Marijuana growing pains
When 55 percent of Colorado voters cast ballots last year to legalize limited recreational use of marijuana, some people might have been laboring under the misconception that we as a state, finally, had moved beyond the failed prohibition-style approach to cannabis regulation.
One need look no further than Garfield County for abundant evidence to the contrary.
On town council after town council, trustees and councilors have been grappling with how to implement Amendment 64’s provisions. The process has exposed sometimes sharp political divisions and a stubborn, lingering resistance to allowing the will of the majority to manifest itself with respect to legalized marijuana. That is perhaps nowhere more evident than among the Garfield County commissioners.
In late August, the commissioners voted 2-1 to ban recreational pot businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. And they did so despite the fact that 57 percent of the electorate countywide voted for Amendment 64 (a higher winning percentage, by the way, than either commissioner in question achieved during that same election).
In a representative democracy, however, it is the commissioners’ prerogative to take actions such as this. There is no law or incontrovertible rule that says elected officials must blindly obey the will of their constituents as expressed in a popular vote.
Conversely, nothing compels the electorate to be happy about it.
Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin voted for the ban. And the former school administrator and policeman, respectively, were planted firmly in the saddles on their high horses when they did it.
Said Samson, in part, “It is not good for our society to have such things.” Martin characterized it as “a temptation, or a dare, and to allow this is not a good signal to send.”
This nanny-style approach to local governance might offend some voters who consider themselves quite capable of navigating the thorny thicket of marijuana legalization without benefit of a moral compass provided courtesy of the county commissioners. It might strike others as a tad antediluvian.
Then again, some would argue it was a sorely needed principled stand, politically risky though it may have been to flout the will of the voters, and thank goodness for these men of character to stem the tide of libertine excess washing over the state and county.
Still others might suggest we refer the issue to the voters. Uh, wait, didn’t we just do that?
Anyway, for his part, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, “We had a very strong indication from our voters that they want to see us move forward on this. We are a representative government.”
Indeed we are. That means we elect officials to do our bidding by exercising their judgment, which we tend to trust until they give us reasons not to, and then sometimes we re-elect them anyway.
In light of debates raging in council chambers from Rifle to Carbondale, it’s clear that when it comes to recreational marijuana, despite the “will of the people,” many elected officials around Garfield County remain firmly ensconced in the pot prohibition camp.
One observer recently suggested that all this obsessive hand-wringing over marijuana use is like puberty — we’ll eventually outgrow it. In Garfield County, it appears we’re not quite ready to forsake the raging hormones.
Editor’s note: We’re happy to report that our most recent solicitation for reader representatives for the editorial board has borne fruit. The Post Independent editorial board consists of managing editor Drew Munro, sales manager Julie Carruth, news editor Charlie Wertheim, and reader representatives John Palmer of No Name and Jim Ingraham of Glenwood Springs.
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