A question of legalization

Marijuana amendment leading in poll

Keywords: Poll question,

Opinions differ among county residents and leaders on legalizing the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana which voters will decide on in the November election.

The latest poll shows the state’s marijuana amendment winning by a 47 to 38 percent margin. Amendment 64, which would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, would allow residents to legally use or possess less than one ounce.

Public Policy Polling found these results in a survey of 1,001 likely voters from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.

A similar motion was rejected by Colorado voters in 2006, with 59 percent opposing the legalization to 41 percent in favor.

Will Furse, who is running unopposed for district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District, chose his words carefully when asked his opinion on the marijuana amendment.

He said whatever voters decide in November will be the laws and regulations that he, as the DA, will enforce.

Furse added that he is a big believer in sovereign states or states making their own laws.

He conceded that the case load could be lighter if possession of marijuana and usage were no longer crimes.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell offers strong opinions against legalizing marijuana. He said he hopes voters will not support the amendment that would make Colorado the only state in the union to legalize the drug.

Spruell said he was a little surprised to hear the latest poll numbers because he thought the majority of the state would realize the dangers of Amendment 64 being approved.

If the public votes in favor of the amendment, Spruell does not think federal law will trump state law. Possession or use of marijuana would still be illegal on the federal level.

He said what might happen is a loss of federal funding since Colorado would be doing something federal law opposes.

The sheriff said if the amendment passes, Colorado would be a stopping point for out-of-state residents who would be visiting for only one reason — to purchase marijuana — before traveling back to the state where they live.

Spruell said it would be extremely difficult to stop these people who would be breaking the law once they crossed into another state where possession of marijuana would be a crime.

He also pointed out that the approval of Amendment 64 could result in the drug being sold almost anywhere, including grocery and drug stores.

While the amendment would only allow people 21 and older to purchase marijuana, Spruell thinks children would be affected because parents would feel no need to hide it, which would make it more accessible to kids.

Spruell penned a guest opinion column on Sept. 4 in the Journal on his opposition to legalizing the drug. (Go to http://tinyurl.com/8ruhngx to read the article.)

Spruell said that he thinks marijuana is a gateway or a precursor to more dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. The Montezuma-Cortez School District is and will be watching to see what policy changes it may have to enact if the illegal drug becomes legal.

Superintendent Alex Carter has contacted the Colorado School Board Association to see what they would advise school districts to do about this possible change because any switch would result in a change in policy.

C.J. Murphy, owner of True Earth Medicine, a medical marijuana dispensary in Cortez, said he does not think the legalization of the drug would affect his business much, partly because the law would be so ambiguous with everything being clear.

Murphy said the people benefitting the most would be patients who don’t want to or do not have the money to visit doctors in order to obtain medical marijuana cards, which is the current law in the state.

He said people would be able to come to a facility to purchase the drug with or without a medical marijuana card, so he believes that his business could increase if the amendment passes.

Murphy believes if the amendment is approved the selling of the drug will be treated similar to how liquor stores operate.

“I think it will probably get passed, but it will not have the repercussions many think it will,” he said.

Part of the reasoning, he said, is because medical marijuana legalization is now in its third year, and this has given the government more information on how to get a handle on the drug.

“Colorado is not entering into this (blind),” he said, adding that Colorado passed California as the one leading the charge on the drug initiative due to the laws and how it is controlled.

“There is more legislation here,” Murphy said. “We are leaps and bounds above California.”

michaelm@cortezjournal.com