Personal Finance

Colorado’s Pot Plan: Orwellian Surveillance or Sound Law Enforcement?

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I am not naïve. Having served as a state law enforcement official for many years, I have a dim view of people who break the law. From what I hear about Colorado (which was lovingly referred to as the ‘shrooming capital of the western world’ when I went to college – albeit some 40 years ago), a pot prescription is about as difficult to come by as a bag of dog food. For every cancer patient who depends on marijuana to get through the day, there may be three healthy people just looking to smoke up.

Colorado’s leaders also are onto something more nefarious. They suspect – and I suspect they’re right – that some people are using the same prescription at multiple dispensaries a day, buying up stockpiles of pot to sell illegally.

That’s a problem. And as Cook points out, it threatens the legitimacy of a controversial state law that provides relief for people struggling with pain and disease.

Taking all this into account, I urge Colorado’s pot regulators: Proceed with caution. Maybe the state does need some point-of-sale security measures to make sure that pot buyers aren’t abusing the system.

But the privacy danger here is real. Fingerprinting prescription holders could lead to unforeseen privacy incursions in the future, especially if the law legalizing medical marijuana is ever repealed. Affixing radio frequency chips onto each pot plant sets the state up for an ongoing wild goose chase since the chips are easy to find and remove. Perhaps more important, using technology to physically track citizens’ belongings in the privacy of their own homes crosses the line from responsible law enforcement into Orwellian surveillance state.

Finding the right balance between privacy, practicality and law enforcement is often difficult. Let’s hope Colorado gets it right.

Image by Coaster420, via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Dennis

    the only fingerprinting i have found is a system that is intended to protect patient privacy. no personal information is entered into the system, according to their site, and it’s not even state run, it’s independent. all it does is make sure that all the pot is accounted for and to make sure patients aren’t buying more than the legal limit. it doesn’t even keep a copy of the print, just a pattern, thats it. just google biotrackthc you should be able to find it.

    and while i agree the fingerprinting is kinda weird seeing how it’s used for criminals, but i would prefer an anonymous fingerprint to video surveillance. i mean if using my fingerprint means that the state doesn’t know who i am and i’m just a pattern to them and they can’t get at my records without me their with my finger i’m all for it. thats just me though, though most people hear fingerprint and think name address social etc. i don’t think thats the case here.


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