News: Details of U.S. Weed Legalization

By - Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Passage of recreational marijuana laws in two states made leaps and bounds down the path towards weed legalization in the U.S. The laws protect high-minded residents of Colorado and Washington from prosecution at the state level for recreational use, distribution, and growth of marijuana. Election night on November 6th broke new ground globally, making the two state governments the first governments in the world, including Holland, to end the legal prohibition on the commercial production, distribution, and consumption. The laws are skeletons of detailed policies that state departments will develop in the next year or so. The states and their local governments will determine how much the crop is taxed, where it is sold, and the type, number, and size commercial grow operations. The laws do allow adults 21 and up in Colorado and Washington to possess up to an ounce of weed, although driving high remains illegal, as does sparking the 4:20 chalice in public. In Washington, adults may grow up to six plants for personal consumption. The legalization should theoretically lower prices by removing the risk cost of selling weed and potentially extending legal protection to mass-production grow operations. Without a doubt, the states will impose sin taxes on the substance so it’s hard to tell by how much the price will change. As long as the price of legal weed is higher than the standard black market price, illegal organizations will presumably continue selling their product, and if the cost of legal weed rivals black market prices, the competition will either eliminate the black market or drive its prices down. Despite the fact that 18 states support medical marijuana industries, federal law still categorizes weed as a Schedule I Controlled Substance and bans it for medical purposes. The ongoing history of clashes between state-sanctioned dispensaries or growers and federal agents has been sporadic and unpredictable, resulting in a justice system marked by incoherence. Who can say how the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency will react to the newest set of progressive drug laws? As Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado cautioned voters on Tuesday night: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or the Goldfish too quickly.” The people in Colorado and Washington expressed their will on election night 2012 and the results represented milestones in the trend towards marijuana decriminalization. In Washington, the initiative won 56% of the vote while Colorado’s weed amendment passed with 54% of the vote. The success of these measures displays the strength of the U.S. federal system in accommodating diverse interests and conceding some independence to states. In progressive enough states, stoners and other practitioners of illegal activities—cough, cough, graffiti writers—have the chance to moderate sanctions against their passions or even legalize them.

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