Thousands of lives have not been ruined. Countless have not died. Colorado has survived its first year of reefer madness.
One year after Colorado boldly lifted marijuana prohibition and began ringing in retail pot sales with the new year of 2014, we have shown the country, as well as the world, that the arguments for legalizing marijuana are the very reasons why it was the biggest non-story of the year.
Despite fears spread by people like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who runs a state that’s the envy of all, Colorado only became even more attractive to businesses, educated workers and people who like to think for themselves.
Why? Because proponents of Amendment 64 argued that legalizing marijuana would only affect those who smoke it and inadvertently subsidized a massive criminal industry for something that isn’t a crime.
And by almost every account, the proponents were right. Now that the novelty of being able to legally buy dope in swank pot shops has worn thin, the people buying marijuana at these stores are pretty much the ones who were buying weed previously on the black market. Those illegal sales help fuel the drug cartel crisis in Mexico and Central America. Colorado marijuana purchases help fuel tax revenues the state desperately needs, as well as thousands of new jobs.
A recent poll by the Denver Post shows that Colorado residents are mostly pleased with how the whole thing turned out, because it turned out pretty much like everyone predicted. As a state, we’re worried about keeping minors from smoking legal weed, just like we were worried about minors smoking illegal weed.
There have been problems with edible products being so potent that many users have had bad experiences, some of them high-profile dabblers that make themselves look more foolish than the industry. Regardless, potency and product identification are real consumer issues that the state is addressing.
There appears to be no more public pot smoking now than there was before marijuana was legalized, and if anything, ending the forbidden fruit aspect of pot is going a long ways toward encouraging people to look at the unhealthy aspects of smoking anything or taking any kind of mind-altering drug, including alcohol.
For so many Colorado residents, it’s just not a big deal already. It’s convenient for those who do smoke. It’s not an issue for those who don’t. It’s not unreasonable to believe that Colorado could net about $100 million a year in new taxes from pot sales, money that previously would have gone to fund murderous gangs in Mexico.
The state still must reckon with congressional officials to permit Colorado and other progressive states from tripping up federal drug laws, and those federal laws must be changed. Likewise, bringing these marijuana businesses into the real world of banking and commerce is now long overdue.
In a perfect world, no one would have the need or desire to do any kind of drug. But the belief that governments can criminalize vices and poor choices and keep us all in line has been proven foolhardy for eons. So far, Colorado’s experiment in ending marijuana prohibition has been a success because it’s changed how we treat people who smoke pot, rather than change the pot smoking behavior of people.