Marijuana: To legalize or not?

Several years into Colorado’s experiment with legalized medical marijuana, advocates of the drug want to decriminalize its use for everyone, regardless of health conditions.

Amendment 64 seeks to apply many of the same laws for alcohol to marijuana possession and use. If it passes, Coloradans 21 and older could legally possess up to 1 ounce of the drug, grow as many as six marijuana plants for their personal use and buy the drug in specially licensed stores.

Local governments could not ban the drug, although using it in public could still be prohibited. The amendment also calls for the Legislature to apply taxes to marijuana that are similar to alcohol excise taxes. No matter how Coloradans vote, the federal government still treats marijuana as an illegal drug.

Pro-pot activist Mason Tvert of Denver is the initiative’s main sponsor. Delegates to the Democratic state convention also endorsed Amendment 64.

Arguments for: Marijuana prohibition has created a black market for the drug, and by legalizing its sale, the state could regulate it and hand the market over to responsible businesses, not illegal street dealers. People who prefer marijuana to alcohol — a legal drug — shouldn’t be penalized, advocates say.

Arguments against: One ounce is a lot of marijuana — about 60 cigarettes. Marijuana is a mood-altering drug that can cause dependence, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Legalization could lead to increased use.

Campaign money: The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project has given $1.1 million to the pro-64 campaign. As a nonprofit, its donors are not public.