When Colorado’s Amendment 64, also known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, comes up in conversation, the generational divide really comes into focus. Older people, including my parents, generally seem to be opposed, while my younger peers are usually supportive. Such a gap would typically be a death sentence for any ballot initiative, considering that young people typically have low voter turnout. However, I think Amendment 64 might stand a fighting chance of passing.
Amendment 64 did surprisingly well in a recent Denver Post poll, with about 51% supporting the measure with only 40% opposing it. Interesting to note is that, except among voters age 65 and older, “more voters told pollsters they support the measure than oppose it.” Though polls are hardly perfect in their predictive power, this is a good sign that the measure stands a much better chance than a previous failed attempt to legalize marijuana in 2006.
Another factor acting in Amendment 64’s favor is the enthusiasm of younger voters for the measure. Despite a fairly high degree of apathy and frustration with regard to the presidential election, several of my friends have told me that the primary reason they’ll be voting in November is to support Amendment 64. In addition, the Colorado Democratic Party platform supports the measure while about 1400 delegates at the Colorado Republican State Convention voted in favor of marijuana legalization, though that resolution failed to be adopted into the party platform.
This does not indicate that young people are all potheads who support marijuana legalization so as to ease access to drugs. Instead, a lot of Colorado voters may simply be getting increasingly fed up with the costs of marijuana prohibition. Rather, they likely would welcome the addition of an estimated $5 million to $22 million of extra revenue each year to the state from marijuana legalization and taxation.
Ultimately, marijuana will still be illegal according to federal law. However, that does not mean that Amendment 64 will fail. I think Coloradans are tired of federal government overreach and will make a principled stand on this issue regardless of its practical effects.
Consequently, I am cautiously optimistic about Amendment 64’s prospects. At this point, I would predict it will pass by a very close margin. However, its ultimate practical impact is far more difficult to predict considering the current state of federal drug laws.