Marijuana: John Suthers hates weed laws but wants people to vote for pot taxes anyway

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has arguably been the most outspoken state official on the dangers of pot. He energetically opposed the bill establishing a regulatory system for medical marijuana sales back in 2010, and he was also against the passage of Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of weed.

Now, however, Suthers has released a statement encouraging voters to approve taxes for recreational marijuana -- not that he likes the stuff any better.

It's not difficult to establish Suthers's bona fides as a crusader against allowing greater access to marijuana. In February 2010, as the state legislature was considering measures to sanction the MMJ industry, he sent a letter to members of the general assembly "vehemently opposing any legislation that embraces the clinic or dispensary model for distribution of medical marijuana." He latter stated: "To embrace commercial dispensaries or clinics as a means of distributing marijuana would go far beyond the intent of the voters. In my opinion, it would constitute de facto legalization" -- clearly a bad thing in his estimation.

John Suthers's 2010 Facebook portrait.
John Suthers's 2010 Facebook portrait.

The next month, in an interview with Westword, Suthers expanded on this argument while explaining his passion about the subject.

"A lot of people say, 'He's just a dinosaur drug warrior,'" he acknowledged. "But I care about future generations, and somebody's got to have their eye on the ball. I've listened to all the debates in the legislature about school dropout rates and so forth, with people trying to understand why it's happening. But has anybody stopped to think the problem is too many kids are coming to school high? That's why we have the dropout rates we do, along with poor parenting -- and this is only going to exacerbate the problem.

"Ten years from now, when members of the legislature look at these rates and see that there hasn't been an improvement -- that they've actually gotten worse -- they'll say, 'We sure made a mistake ten years ago,'" he went on. "That's why somebody ought to point out now that these things have consequences. And I'm perfectly willing to do that."

He did the same in advance of last year's election. But shortly after Amendment 64 passed, he confirmed that he would defend it in court should the federal government challenge its legality -- and his remarks encouraging voters to tax recreational pot is in the same spirit.

The statement, issued this week, begins: "Despite my strongly-held personal belief that the 'legalization' of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, the state must do the best job possible of implementing Amendment 64 and regulating the new recreational marijuana industry.

"That requires voters to approve the necessary financing to ensure the new industry fully funds its own regulation and covers the state's expenses related to the legalization of recreational marijuana," he continues. "These taxes will provide funding for construction on Colorado's public schools, as the voters intended. I also see no other way to ensure the state recovers the significant expense of responsibly regulating this new industry and receives funding for the inevitable public health, education, and safety costs. For these reasons, I encourage the citizens of Colorado to pass an additional sales tax and new excise tax."

More from our Marijuana archive circa February 2010: "John Suthers, Colorado Attorney General, thinks medical marijuana dispensaries suck -- and here's why."


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