Bipartisan desire for grown-up talk about drugs not likely to be fulfilled

In an oddly rational television conversation on politics, the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara hosted state Sen. John Morse and Attorney General John Suthers in an exploration of sentencing reform this weekend on the Institute talk show Independent Thinking. The last segment touched on drugs. Here suddenly you had three men, a libertarian, a Democrat and a Republican all agreeing that drug sentencing should be reworked to reflect reality and that legalization of marijuana for recreational use should be seriously considered in order to lighten the burden on the courts and to generate much-needed tax revenue.

“Let me dance on something that people don’t want to talk about… California is looking at legalizing pot…. Are we coming to the point where we can actually have an adult conversation about this or is this still something we can’t look at?” asks Caldara.

Sen. John Morse on Independent Thinking. Click the photo to watch.
Sen. John Morse on Independent Thinking. Click the photo to watch.

Some highlights:

MORSE: The next session or two are going to be fascinating because thanks to the economy the whole world has shifted and changed…

CALDARA: If I were in your shoes, as a politician, I wouldn’t say that [I was for legalization] because I would win nothing for it. It’s like “You know, the pot guys are on my team” that’s not going to help me win.

SUTHERS: I don’t know, they all own a medical marijuana dispensary and maybe… In fact, they may be opposed [to legalization] because they’re making so much money on medical marijuana.

CALDARA: I think the budget problem allows us to talk about things that during good times we never talk about, including sentencing reform… what would it take for us to have a conversation on decriminalization of drugs. It seems to me that that’s at the heart of all of this.

MORSE: we’ll see. I think it will be lower on the priority list of how do we change the way government functions in Colorado given this budget crisis. We are going to have to rethink that from top to bottom. I mean this $1.3 billion is huge. It’s the equivalent of closing one or two out of five public schools throughout the state, which we can’t do but so it’s going to mean we have to have a whole conversation about everything.

Morse and Suthers are members of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. The Commission meets monthly and is tasked with exploring recidivism reduction initiatives and cost-effective budgeting of the state’s criminal justice funds. The next meeting is scheduled for November 13.

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