way it’s tough to condemn drinking outright in a county loaded with bars and liquor stores. Children will always seek to emulate adult behavior, and it’s up to parents to help guide them through the minefield of these temptations. Inherent in the current state of law is the contradiction that the statistically safer drug – marijuana – is illegal while alcohol is legal, widely marketed, even celebrated in various events and festivals. Decriminalizing possession of small amounts by adults, then, makes sense, and we support a “Yes” vote on the Breckenridge question.
One last item remains, though: As the recent pot busts at Arapahoe Basin show, consumption of marijuana can have a greater potential “footprint” than, say, drinking a beer. No one wants to have to walk with their children through a parking lot full of cars emitting clouds of pot smoke, and we’re behind the Summit County Sheriff for cracking down on these folks. Eventually, it seems these small possession busts will be a thing of the past state-wide, which makes us conclude some kind of “nuisance pot smoke” ordinance needs to take their place – roughly analogous to public intoxication statutes. Sure, smoke your weed, but don’t blow it in our faces.
-The Summit Daily Editorial Board consists of Jim Morgan, Alex Miller, Ryan Wondercheck, Matt Sandberg, Morgan Liddick and Howard Hallman.
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