Chamber Opposes Marijuana Ballot Measures

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 Chambers 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 Chambers 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.

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 Colorados brand will be damaged.

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 adversely 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.
  • Colorados brand will be damaged. 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, and the Chamber opposes state Amendment 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado in conflict with federal law.