This past Tuesday, cannabis enthusiasts and weed smokers witnessed some pretty dank political outcomes. First, former pot-smoker and current president, Barack Obama was re-elected; second, both Colorado and Washington passed legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana and, lastly, Halo 4 was released to the satisfaction of couch-ridden stoners worldwide. Along with Colorado and Washington, Grassachusetts (formerly known as Massachusetts) became the 18th state to legalize medicinal sales of marijuana to those with a physician’s prescription. The “Green Rush” officially started in Colorado and Washington; Colorado successfully passed Amendment 64 which amends the state constitution, allowing for recreational use of marijuana and directing tax revenues to school construction projects and state funds. Similarly, Washington passed Initiative 501 which legalizes personal consumption for those above 21. Oregon had a similar initiative, but it was voted down.
I enthusiastically commend both states for becoming the first to legalize recreational marijuana use. Hopefully, their decisions, while progressive, set a good example for the 32 states that aren’t as permissive to legalizing medicinal marijuana. The only unfortunate aspect to this news is that California officially sacrificed its position as the hipster state that legalized marijuana before it was cool. Oh well.
Way back in 2010, we came close; California’s Proposition 19 (which sought to legalize a large range of marijuana use) was narrowly defeated. Some supporters of legalization, however, voted against the proposition. Perhaps as public opinion warms up to the idea of regulating and taxing recreational weed consumption, legalization will resurface on the California ballot in two years.
Until then, we ought to focus on the future of Colorado and Washington’s laws. The laws could finally settle the heated debate over whether regulating marijuana is an efficient method to increase government revenue and if it could potentially reduce violent drug crime on the Southern border. According to the Associated Press, Colorado’s new law could generate anywhere from $5 to 22 million in tax revenue per year. Likewise, Washington’s law which enacts a 25 percent excise tax on weed could produce smokers and budget planners The effects of legalization span beyond
the United States, too. Not only do the new laws benefit Americans, but marijuana legalization also favors Mexicans terrorized by organized drug crime. It’s very likely that the newly enacted laws will significantly diminish the Mexican drug cartel’s profits.
One study performed by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute claims that if the three recent propositions in Colorado, Washington, Oregon passed, they would reduce the Cartel’s $6 billion profit from drug trade in the U.S. by 30 percent. The study assumes that legalization in these states would result in cheaper and higher quality domestic marijuana than that of the Cartel, which is inefficiently smuggled across the boarder.
The largest obstacle to these legalization laws is the federal government since technically these state laws still violate federal law. According to the Federal Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug, just like heroin. This notion is simply ludicrous. The act categorizes a drug as Schedule 1 based on three criteria: I. The drug has potential for abuse, II. The drug has no accepted medical value and III. There is a lack of safety associated with the drug’s use. Since the passing of the Act in 1970, marijuana research has demonstrated the exact opposite. Marijuana’s potential for physical addiction is miniscule; it has accepted medical value for a wide range of conditions and is used among cancer patients, and marijuana use is healthier when compared to some currently legal drugs like alcohol or tobacco.
Here begins the constitutional arm wrestle between state and federal authority. Since marijuana is illegal on a federal level, all 18 states that allow for the sale of medical marijuana violate federal law. Technically, every single transaction for weed, even with a medical prescription, is a federal crime. On one end, the drug policies of the 1970s authorize the federal government to pursue states which allow for marijuana sales, and on the other end, states equally authorized to continue sales based on their state constitution and laws.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, it results in a waste of resources on both state and federal levels. President Obama, now secured to a second term, must make a clear and unambiguous stance on the issue marijuana legalization. Originally in 2008, he said that he would take steps toward drug policy reform, however, after four years as President, he has since entirely opposed legalization.
Ideally in a second term, his administration will recognize the growing national opinion in favor of marijuana legalization. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) should remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Additionally, allowing the Department of Justice to pursue states (which ironically represent his constituency) that vote to legalize marijuana is both unwanted and costly.
Michael Roe thinks the grass looks greener in Colorado.