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Colorado’s Rural War On Drugs: A Case Study Of Grand Junction’s Legalized Marijuana Implementation, Politics, And Carceral Ethos

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 yet a majority of localities have not implemented its legalization, including Grand Junction, a relatively small town with deeply held conservative values. These entrenched political views, combined with this community’s geographical isolation, help sustain a punitive perspective regarding how best to respond to crime and drugs that is at odds with other states and communities that have started to reconsider the aggressive approach to crime that has helped make the United States the world’s largest jailer. Local punitive practices and politics that stem from long-felt harm of methamphetamine can explain the fundamental beliefs that create policy feedback loops. The power of local government may explain why Grand Junction has found success in prohibiting marijuana within city limits while the state legalized marijuana recreationally. This case study uses original qualitative data from Grand Junction’s local newspaper The Daily Sentinel, and a literature review examining works that discuss broader carceral, political, and sociological themes. Places like Grand Junction exist throughout America, so understanding how these areas maintain policy resiliency against state and national changes is crucial to understanding why rural areas maintain a strong carceral ethos that bleeds into other governmental and socio-economic innerworkings.

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