The legalization of marijuana has been a battle long fought by fans of the plant, recreational users, the informed, and the enlightened. And as the mid-point of the second decade of the 21st century draws near, that battle may finally be coming to an end as more and more states are either decriminalizing marijuana or at least putting the legality of it on ballots for the voters to decide.
For decades, the federal government was a staunch defender of keeping pot classified as a "Schedule 1" drug, which is the same as cocaine or heroin, but as recently reported on the Inquisitr, that may soon change. Recent studies have shown the medicinal benefits of marijuana use, and politicians are aware of the incredible profits that the states of Washington and Colorado have made from tax revenues. These facts have led to a rethinking of the failed 'War on Drugs" which has been a major factor in making the United States one of the most imprisoned nations on earth.
As with all things, money talks, and over $8 million a month or $96 million annually in tax revenues in Colorado alone speaks volumes. And even crime is down in the Rocky Mountain State. Colorado is serving as a test market for greater marijuana legalization measures. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, Maryland decriminalized marijuana for possession under 10 grams or a third of an ounce. Instead of jail time, citations and fines are the only punishments. Colorado seems to be the poster child for the movement to legalize marijuana, and the results have been positive, so far.
"Colorado already presents an example of successful marijuana legalization. Crime is down, state marijuana tax revenues are up to $8 million a month as of July, and it has become harder for minors to get marijuana because pot shops are more likely to card than drug dealers."Money aside, legalizing marijuana is now closer than ever as the Obama administration has already said they will not interfere in Washington State or Colorado, and with Alaska and Oregon the next two states to vote for legalization. As more and more states support legalizing medicinal marijuana, the once mighty Reagan-era wall of "just say no" begins to crumble. A story on the Huffington Post details that Obama's "Pot Czar," Mark Kleiman has come out in support of legalized pot being on the ballot is Oregon, ending the fear that the federal government will stand in the way of greater legalization measures.
Kleiman also wrote a lengthy article for Washington Monthly detailing why state-by-state legalization is not the way to go, and only by the U.S. government getting involved, can marijuana legalization become a reality. In fact, Kleiman argues that now is the time for the government to step in and take control away from the states to ensure competitive commercial balance across the board in relation to marijuana sales. In his own words, he argues, "What's needed is federal legislation requiring states that legalize cannabis to structure their pot markets such that they won't get captured by commercial interests." Kleiman goes on to detail how the $1 billion spent annually to prosecute and incarcerate growers and sellers of cannabis could be saved and directed to other much-needed areas.
With the tectonic shift in U.S. federal policies toward legalization, the light at the end of the tunnel has never been closer. As more and more states begin to legalize, or at worst, decriminalize marijuana, not even public sentiment can stand in the way of true progress. Colorado and Washington have shown that there is money to be made. Crime is down and the fears of a populace baked out of their minds has proven to be false when measured against the facts.
With huge strides being made almost everyday around America in regards to marijuana legalization, it is only a matter of time before the federal government opens its arms and embraces recreational marijuana as a source of revenue and for its medicinal properties, especially now that the vaunted "Baby Boomer" generation makes room for the aging "Generation X," who have always looked at legalized recreational marijuana as the next step in a open and just society. Legalized marijuana has never been closer to reality, and it seems that voters--and even our leaders--are ready for it.
Where do you stand on the issue of marijuana legalization? Are strict regulation and increased tax revenues enough to persuade you to one side or the other? Sound off in the comments below.
[Images courtesy of AP/Ed Andrieski and Rich Pedroncelli; Google]