Like door-to-door preachers warning us of the threat of hell, fire, and damnation, the prohibitionists seem never to give up their fight against personal freedom. Someone, somewhere must be enjoying themselves, and the evangelizers can’t rest while some of us are enjoying marijuana.
With the legalization victories in four states and the District of Columbia starting in 2012, those of us who favor legalization have been on a political roll. And there is good reason to be optimistic about the likelihood of adding a number of additional states to the list in November.
But that success needs to be seen in perspective. While we have been winning most of these voter initiatives, the outcomes have been relatively close. We won with 55% support in Colorado, 56% in Washington, 56% in Oregon, and 53% in Alaska. Only in the District of Columbia was the legalization vote overwhelming (70%).
So we are clearly winning, but our opponents continue to enjoy the support of a large segment (although no longer a majority) of the voters. And they are not giving up the fight.
Quite the contrary. So it’s important we legalizers continue our reform efforts as well, full speed ahead.
Amendment 139 in CO
The latest example of this is Amendment 139 in CO, where opponents to legalization have begun circulating petitions to qualify a voter initiative for the ballot that would significantly limit the choice and quality of marijuana products available in that state. The proposal is being sponsored by a group calling itself the Healthy Colorado Coalition, recently established by a handful of anti-marijuana zealots specifically to run this initiative.
They first tried to convince the state legislature to impose potency limits, an effort that failed, and likely would have been enjoined by the courts because language in the initial 2012 marijuana legalization initiative (A-64) expressly permits all forms of marijuana.
So now they are attempting to amend the state constitution.
Potency Limits and “Reefer Madness” Propaganda Required
Amendment 139 would limit the potency of cannabis products to 16 percent THC. According to a state study, currently, the average potency of Colorado pot products is 17.1 percent for marijuana and 62.1 percent for marijuana extracts.
The amendment would further require absurd, unscientific warnings on pot packaging claiming those who use marijuana risk “permanent loss of brain abilities” and “birth defects and reduced brain development.” Talk about “reefer madness!”
If passed by voters, the proposed amendment, according to one industry spokesperson, would eliminate as much as 80% of the products currently on the shelves in the state.
Industry Mounts Opposition Effort
Fortunately, a new coalition calling itself the Colorado Health Research Council (CHRC) has surfaced to fight A-139, funded by the legal marijuana industry in CO. According to reports in The Cannabist, CHRC has raised more than $300,000 for its campaign against Amendment 139. They are poised to protect their new industry, and this is one of those times when consumers and the industry can and should work cooperatively. The proposal would be harmful to both constituencies, limiting the choice of legal marijuana products available to consumers, and severely constricting the current robust legal industry in Colorado.
As I have acknowledged in earlier columns, I am personally an old-fashioned marijuana smoker who enjoys rolling and smoking joints. I smoke high-quality marijuana, so I certainly enjoy a good high. That’s the point, after all. But I prefer the high from smoking flowers to the high from edibles or concentrates.
But that just reflects my personal taste; it is not based on any perceived danger from the more potent concentrates. I’ve seen absolutely no science indicating those using the more potent forms of marijuana are at greater risk.
The best news about imbibing too heavily in marijuana (for those who may occasionally do that) is that one cannot overdose. That is, unlike alcohol, no amount of marijuana or active marijuana ingredients will cause death, or even lead to serious harm. It is certainly possible to have an unpleasant experience — a “bad trip” — especially if one is an inexperienced user and doing edibles, but there is no permanent harm to the individual.
No Valid Public Health Reason To Limit THC
So there is no valid public health basis to arbitrarily limit the maximum level of THC permitted in marijuana products in legal states. The proponents are selling a solution to a problem that does not exist.
Alcohol drinkers very quickly learn the difference between drinking hard liquor versus drinking wine or beer, and they learn to exercise more moderation with the stronger forms of alcohol.
The same is true with marijuana smokers and those who use marijuana concentrates. The key is taking personal responsibility for your conduct, regardless of whether we are talking about marijuana or alcohol.
It’s Important That We Defeat A-139
So let’s help the public understand that responsible use is the key to healthy marijuana use, not unnecessary and arbitrary limits on strength, quantity or availability.
And let’s make a special effort to demonstrate by our personal conduct what we mean by “responsible use.” Let’s not provide our opponents with any fodder to feed these misguided efforts to limit the quality or quantity of marijuana products available legally to adults.