DENVER – While restaurant owners Wanda James and her husband, Scott Durrah, put the final touches on Jezebel’s, their new southern-infused restaurant scheduled to open next month in Denver, they are campaigning for Colorado’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use and tax the drug like alcohol.
“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,” James said. “There are more ways to relax than just someone having a can of Coors or Jim Beam.”
A proposed amendment to Colorado’s state constitution, Amendment 64, would make it legal for adults over 21 in Colorado to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use. The amendment calls for revenues from marijuana sales and seller license fees to be earmarked for school construction.
A University of Denver poll last week found 50 percent of Colorado voters say they plan to support the initiative. But educators, doctors, businesses, and law enforcement officials are pushing back.
Colorado is already one of 17 states that allow marijuana for medical use. There are more than 500 dispensaries statewide and carefully-monitored growers in an industry which supports more than 4,000 jobs
More than 100,000 Coloradans are registered to purchase medical marijuana, with the majority residing in the Denver metropolitan area. The business has paid an average $11 million dollars into state taxes and fees over the past two years, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The independent Colorado Legislative Council estimates the law would generate an additional $5 million to $22 million in revenue.
“Drugs and kids don’t mix,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, vice president of the Colorado Education Association, who rejects the idea of building schools with drug money.
“As an educator and as a parent, I am not comfortable supporting something that I know is harmful to children,” Baca-Oehlert said. “Marijuana has impacts, negative impacts, on attention span, brain development, all of these things that impact learning.”