Parts of Colorado are now allowing the sale of recreational marijuana, but the debate over whether that was a smart move is still raging, and it’s too early for other states and countries to learn much from the experience.
Voters across Colorado passed a referendum in November 2012 to allow the use and possession of marijuana for anyone over 21 with a valid ID. The sale of marijuana for recreational use was legalized as of this Jan. 1.
On the negative side, anti-pot constituencies still maintain the state is in for trouble in the form of poorer driving, hassles over out-of-staters coming in for quick, illegal purchases, complicated systems to track inventory and, mainly, underage use. The theory is that if it’s legal for adults, it won’t be long before kids are finding ways to obtain it, as they do with alcohol and cigarettes.
On the positive side, though, $400 million in sales is expected this year, which enlivens the economy and creates tax revenue.
As the dawn of the new year broke, 136 merchants in Colorado had received licenses to sell marijuana. In some cities and counties, such as in Colorado Springs, laws were passed overriding the referendum, meaning it was still illegal to smoke pot or possess it, as well as to sell it.
And what was the going price? Between $30 and $50 for an eighth of an ounce. The first day, a typical sale went for $59.74, which included $10.46 in tax.
So the state was going to see substantial revenue instead of having to spend money to prosecute and imprison people who previously broke marijuana laws.
But would legalization bring with it new problems? Naysayers were forecasting addiction problems, such as have happened with tobacco and alcohol. Proponents scoff at the idea of pot being an addictive substance.
Colorado has allowed people to possess and smoke marijuana for all of 2013, but statistics are still a year away on whether that circumstance has created any problems.
Regulating its sale requires some fairly extensive procedures. All of the inventory must be tracked. Signs have been erected in airports alerting passengers they are not allowed to take their pot with them to their next destination.
Other states, and even other nations, are keeping a close watch on Colorado this year. It seems certain that, if pro-marijuana advocates were able to mount a successful campaign there, they will be able to duplicate it elsewhere.
Will New York have to decide whether to legalize the sale of pot? More than likely, sooner or later.
It will be crucial for voters to have facts at the ready rather than myths or exaggerations one way or the other.