Pot, marijuana, cannabis, whatever you call it, the weed is the subject of a citizens’ initiative to legalize the substance in Colorado. As proponents gather enough signatures for the initiative, opponents are gathering their forces to fight the measure, citing the danger to childen, as one of the arguments.

If a citizens’ initiative to legalize marijuana gains enough signatures, Colorado voters can weigh in on the issue in November. While proponents say legalized marijuana would reduce profits for gangs and drug cartels, opponents counter with startling statistics.

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According to the nonprofit Healthy and Drug Free Colorado, if marijuana were legalized, 20 to 30 percent of Colorado’s teenage population would use the drug regularly while addiction rates among youth would rise. On that same note, the organization reports that Colorado currently has the nation’s third-highest rate of marijuana use among youth ages 12-17.

In Teller County, 15 percent of 10th-graders polled in the Healthy Kids Survey for 2011-2012 report using marijuana. In 11th grade, 26 percent use the illegal drug while, by 12th grade, the percentage decreases to 20 percent. The students attend Woodland Park schools.

In a recent meeting of Build a Generation, a group devoted to improving the lives of area youth, the board discussed methods of alerting teenagers to the dangers of marijuana use, from media ads and posters to billboards.
According to Al Born, the county’s coroner and former pharmacist who is on the BAG board, marijuana used by youth causes irreversible damage to the brain. As well, today’s marijuana potency is five times higher than it was in the 1970s, Born said.

Jamie Leitner, who owns the medical-marijuana dispensary, Woodland Wellness Center, is adamant in her support of legalization. “This is America. In my opinion, anybody who smokes cannabis is not preventing anyone from pursuing life, liberty or happiness,” she said.

Rather than hurt her business, legalization would help, she said. “It takes me hours a day to do paperwork for the state,” Leitner said. “I just really don’t see where a weed should be in control of the government.”

Taking a proactive stance on legalization, the statewide Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is vocal in its support.

“Like the folks at Build a Generation, police officers, judges and prosecutors also do not want kids using marijuana,” said Tom Angell, media relations director. “It’s their experience that, seeing how drug dealers don’t ask for IDs, illegal use of marijuana is going up while underage drinking and tobacco use are going down.”

If marijuana were legalized, the state could set policy and enact control over the age limit while collecting sales taxes, Angell said. “Because right now, all the decisions about who to sell to and where are made by criminals,” he said.

As it is, Angell said, prohibition allows gangs, cartels and criminals to control the market, as they did with alcohol prohibition. “Back then you had Al Capone, now you have cartels,” Angell said. “Mexican cartels are operating in at least 1,000 cities within the United States. We feel that, if we could get control and regulate marijuana, we can take the profit away from those cartels and get them out of our communities.”

Former Lafayette judge Leonard Frieling is blunt in his support for legalization. “We take a health issue, drug addiction, and elevate it to a criminal issue. By price-supporting the industry, keeping the price of drugs high and illegal, our government creates the gangs, the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Frieling said. “We fund them, we buy them. So drugs are really a government price-supported industry just like any of the crops the government price-supports.”

Spending money to fight pot is ridiculous, Frieling said. “We need to take money and crime out of the drugs but leave the government in because I don’t know who can regulate it better,” he said. “If I have a choice of a Mexican drug cartel controlling drug distribution and keeping it from the kids, give me the government.”

News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: Colorado
Source: Our Colorado News
Author: Pat Hill
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