Not all Colorado voters are stupid. At least a few are wily enough to recognize that, with a state constitutional amendment process as easy as hanging a candy cane on a Christmas tree, stupid is not submitting your gift list to the Santa of the Ballot Box.
Colorado’s laughable amendment process has:
- denied anti-discrimination protection for gays and lesbians (a Supreme Court under adult supervision rapped our knuckles for that one)
- produced a tangle of mutually contradictory tax provisions that threatens to leave our schools without the funds even to get to the second half of the alphabet
- enveloped our state in a cloud so sublime that, though we may not know what comes after the letter M, we really don’t care
Our most recent experiment in direct democracy started in 2000 with voter approval of an amendment legalizing medical marijuana, which became a reality in 2009 when the Obama administration said it wouldn’t go after pot users. The result has been an explosion of medical marijuana shops and a run on disingenuous euphemisms — Wellness Center, Natural Healing, The Cure, Nature’s Way.
The state government struggled to craft rules for medical pot. With a list of permissible conditions that included something as indefinable, and nearly universal, as chronic pain, what could they do? Not surprisingly, almost as many MDs (Just what the doctor ordered) as supplicants (Just what ordered the doctor) emerged to exchange certificates for cash.
For over three years, I have observed this grand experiment, through my kitchen window, at the Wellness Center opposite. As I stand, washing the dishes, wishing that some magic vapor would also waft me above mundane responsibilities, I see what I see:
Easily 80% of the hundreds of patrons are young males. Probably some really do have chronic pain or one of the other covered maladies, but the SUV disgorging its carefree carload, the jaunty walk across the parking lot, suggests something other than real suffering (as the almost universal cigarette suggests a propensity for addiction). And simple statistics make it improbable that so many, at such an age, are debilitated within the meaning of the law.
It may be that marijuana has legitimate medicinal qualities. But would the FDA ever approve a drug after such flimsy testing? What would the AMA and the ABA say about this vaudeville act of medicine and law?
As if this weren’t enough, our state now has another candy cane on the tree — voter-approved recreational marijuana. Perhaps the results will be positive. Proponents argue that marijuana is harmless and, by analogy to the failed experiment of Prohibition, that legalizing pot takes it out of the hands of criminals. They console us that, in a state where tax policy is a mess, the sales tax from pot brings some fiscal relief and maybe helps our beleaguered schools.
Perhaps. But this latest amendment-by-referendum exercise leaves as many questions unasked, or at least unanswered, as has our medical marijuana experience. What will be the effect on those under the legal age of 21? What are the implications for DUI standards? Will schools find that even the little ones can’t concentrate on the newly-funded Say Hi to the Letter N lesson for all the second-hand smoke that’s seeping in the windows and under the doors?
The only question whose answer we know for certain is, What are they smoking out there?