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Rocky Mountain high: Regulating pot like alcohol not what it seems
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Question: Should marijuana be treated the same as alcohol?

Colorado voters will soon weigh in on the question thanks to an upcoming ballot initiative in that state aptly named “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”.

Part of the supporters’ argument is that the state’s medical marijuana - similar to California’s and those in 14 other states plus the District of Columbia - is a dismal failure at keeping pot out of the hands of recreational users. It is kind of like arguing gun control laws are a dismal failure at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals so such laws should be broadened to allow anyone to get any firearm they wish as long as they are 21 and there are heavy consequences for their misuse.

Of course, should the ballot initiative succeed in Colorado, there will then be a push not to have the penalties for abuse of marijuana stay on par with the abuse of alcohol. There are already segments of the legalization movement in Colorado as well as the State of Washington where a similar measure is being pushed arguing treating pot like alcohol for crimes such as impaired driving is unfair. The reason, traces of pot stay in the system for much longer times than alcohol.

Oddly enough supporters of the measure use an argument that those against further relaxation of pot restrictions in Colorado use. The two-edged argument is how Colorado’s medical marijuana law is being abused primarily by seemingly healthy males in their 20s and 30s. There are 88,000 medical marijuana cards in Colorado with an extremely high number of them going to males in their 20s and 30s who have gotten doctors to sign off by their contention they suffer from debilitating pain.

How that happens is clear. An Oakland dispensary advertises how one can get a medical marijuana card for $69 in a matter of minutes.

It’s kind of amazing that in order to prescribe any treatment - physical or drug-based - when it involves such pain best practices followed by doctors require a battery of tests that don’t take the patient at their word based out of concern of potential abuse as well as any possible treatment might make matters worse.

It is akin to you going to a doctor, telling him you are in immense pain, and getting him to write a prescription that says you need to consume alcohol to get high and relax. The only difference is you can’t pull the card out when law enforcement tries to make a public intoxication arrest.

Supporters also argue that legalizing marijuana simply stops making criminals out of those who use it anyway for recreational purposes. They also contend it would drastically reduce the criminal activity associated with marijuana sales.

There is a lot of underage drinking that essentially makes teens and those between the ages of 18 and 21 criminals. Carrying out their argument to its logical conclusion if one simply made it legal for 18- to 21-year-olds to drink it would result in drastic drop of crimes such as beer grabs and runs as well as public intoxication within that age group.

Then there is what they view as their ace-in-the-hole argument. Supporters say what they are doing is giving people a legal alternative to alcohol and that prohibition historically doesn’t work when it involves a substance that has wide use.

It is hard to argue against that logic but in order not to be a hypocrite, the same must be said of gun laws and similar legal restrictions on what individuals can own, use or do.

Which brings everything to the bottom line for many libertarians - or at least those who lean heavily that way such as Ron Paul. Was the intent of the constitution to intrude so extensively into what individuals can legally do?

Of course, you can’t have an anything-goes society that doesn’t keep a check on individual rights in as far as they infringe upon or negatively impact the rights of other individuals because then you would not have a civilization.

That is why any movement to legalize marijuana should not be framed as a freedom issue but as one that takes into account everyone’s rights including the ability as individuals or those acting collectively through a business to terminate anyone that tests positive for marijuana on the basis it impairs judgment and safety.


This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.