The End of Marijuana Prohibition
When speaking to groups about the possibility of legalized marijuana, I used to say that it was going to happen but probably not in my lifetime. I’ve changed my mind! No, I’m not on some super-vitamin regimen nor engaged in a new life-prolonging fitness routine. But the social landscape on marijuana prohibition is changing quickly and marijuana as a legal product may be on shelves in an outlet near you in the very near future.
Last November, voters in Washington state and Colorado both approved of legalized marijuana. The issue for any jurisdiction that approves of legal pot is the reaction of lack thereof by the federal government. Will the federal authorities take enforcement action against marijuana users and distributors who are in compliance with state law? The feds have been conspicuously silent on the issue. This week, some federal lawmakers have come up with some legislation that would officially take federal government enforcement to the sidelines.
The proposed bill, introduced by two Democratic House Members, would do two things. First, it removes the federal prohibition on marijuana, thus opening the door for states to implement legalization without fear of federal interference. Second, it establishes a federal tax on approved marijuana sales thus ensuring the federal government a share of the tax windfall predicted with legalization. (See the full story.)
Before all the stoners out there get too giddy, it should be pointed out that a similar bill was introduced in 2011. That bill never gained any traction but this year may be different. National polls show increasing support for the legalization option. And the feds, as well as government at all levels, are scrambling to get new tax revenue. The movement has something for all across the political spectrum. For liberals, an end to an oppressive prohibition regime is attractive. For conservatives, a movement of responsibility from the feds back to the states should be cause for celebration. And for libertarians, getting the government out of a personal choice on use of recreational drugs must surely be considered a step forward.