Law enforcement and government agencies will be watching the skies over Colorado throughout the coming weeks to see if they fall as the state begins permitting the first legal, private sales of recreational marijuana. Beginning today, customers over the age of 21 will be able to buy, possess and consume pot, of their own accord in what many drug policy critics are praising as a significant step towards common sense drug enforcement.
With projected savings and new revenues for the state expected to reach around $60 million in the first year alone, many within both the pro-pot and law enforcement communities are optimistic about the future of pot legislation in the country. Retired Police Major and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP,) Neill Franklin said in a recent press release,
[box type=”shadow”]…I predict that after a year or two, once the media stops focusing on anecdotes of people behaving badly and we start to see hard data on the real benefits of ending prohibition, there will be a domino effect that echoes across the world…[/box]
While legal, the sale, purchase and consumption will not be without regulation. Managed in a fashion similar to alcohol, only adults over 21 with proper ID will be able to buy or possess, and vendors will require licensing through state and local authorities. In addition to revenues generated through taxation and fees, as well as the savings to tax payers, the legalization and legitimization is expected to serve as a significant blow to illicit drug traffickers and criminal outfits who previously enjoyed tax free revenues in the millions under prohibition.
These lessons are nothing new, as under the 20th century experiment with alcohol prohibition, organized crime flourished much to the expense of public revenues and with substantial bloodshed. Since the 1937 prohibition of marijuana, the US has spent billions and incarcerated millions in pursuit of what many see as a puritanical and ultimately futile effort to eliminate pot consumption. Yet now, with both Colorado and Washington state having fully legalized and numerous other states approving medicinal use and decriminalization, the efforts to end the costly and socially destructive policies of America’s war on pot are being mulled over in the federal arena, with H.R. 499, a bill to federally end prohibition of cannabis having been introduced by Colorado Congressman Jared Polis in February.
Today’s end to prohibition in Colorado and the beginning of public sale and consumption of pot is being celebrated throughout multiple, if not most political persuasions, with progressive civil rights organizations such as the ACLU, with executive director Ezekiel Edwards stating,
[box type=”shadow”]In Colorado, we see the first state in the nation to implement a truly common-sense approach to marijuana. By legalizing marijuana, Colorado has stopped the needless and racially biased enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws.[/box]
And libertarian columnist for Reason.com, Jacob Sullum celebrating the market realities of such by writing,
[box type=”shadow”]Within hours, the hand of the free market was already evident. In the face of strong demand, one shop raised its price for an eighth of an ounce from $25 to $45.[/box]
Similar legislation for state level legalization is currently being drafted in a number of other states including Massachusetts, California and Vermont. With growing levels of public support, reform advocates on both the left and right are optimistic about the future of pot law in the US and if projections regarding the benefits for Colorado or Washington state prove true, the already demonstrated majority support for reform are likely to see a notable increase as the issue of pot legalization continues to make its way through government.