Ken Buck to lead campaign against marijuana legalization

Ken Buck is back, and he has his work cut out for him. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck will spearhead the campaign against legalization of marijuana. Buck, a Republican, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, losing to appointed incumbent Michael Bennet.

The announcement that Buck would be the public face of the opposition was greeted with enthusiasm by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which also welcomed news of a new poll showing legalization favored by a large majority of Colorado voters.

“We welcome the news that Ken Buck has been selected to be one of the public faces of their campaign,” said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesperson Betty Aldworth speaks to the media earlier this year in Denver. (Kersgaard)

“From the day we turned in our signatures, we have been talking about the importance of reaching out to female voters. We know the decision about whether to continue the policy of marijuana prohibition is a very personal one for many women. As Mr. Buck’s poor performance among women voters in his recent senate bid demonstrated, he is challenged in terms of connecting with women and respecting their concerns. I don’t believe the women of this state will be swayed by Ken Buck telling them how they should vote on this issue. They will consider the facts and make thoughtful decisions on their own. We are comforted by the fact that if as many women support Amendment 64 as opposed Ken Buck in 2010, we will cruise to victory in November,” Aldworth said.

Buck’s narrow come-from-ahead loss to Bennet came largely–but not entirely–as a result of his failure to connect with women. He also alienated LGBT voters by comparing homosexuality with alcoholism on national television. He welcomed the campaign support of leading climate-change denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), questioned the separation of church and state and struck out with Hispanic voters.

“Mr. Buck joins ‘volunteer’ professional spokespeople and staff who have been trying to make their campaign about youth. We are happy to have that discussion. The simple truth is that marijuana prohibition is the worst possible system in terms of protecting the health and safety of teens. It is easier for teens to find and purchase marijuana on the streets than it is for them to purchase alcohol, and the marijuana being purchased is unregulated, not tested, and not labeled. To make matters worse, those teens who are inevitably going to use marijuana must seek it out in an underground market where they might be exposed to more dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. We want to take marijuana out of that market, and establish a controlled system where sales are strictly limited to those 21 and older and vendors demand proof of age. Our opponents want to keep the current, failed system,” Aldworth said in a press release.

The news of Buck joining the anti-legalization campaign came just as a Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters finds that Coloradans favor legalizing marijuana–as long as it is regulated similarly to alcohol and cigarettes–by a whopping 61 percent to 27 percent.

“The vast majority of Coloradans appear to be ready to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a more responsible system in which it is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol,” said Aldworth in another press release.

“Our current system of prohibition is the worst possible system when it comes to keeping marijuana away from teens. It is driving marijuana into the underground market where proof of age is not required and where other illegal products might be available.

“By regulating marijuana like alcohol, we can better control it and generate significant and much-needed tax revenue for the state. We can also stop making adults criminals simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a study late last week showing that more teenagers today smoke marijuana than tobacco cigarettes.

The High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey
documented that today significantly more teens in the United States are using marijuana than cigarettes. Just more than 23 percent of high school students nationwide reported using marijuana within 30 days of taking the latest survey, up from 20.8 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 18.1 percent reported past-30-day cigarette use, down from 19.5 percent in 2009.

“Marijuana prohibition has utterly failed to reduce teen access to marijuana, and it is time for a new approach,” said Aldworth. “Strictly regulating tobacco and restricting sales to minors has led to significant decreases in use and availability, and we would almost surely see the same results with marijuana.

“By putting marijuana behind the counter, requiring proof of age, and strictly controlling its sale, we can make it harder for teens to get their hands on it,” Aldworth said.

Interestingly, the CDC report also found that Colorado has bucked the national trend of increasing teen marijuana use. Nationwide, past-30-day marijuana use among high school students climbed from 20.8 percent in 2009, to 23.1 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, in Colorado, it dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent.

Aldworth pointed out that marijuana use among teenagers in Colorado has gone down since the state legalized marijuana for medical use.

“This report suggests that even the partial regulation of marijuana could decrease its availability to teens,” Aldworth said. “Those who shrug off this mounting evidence are shrugging off the health and safety of our young people.”

“We don’t think it is a good thing that more kids are smoking marijuana,” said Roger Sherman, spokesperson for Smart Colorado, which is leading the opposition to legalization. “There is abundant evidence that smoking marijuana is not a good thing for teenagers.”

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