The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce opposes the local ballot measure which would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins, and the Chamber opposes a state ballot measure which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado.
Chamber Opposes Initiated Question 301 Which Would Permit Marijuana Dispensaries
The local measure is called Initiated Question 301. It was petitioned onto the ballot by marijuana advocates. The measure would reverse a ballot measure passed last November by citizens which banned marijuana grow operations and dispensaries in Fort Collins. You can read the detailed changes that would be made to the City Code here.
The Chamber’s position opposing Initiated Question 301 is consistent with its position last fall. The Chamber has two broad roles: advocate for business and free enterprise; champion the overall well-being of the community. In light of those roles, there are four general issues at the heart of the Chamber’s position:
- Marijuana is illegal. Growing and distributing marijuana is against federal law. Condoning those activities locally does not change that fact.
- Community reputation. Fort Collins is known as one of America’s most livable communities. Because other communities in Northern Colorado have banned medical marijuana dispensaries, Fort Collins was becoming known as a major center for marijuana distribution prior to the ban last fall.
- Character of the community. Openly permitting the sale of illegal drugs changes the nature of the community and adversely impacts children. When marijuana dispensaries operated in Fort Collins, drug-related suspensions in Poudre School District grew dramatically.
- Workplace issues. Drug and alcohol use in the workplace have consequences for employers including safety, employee impairment and the resulting lost productivity, insurance, liability and employee relations. A permissive community culture that makes drugs more readily available impacts the workplace.
Chamber Opposes State Amendment 64 Which Would Legalize Marijuana Use in Colorado
Marijuana advocates collected signatures to place this measure on the ballot. It would amend Article 10 of the state constitution to allow the ”˜personal use and regulation of marijuana’ for adults 21 and older. Amendment 64, which would make Colorado one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes; would make it legal for anyone 21 years and older to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana (the equivalent of 60 joints); and would permit opening marijuana retail stores, growing facilities, manufacturing facilities and testing facilities in communities across the state.
There are serious social and policy ramifications of allowing unlimited supplies of marijuana to be used and sold for recreational use. Amendment 64 would have a negative impact on the “Colorado brand” – and be a disaster for employers and our communities. You can read the full text of Amendment 64 here.
Supporters’ basic argument is that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and should be regulated in a similar manner. They argue that it is not addictive, causes no harm to society and allows individual freedom. Another argument is that this is a states rights issue and that federal control undermines Amendment 10 of the U.S. Constitution. Use is going to take place anyway so better to get it out in the open to tax and regulate it. They say that passage of Amendment 64 will allow individuals to have access to a small amount of marijuana for personal use and will not foster an inordinate increase in use of the drug.
Opponents strongly disagree with the contention that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol citing its addictive nature. Among the arguments of Amendment 64 opponents are these: Colorado will be the first and only state to legalize recreational use of marijuana making the state the national capitol for marijuana; marijuana use harms the mental development of children and negatively impacts their education; legalization will promote additional use; impaired driving; legal and safety issues for employers; it conflicts with the federal law; and Colorado’s ”˜brand’ will be damaged. Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC) analyzed the effects of Amendment 64 on employers and found it would drastically curtail an employer’s rights to take action against an employee who tests positive for marijuana. Given the “half-life” of marijuana can be up to 23 days, it will be difficult to determine the exact time of usage by an employee or their level of impairment. It is unclear whether employers could terminate employees for off-the-job use as they can now. Additionally, the amendment is at odds with the Drug-Free Workplace Act and subjects employers to wrongful termination lawsuits. Amendment 64 would put Colorado at a competitive disadvantage vis-Ã -vis employers in states that have not legalized marijuana.
The Chamber opposes Amendment 64 for the following reasons:
- Amendment 64 causes significant legal uncertainty for employers. While marijuana use on the job would not be allowed under Amendment 64, the lingering effects on the job of off-duty use of marijuana are a legal gray area. The ability of employers to terminate employees who test positive for marijuana might be constrained, even if they represent a potential safety risk to themselves and others.
- Even if Amendment 64 passes, recreational use of marijuana is still against federal law. States’ rights arguments are overridden by the fact that the federal government has classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, defined as a drug with a high potential for abuse. Consequently, employers with federal grants or contracts risk losing them if any of their employees test positive for drug use.
- Labor force quality, current and future, will be impacted. It is very likely that legalization will increase drug use. This was demonstrated in Colorado when the state legislature established the dispensary model for medical marijuana. That means that more people will have impaired cognition on the job. Opponents of legalization cite research on the adverse impact on brain development in children including impaired alertness and memory and problem-solving issues.
- Colorado’s brand will be dramatically impacted. Being the first and only state to legalize recreational use of marijuana will forever change how Colorado is viewed.
In summary, the Chamber:
- Opposes local Initiated Question 301, which would allow marijuana grow operations and medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins
- Opposed state Amendment 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado in conflict with federal law.
STATEWIDE ELECTION DAY IS
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Polling places open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(Early Voting Begins October 22, 2012)
Only voters with an active voter registration status will receive a mail ballot. Check your Voter Registration Status at www.larimer.org or call the elections department at (970) 498-7820.
City of Fort Collins Election site: http://www.fcgov.com/cityclerk/elections2012nov.php
Larimer County Elections site: http://www.larimer.org/elections/
Anti-64 campaign: http://www.votenoon64.com/
No on 301 campaign:
President David May’s Blog: http://www.fortcollinschamber.com/index.php?submenu=blog&src=blog
Please note: The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to provide education, information and analysis of local issues and candidates specifically for its members. The opinions expressed in this newsletter are meant to give Chamber members a perspective that advocates for the business community and the city’s overall quality of life, and to give members insight into the potential impacts of local issues and candidates.