DENVER (AP) – Marijuana legalization debates in Colorado are picking up as the state moves closer to a vote on making the drug legal for recreational use.
Several marijuana debates were planned this week, from Denver to Littleton and Fort Collins. The legalization measure already has been debated in Grand Junction.
Colorado is one of three states considering ballot measures to legalize pot without a doctor’s recommendation. Colorado is one of 17 states that already defy federal drug law and allow marijuana use for people with certain medical conditions.
On Wednesday, a debate at the University of Denver drew former Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck against a drafter of Colorado’s marijuana measure. Brian Vicente, an attorney who helped write Colorado’s pot proposal, argued marijuana prohibition has been as flawed as alcohol Prohibition was.
“We believe that the government’s wrong on drugs, and specifically, the war on marijuana hasn’t worked,” Vicente said.
Buck countered that marijuana legalization would make it easier for kids to get pot, even though marijuana would be legal only for adults over 21.
“The downside to legalizing marijuana is, it becomes more available … for younger people,” said Buck, who is Weld County district attorney.
Colorado has no statewide races for governor or Senate, so the marijuana question is the top ballot draw beyond the presidential race in November. Wednesday’s pot debate at the University of Denver came less than a week before the presidential candidates are due to debate domestic policy on the same campus.
Vicente repeatedly argued marijuana legalization is a “commonsense issue” and has supporters from both parties. He pointed out that former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, a well-known conservative, has backed the Colorado marijuana measure.
“Conservatives believe in states’ rights. They believe in not wasting money. We are absolutely wasting money with a war on marijuana,” Vicente said.
Buck noted that the marijuana measure has prominent opponents on both sides, too. He said the Democratic governor, as well as the largest state educators’ group, oppose legalized pot.
“There is a huge spectrum of opinion opposed to this,” Buck said.
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
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