As you know, at the stroke of midnight to begin 2014, the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults in the State of Colorado became legal. The State of Washington already legalized pot use and is now ironing out the kinks for a system of distribution and taxation.
Will pot use increase in those states? Will there be more car accidents because more stoned people will get behind the wheel? Are we opening a Pandora’s box?
My suspicion is that the legalization of pot in those two states will have the same effect that the creation of same-sex marriages had: it will make us all realize it should have happened long ago.
I am not, mind you, advocating for pot use (though, like President Obama, I can honestly say that “When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point.”). Indeed, if I find myself in Colorado, it is highly unlikely that I will buy some pot and get high. But when the harm caused by a law is greater than the harm that the law is designed to prevent, there’s something wrong with the law. And, in 27 years of practicing law, I have seen many more people hurt by the marijuana laws than by marijuana use.
I suspect that as the Colorado State Treasurer’s office reaps the benefit of marijuana taxation, and as the public health impact of legalization turns out to be negligible, other states will frantically jump on the bandwagon to tap a new source of significant revenue at a time when States are struggling to balance their budgets.
And then, as with same-sex marriage, a lot of people will be scratching their heads and wondering what the big fuss was.