Society has embarked on the road to legalizing marijuana, and there’s no turning back.
That’s the “call it like it is” assessment from Ben Cort, a Colorado resident who left a full-time job in the peer recovery-based enterprise he co-founded in order to mobilize addiction treatment centers and others against Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization measure that Colorado voters came to approve earlier this month.
Cort believes public opinion on marijuana policy is changing toward legalization and regulation. He suggests that for stakeholders in other states who encounter legalization initiatives, it might ultimately prove wise not to oppose them out of hand, but to ensure that proper regulatory structures are in place to control manufacturing and sales. Unfortunately, Cort says that while this year’s Colorado ballot initiative was named the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, the language of the amendment comes up woefully short in establishing proper regulatory mechanisms.
“No one in Colorado even knows what we passed yet,” says Cort, who is in long-term recovery and smoked marijuana in his substance-using days. “There will be an increase in potency, a decrease in the perception of risk [from using marijuana], and an increase in youth use.”
While the initiative prohibits marijuana sales and distribution to minors, Cort sees several reasons why more Colorado youths inevitably will start using the drug in the coming years. Access will expand greatly because of several provisions included in (or omitted from) the ballot language, he says. He says the measure sets limits on possession (amounts up to one ounce) but imposes no restrictions on how much an individual can grow.
Also, the lack of a residency provision in the amendment language means that outsiders conceivably could purchase and even cultivate marijuana in the state, says Cort.
In addition, he envisions another boom in retail marijuana sales in the state, following what occurred from the advent of a retail market around medical marijuana in Colorado. “Next year we’ll start to see the retail side—that’s when we’re going to realize what we have done,” he says.
Other aspects of the approved ballot language that concern Cort include that any proceeds going to the state from marijuana industry activity would finance school construction rather than marijuana regulation.
About 54% of those who cast ballots on Amendment 64 this month voted in favor. “They had a phenomenal machine,” Cort says of legalization advocates.
Facilities spoke out
Cort, who co-founded Phoenix Multisport, which promotes a peer network in recovery through sports/fitness activities, says he had little trouble convincing addiction treatment centers in the state that Amendment 64 constituted bad policy. “It was pretty easy—they recognized it for what it was,” he says.
It has been said that in past debates about drug legalization around the country, some addiction treatment centers have hesitated to get involved—partly because to them, their work remains the same regardless of whether the substance that brings someone to treatment is legally or illegally obtained. But Cort says only one center that he contacted declined to participate in the anti-amendment effort.