This is a perspective from Mason Tvert in Colorado.
Amendment 44 poses a simple question: Should the adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana be legal under state law? Or, as our campaign prefers to phrase the question, should adults be punished for making the rational choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer?
On its face, there seems to be no logical reason to oppose this. What we have are two recreational substances. The difference is that alcohol is more addictive and more toxic. It is also associated with aggression and violence, which means it is far more likely to lead to the harm of someone other than the user.
In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 20,000 Americans die annually as the direct result of alcohol consumption. The comparable figure for marijuana: 0.
The marijuana debate has been framed the wrong way in the minds of Americans for too long. When asked to think about the subject, the first reaction for many is, “Why should we add another vice?”
The opponents of marijuana legalization have helped create this mindset by exaggerating and distorting the harms associated with marijuana. The list of discredited assertions about marijuana – from the “gateway” theory to a causal relationship with violence to links to lung cancer – is too long to review in this column.
Accepting marijuana for the relatively benign recreational substance it is, the appropriate question is not, “Why add a vice?” Instead, the question is, “Why prohibit a safer alternative for adults?”
Our opponents have no answer to this direct question. This is because it is not possible to defend allowing adults to use alcohol but not marijuana. One would have to call for a return to alcohol prohibition to make a rational argument against our initiative.
So instead, they want this debate to be about kids. They argue our initiative will make marijuana more available to teens, ignoring the fact that marijuana prohibition has created a situation in which 86 percent of high school seniors now say it is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to get marijuana.
They say we will send the wrong message to kids, hoping no one will notice that they have been so successful in their message that kids think it is safer to binge drink than to use marijuana.
This in no way suggests we advocate teen use of marijuana. But in the real world, kids will be exposed to both regardless of the outcome of this initiative. And if your kids engage in binge drinking, they could die of an overdose. If they use marijuana, they cannot. That’s reality.
Here is the message we should be sending our kids: “The plain honest truth is that marijuana is an intoxicating substance. As a minor, it is simply not appropriate to use any intoxicating substance for recreational purposes. But if you happen to be exposed to these substances, here is how each one can harm you.”
Amendment 44 has nothing to do with kids. If it passes, it will still be illegal for anyone under 21 to possess marijuana, and it will still be a felony to provide a minor with any amount of marijuana. Rates of use will be affected by education and guidance from parents, not marijuana’s legal status for adults.
I urge you to vote yes on Amendment 44 so that we can stop punishing adults in order to deceive children. A new policy based on logic and truth will benefit both groups in the long run.
Mason Tvert is campaign director for SAFER and the lead proponent for Amendment 44. More information on Amendment 44 is available at www.SAFERcolorado.org.