I received my ballot yesterday. I can’t wait to move beyond this bizarre election. November 9th can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, I feel compelled to speak out against a pair of misguided local ballot measures.
Ballot Question 200
Shall the Pueblo County Code be amended by Ordinance to prohibit all licensed Retail (recreational) Marijuana Establishments in all areas under the licensing jurisdiction of Pueblo County, by requiring all existing Retail Marijuana Testing Facilities, Retail Marijuana Cultivation Facilities, Retail Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities, and Retail Marijuana Stores to close by October 31, 2017 and by immediately prohibiting Pueblo County from approving all new licenses for these Facilities? ______YES/FOR __X__NO/AGAINST
Question 300 (Prohibition of Marijuana Establishments)
Shall Chapter 11 of Title XI of the Pueblo Municipal Code be amended by the addition of a new Section and the adoption of Ordinance No. 9009 prohibiting new Retail Marijuana Establishments and ceasing the operation of all currently licensed Retail Marijuana Establishments by October 31, 2017?_______YES/FOR __X__NO/AGAINST
Here are eight reasons to Vote NO on Ballot Initiative 200 and 300.
- Marijuana legalization has NOT caused an increase in crime. Despite the propaganda from Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo to the contrary there is no credible evidence, none whatsoever, that legalization of marijuana has caused any increase in crime in Pueblo County.
- Addiction to prescription pain killers and heroin is the real drug problem and hospitals are complicit in its rise. Ironically, if there has been an increase in criminal activity, it is far more closely linked to the dramatic rise in heroin use. I say this is ironic because our 2 hospitals, Parkview and St. Mary Corwin are responsible for putting Initiative 200 and 300 on the ballot. They are also at least partially responsible for the growing heroin addiction problem in our community due to their dangerous habit of over prescribing opiate-based pain killers like Oxycodone.
- Marijuana prohibition is a form of institutional racism. Marijuana and hemp were important crops in the US until racist Americans opposed to immigration from south of the border began to use anti-marijuana propaganda as an excuse to prosecute Mexican immigrants in the early 20th Century. I’m not suggesting local proponents of 200 and 300 are racists. But, they’re deploying the same tactics and propaganda used in the early 1900s to criminalize marijuana, providing a convenient tool for incarcerating people of color. One of Pueblo’s greatest strengths is our Hispanic population and our community’s many links to Mexican culture. Why then would Pueblo choose to re-enact a racially motivated prohibition, originally designed to criminalize Mexican immigrants?
- Alcohol, tobacco… heck, even fructose all pose greater public health risks than marijuana. No one dies of an overdose from smoking marijuana. If we’re going to restrict freedoms based on risks to public health we need to be consistent. Check out the CDC’s website and read about the public health impacts of legal substances like alcohol and tobacco versus marijuana. It’s not even close.
- Pueblo’s economy is finally showing signs of life thanks in part to investments in the marijuana industry. The positive impact of increased tax revenue is just a small piece of the puzzle. Ask local realtors how the real estate market would be impacted by a return to prohibition. Ask the Chieftain and the Pulp how they’ll do without ad revenue from retail marijuana businesses. Ask commercial property owners if they prefer higher vacancy rates. Ask employees working in one of the many new marijuana businesses how they feel about looking for a different source of income.
- Prohibition of retail marijuana will not reduce consumption or improve public health. People will continue to use marijuana either way. This ballot measure won’t change that a bit. If you want to have a meaningful impact on public health, maybe consider making marijuana “edibles” illegal because of the risk to children and others who might unknowingly consume marijuana. Now that might make sense. Our medical community knows how to use a scalpel; why are they deploying a chainsaw?
- Even if the Ballot measure passes it will be challenged in court. The people who have invested large amounts of money to become licensed marijuana business owners will have a legitimate claim to financial restitution. Do you think they’ll just close shop and walk away? Who’s going to compensate them for the bait and switch? Will the hospitals pick up the tab? Of course not, taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. And local government services will suffer deficits in the meantime. Furthermore, a long and drawn out court battle will keep a cloud of uncertainty over Pueblo County’s economy. Investors are already in a holding pattern waiting to see if we have enough sense to take their money.
- Prohibition will advertise that Pueblo suffers from a bad case of economic illiteracy. The rest of the State and everyone in the U.S. laying the groundwork for the new multi-billion dollar cannabis industry will understand clearly that, despite 30+ years of economic stagnation in Pueblo, we don’t want prosperity. Not here. We’re too provincial for innovation. We’re too ignorant to recognize the potential benefits of making Pueblo a hub for cannabis research and industry. We’re too afraid of taking risks. We’re too stupid to grab an economic life-jacket even when it’s already securely fastened around our chest.
I know many people in Pueblo who are on the other side of this issue. I respect them. And I think I understand their point of view. They’ve been told their whole life marijuana is bad and wrong.
But clearly Marijuana is no more harmful than many legal substances. Scientists and physicians know this is true. The public has figured it out too. It’s game over for the prohibitionists. Legalized cannabis in the U.S is now inevitable. We can either prosper thanks to the head start we’ve been given in Colorado or we can let other communities reap the economic rewards.
If you’re on the fence on this issue, at the very least give it more time before succumbing to baseless fear mongering from the political conservatives fighting a culture war. Don’t chop down Pueblo’s first shoots of economic growth in a generation before we even see what sort of flower might bloom.
Vote NO on 200 and 300.
Thanks for reading.