What Amendment 44 on Pot Won't Do

September 26 2006, 10:52 PM
Just yesterday in writing about Amendment 44, the ballot initiative to legalize adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, I noted:
The law will have no effect on other crimes committed by marijuana users. For example, it will still be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or to distribute marijuana to a minor (see the debate over that issue here.)
Here's a perfect example. Monday night, Boulder City Councilman Richard Polk was arrested following a traffic stop in which the officer alleges he smelled marijuana. He found a pipe and 2 grams of pot in the car. Mr. Polk was charged with driving under the influence of drugs. Amendment 44 would make no overall difference in his case. While his possession of two grams of marijuana would be legal, driving under the influence of pot would still be against the law. The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, like those for driving under the influence of alcohol, are far more severe than the current penalty for possession of up to one ounce of pot: instead of a $100 fine, the driving offense is a misdemeanor and punishable by jail and loss of his driver's license. So anyone who's thinking Mr. Polk would have escaped criminal charges if the traffic stop occurred after Election Day would be wrong. Amendment 44 only eliminates the current penalty of a $100 fine for simple possession by adults of up to one ounce of pot -- not for any other illegal activities associated with the possession.