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KUNC's guide to Election 2012 in Colorado and the Colorado vote. Additional guides include a detailed look at Amendment 64, Amendment 65, and a look at Amendment S. You can find our archive of national election coverage here.

Colorado A Mile High After Voters Approve Amendment 64

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It’s now legal to smoke marijuana recreationally in Colorado. Voters passed amendment 64 making Colorado the first state in the country, along with Washington State, to legalize pot.

Colorado voters defeated a similar proposal 6 years ago, and proponents of Amendment 64 say legalization is a long time coming. Brian Vicente is one of the co-chairs of the campaign to regulate marijuana like alcohol. He says the current marijuana laws don’t work, feed an underground market, and unfairly punish people for using a drug he argues is safer than alcohol.

“Marijuana prohibition has failed. The war on drugs has been a horrible policy disaster. Coloradans have decided to try a new path forward.”

The Denver Post conducted several opinion polls that showed fluctuating support for the amendment, but it passed by a 6 point margin.

Vicente says the outcome is a win-win for everyone.

“This is a good thing for our state to lead on common sense marijuana policy. We’re going to produce a ton of tax revenue for the state. There’s going to be a ton of new jobs, we’re going to redirect law enforcement resource to more serious crime. Colorado can lead the nation.”

But there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the measure. Under the amendment cities and towns would be allowed to ban marijuana sales. And it’s not clear how the state would regulate marijuana retail stores.

Roger Sherman led the No On 64 campaign. He says the measure does not belong in the state constitution.

“Which gives us no flexibility on implementation. So that has been one of our number one concerns.”

There was a broad coalition of opponents from business groups to addiction specialists who worried legalization will cause more young people to smoke marijuana. Sherman also says he thinks marijuana legalization sends the wrong message about Colorado.

“Colorado is known as a healthy state, we attract the best and the brightest. It’s not the kind of issue we want to be known for the pot capitol of the country.”

Proponents significantly outspent opponents in the campaign. And supporters of marijuana legalization say Colorado and Washington are just the first step. But Governor John Hickenlooper, who opposed the amendment, noted that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, he told voters not to break out the Cheetos or Gold Fish too quickly.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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