Amendment 64: Feds will threaten lawsuit or arrests to stop implementation, predicts DU prof
|A portrait of Sam Kamin.|
"It's true they could have done this two or three years ago -- that we've had hundreds of retail stores open up since 2009, and they haven't done that," he acknowledges. "They haven't sued to enjoin Colorado from doing that, and they haven't arrested people for doing that. But I could see the federal government telling us, 'We said all along that noncommercial medical use is fine, but this is a totally different thing. There are 100,000-some-odd medical-marijuana card holders in Colorado, but there are four million adults. And the difference between 100,000 and four million adults, plus tourists, is something we can't turn a blind eye to. We gave you a chance to regulate yourself, and you obviously can't, so we're going to come in.'"
Likewise, Vicente believes that the approval of a similar marijuana measure in Washington state would provide an additional argument against the Justice Department lowering the boom. But while Kamin concedes that "it might complicate things from a manpower standpoint," Washington's vote "doesn't really change anything from a legal perspective."
If the federal government wants to act, what are its options?
"There are a couple of things they can do," Kamin notes. "They could simply start arresting people -- close down for-profit centers, and make life more miserable for people running these businesses. People say they don't have the manpower to arrest all of us, but they don't need to arrest everybody. If they shut down one and you're down the block, you'll get the idea."
As for marijuana users, federal agents "could go so far as to start enforcing the Controlled Substances Act for possession -- but they're never going to do that," he feels. "Their interest is in the people making money. The large-scale commercial industry makes them squeamish, and that's what we're supposed to authorize come 2013 or 2014. So unless there's a huge change in policy at the federal level, it's hard to believe we'll go from hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries to potentially thousands of recreational centers.
"The federal government has been mildly tolerant of medical marijuana, but I can't imagine them saying, 'Go ahead and sell ounces of marijuana to anyone who walks in the door.' I would be surprised if they permit us to fully implement Amendment 64 without a fight."
Not that such a conflict would necessarily resemble an armed invasion of either attorneys or law enforcers.
Continue for more of our interview with DU professor Sam Kamin about Amendment 64.