Amendment 64: Better for Business or Mixed Message?
KREX News Room
DENVER- With less than a month to go before election day one of Colorado's most heated issues continues to draw attention.
Amendment 64 would regulate marijuana like alcohol.
While some say it would make for better business, others say it sends the wrong message about the state.
Wanda James is readying her new Denver restaurant. She and her husband Scott once ran a marijuana dispensary and marketed foods with marijuana in them.
Now, they're active supporters of Amendment 64, which would make it legal in Colorado for adults over 21 to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use
"If you would like to come home and have a joint and relax with your wife or your husband, I see absolutely no issue with that whatsoever. There are more ways to relax than just someone having a can of Coors or Jim Beam," explained Wanda James.
Colorado is already one of 17 states that allow marijuana for medical use.
With more than 500 dispensaries and carefully-monitored growers, the business pumps $11 million dollars a year into Colorado state coffers.
Proponents argue taxes from wider marijuana use would generate millions more for school construction.
However, that argument falls flat with Amie Baca-Oehlert, vice president of the Colorado Education Association.
Baca-Oehlert says legalizing marijuana contradicts the anti-drug message taught in schools. "Marijuana has impacts, negative impacts, on attention span, brain development, all of these things that impact learning," she explained.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and law enforcement officials worry about a potential conflict with federal laws that make possessing or growing marijuana a crime.
Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink fears legalization will attract outsiders to grow here and sell to the rest of the country. "I lived in Colorado most of my life, and this is not what I think Colorado is all about is, to become the marijuana capital of the United States."
Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Colo., supports the idea of treating marijuana like alcohol. A former drug counselor, Singer has seen the effects of drug abuse, but he says most people who use marijuana do so responsibly. "Marijuana has a potential just like any other drug to hurt people, and people need to make that informed decision, but this is not cocaine, this is not meth, this is not heroin," he said.
A win in Colorado could boost legalization efforts elsewhere, while a loss would be a sign that marijuana use is one right many Americans are not willing to grant.
Locally, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office has spoken out against the amendment.
Barry Petersen of CBS News in Denver contributed to this report.