Residents of Boulder County and people throughout the nation now know that on Election Day 2012, Colorado residents voted in favor of Amendment 64, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. That vote will likely have important consequences not only related to the decriminalization of some uses of marijuana, but for the use of police resources as well.
Use of police resources for marijuana arrests
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, the police in the United States arrest someone for marijuana possession every 42 seconds. Of the 1.5 million drug arrests made in the country in 2011, just under half of those arrests were for marijuana. Members of law enforcement nationwide have argued that arrests for marijuana possession are a waste of time and resources that could be better spent on more substantial dangers that threaten citizens. The leader of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition stated that between $1.5 billion to $3 billion taxpayer dollars each year are going toward marijuana-related arrests.
Studies also show that marijuana arrests in Colorado disproportionately involve young people and ethnic minorities. A recent report from the Marijuana Research Arrest Project stated that out of the 200,000 people arrested for marijuana possession in Colorado, a disproportionate number were black and Latino youths. This fact is especially troubling considering that government studies have consistently shown that whites use marijuana at a much higher rate than blacks or Latinos.
What legalization of marijuana means for Colorado
The passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado permits adults age 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Adults of drinking age can also buy up to an ounce of marijuana from sanctioned dispensaries and cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their residences. It is important to remember, however, that selling marijuana without a license or purchasing it from a non-licensed vendor is not legal, and the public use of marijuana also remains prohibited.
Marijuana will now be taxed in Colorado in the same way that alcohol and tobacco currently are. The Associated Press estimates that the tax revenue the state will gain could be between $5 million and $22 million a year.
If you were charged with possession of marijuana prior to Amendment 64 or if you have been charged with possession of another illegal drug, it is advisable to seek out the counsel of an experienced Boulder criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you to prepare a defense and can ensure that the police followed all the mandated procedures when they arrested you.