Polis Busts Bruce Benson on Amendment 64: “No Basis In Fact”

Quite the Saturday dust-up in Boulder, beginning with this message from University of Colorado President (and longtime Colorado Republican kingpin) Bruce Benson to all staff and students:

When Colorado voters in November passed Amendment 64, which legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use, it led to a number of questions. Most uncertainty surrounds the conflict between the new state law and federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal. Amendment 64 will be signed into law in January and take effect in January 2014.

But for the University of Colorado, the issue is clear. Marijuana threatens to cost the university nearly a billion dollars annually in federal revenue, money we can ill afford to lose.

I was personally opposed to Amendment 64 and worked on my own time to defeat it. But it passed and CU, like many entities, is working to determine the implications.

The glaring practical problem is that we stand to lose significant federal funding…

Rep. Jared Polis, whose district includes the Boulder campus, calls BS on Benson shortly after:

“The University of Colorado is not in jeopardy of losing a single dime of federal funding due to Amendment 64. President Benson has allowed his personal opposition to Amendment 64 to compromise his responsibility to the university by spreading an alarmist claim that has no basis in fact.

“The legality of marijuana in Colorado tomorrow will not impact CU any more than the legality of alcohol does today. The federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act requires universities to adopt and implement drug prevention programs to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs or alcohol by students and employees on school premises or as part of any of its activities. The University’s alcohol and drug policy bans the use of alcohol and marijuana on campus [Pols emphasis] and satisfies the federal requirement.

“I will not stand by and allow the reputation of the University of Colorado to be sullied by the non-existent threat of losing one billion dollars. As the federal representative the University of Colorado at Boulder, I want to reassure parents, students, and faculty that CU is not in danger of losing any federal funding due to Amendment 64. I call upon President Benson to immediately retract his message and clarify that the University is not in danger of losing any federal funds due to the passage of Amendment 64.”

To be fair, Benson does say in his letter that the university is required to comply with federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, but he leaves out something obvious: the school is already in compliance with this law. That means CU risks no loss of federal funding due to the passage of Amendment 64. Most likely, this is something Benson used while campaigning against Amendment 64 that was never actually true, and nobody ever corrected him.

It reminds us of the lobbyists who darkly warned 2006’s Amendment 41 would prevent any state employee’s child from ever accepting a scholarship, when as it turned out, it was actually just about those free Rockies club seats and lunches at The Palm. The point is that sometimes losers get kind of Chicken Little about the consequences of their loss, only to belatedly concede the sky did not fall. It doesn’t help them in the long run with credibility, but it’s cathartic at the time.

Well, despite the irresponsible speculation of CU’s President, Rep. Polis wants you to know that legalized weed is not going to bankrupt Colorado’s flagship university.

Which just happens to be Princeton Review’s “top school to smoke marijuana” anyway.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. GalapagoLarry says:

    They lose an election and here come the doomsday warnings. What’s this, a precursor to a threat to raise tuition to make up for that “nearly a billion”?

    I’m surprised he hasn’t threatened to drop all female students’ grades a point or two. Surely their ObamaCare is going to ruin the university.

    You young whippersnappers keep voting like you do, we’ll make you pay for your insolence and independence. Consider this a warning from your kindly, wise old authority fart (I mean, Republican elder statesman)–who doesn’t know shit.

  2. DavidThi808 says:

    Is why people who are fine with alcohol are so opposed to drugs. I can understand people who are against any recreational stimulants opposing legalizing drugs.

    But the people who favor legal booze & tobacco but not marijuana – how does that compute?

  3. Fidel's dirt nap says:

    Put an end to that bullshit right quick.  Rep Jared Polis caught doing his job well again.   I love it.

  4. OrangeFree says:

    To be fair, Benson does say in his letter that the university is required to comply with federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, but he leaves out something obvious: the school is already in compliance with this law. That means CU risks no loss of federal funding due to the passage of Amendment 64. Most likely, this is something Benson used while campaigning against Amendment 64 that was never actually true, and nobody ever corrected him.

    To be fair, while I believe Rep. Polis’ statement, I also see the half-truth in Benson’s statement.

    A vindictive Congress could, in fact, begin to width hold federal dollars in response to 64. That could come in a variety of manners – police program funding, highway dollars, and yes, grant money to the University of Colorado. Being in compliance with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act does not in any way mean the flow of money will continue.

    But, like I said, I believe Polis will do his job and make sure any funding continues. But don’t discount Benson’s words as a scare tactic when it’s a course the Feds have taken many, many times before.

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    can not accept that the voters decide to treat adults as adults. I do think that they are “afraid” of the impacts of legalization. Therefore they are “afraid” of adults monitoring their own behavior.

    Perhaps, given A64 and what appears to be a national trajectory to legalize, that one good thing about MMJ is that folks who are going to smoke and drive are already doing that. I doubt it will get much worse. I do advise tokers to be adult, that this new “right” can be removed with an Amendment just as it was given by the voters to all of us.  

  6. Gray in Mountains says:

    an editorial in TNTSNBN today that chastises Benson in the same fashion that Congressan Polis took

  7. nancycronk says:

    (one Boulder, one Denver), I DO worry about the easy access to all kinds of substances on both campuses, but primarily in Boulder. When one of my kids arrived for his first day in the dorm last year, he received a welcom packet from community businesses. Among the coupons were empty plastic bottles with ads inside telling the kids where they could go to get their MMJ licenses and refills. It was literally the first thing he saw and held as a new college student. I have a problem with that.

    Colorado does have a very serious problem with intoxicants and illegal drugs. In sitting through many workshops and meetings over the years as a community volunteer, I have heard that we are anywhere from 2nd-5th in the country (depending on the study) for substance abuse. Someone I know from high school sent their child to Boulder a few weeks ago, and that student drank himself to death. We do have a serious pot/alchohol/prescription/illegal drug problem here, and we need to take it seriously. I tip my hat to Benson for one thing — he knows that, and he wants to change our image.

    I like Benson about as much as I like Mike Coffman, though, which puts him squarely in the same field as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. What Benson, and so many anti-drug zealots like him are missing, is that penalizing substance users and abusers will never prevent abuse. The War On Drugs has been a giant waste of money since it started decades ago, because it was based entirely on false premises. What is needed is thoughtful drug policy that is based on research and experience, rather than the rigid ponderings of a bunch of crotchety old white men in business suits who don’t have a proverbial clue.

    If Bruce Benson and his cronies want to improve lives for their students, they would do an about-face on all their politics and start investing in the kinds of things that help people of every age make healthy choices in life — well-funded, publicly accessible, FREE health clinics, schools, community centers, recreation centers, prevention programs, counseling services, and so much more. That money would be well-spent, whether it was on college campuses or in Highlands Ranch.

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