Let Colorado and Washington Have Their Weed

Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman suggested that the president quietly allow Colorado and Washington to experiment with marijuana (hokey “experiment” usage intentional). This is a great idea, though I don’t know if the president would agree.

So why shouldn’t the federal government cut Colorado and Washington some slack? As long as those states prevent marijuana grown under their laws from crossing state lines and thereby subverting marijuana prohibition in the rest of the states, the Justice Department could step back and let the consequences of the new policies play themselves out. They might succeed, or they might fail. In either case, the rest of us could learn from their experience.

If it works, and the states don’t disintegrate into hellscapes of wacked out, snack-seeking zombies, and if, in fact, tax revenues increase, why not legalize it at the national level?

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  • D_C_Wilson

    I hope the Cheetos people will be able to keep up with the demand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1061564395 Glenn Csonka

    Since this was a ballot issue voted on and passed by the people, I don’t think Obama will get involved at the federal level. Really, there’s no advantage to getting involved, but there is so much to be gained if the government let’s it play out. Bob’s right; let’s use these two states as the guinea pigs to see how it all shakes out.

    • Christine Mitchell

      He go involved in California, and that was a ballot issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Norris/1597765442 Michael Norris

    There is an old saying that says there are two sides to every story. In passing proposition 64, the legislature in Colorado simply forgot to tell the other side of this story. So here is some background information that might have been left out of the discussion:

    Colorado is the largest beer producer in the United States. In addition to Coors, of course, Budweiser has a huge brewery in Fort Collins. Besides those two beer behemoths, Colorado has over 120 small-batch craft breweries. That number is expected to double by the year 2020. So Colorado has more than enough beer to go around. In addition, there are 162 marijuana stores in Colorado–specifically in Denver, Jefferson, El Paso, and Boulder Counties. All you need is a prescription from a physician, and you can roll a fatty and smoke your ailments away. To meet the demand of the marijuana stores, people are growing marijuana in “legal grows” all over the state–in warehouses, sheds, backyards, garages–anywhere they can put in five gallon buckets, irrigation systems, and lighting. All they need is a permit which is fairly inexpensive–and relatively easy to obtain. The production and sale of medicinal marijuana is so large and so vast it is being called the “New Green Rush.”

    I work as a chaplain and counselor in a large county jail in Colorado. We have a jail population of about three hundred inmates. In doing our own research, and relying on the findings of other corrections studies, we know that if we could eliminate alcohol as a problem, our jail population would be about half. If we take illegal (and illegal sale of prescription drugs) out of the equation, we could reduce that half by half. Here are some more facts and figures from the other side of the story the legislators and good citizens of Colorado forgot to tell–or didn’t want anyone to know about:

    -Colorado ranks forty-ninth in the nation for the provision of drug and alcohol treatment. We are also close to the bottom in the provision of mental health treament.
    – Douglas County is the most affluent county in the state. It is the sixth most affluent county in the U.S. Drug and Alcohol treatment and mental health treatment are unavailable in Douglas County outside of the hospital ER.
    -El Paso County is the most populous county in the state. It is considered the center of evangelical Christianity. There is a church in El Paso County for every one thousand people. There are seventy-seven parachurch ministries, with assets combined of well over a billion dollars, in the city of Colorado Springs. In spite of this mountain of eccumenical cash, drug and alcohol treatment is almost non-existent. Mental health treatment is accessible only with excellent health insurance. Most mental health treament and alcohol treatment in the city of Colorado Springs is provided by the two hospital ER’s.
    -Since opening marijuana shops in Colorado Springs three years ago, Colorado Springs crime statistics have risen sharply in terms of theft, armed robbery, assault, and gun violence.
    -Denver and Jefferson Counties mental health treatment, while available, is abysmal and has long waiting lists and lines to get in.
    -The Department of Corrections in Colorado is housing 22,000 inmates. Current research indicates that more than half of the people in the CDOC have drug and alcohol problems which relate directly to the crimes they were locked up for.

    Anyone who thinks we need to experiment with another drug we cannot manage doesn’t understand that the experiment is ongoing and the results are in. The county jails and the department of corrections in Colorado are full of people who might not be there if not for their drug and alcohol problems. And until some kind of treatment is available to address and handle the fallout from another drug in the hands of people who can’t manage it, then the feds should block prop 64 at every turn. We have experimented and we know the results–if we tell the whole story.

    • bphoon

      I’m gonna get on my soap box here.

      I’m familiar with that story, from personal experience. Fortunately, I never had to go to jail as a result of my drug (primarily marijuana and alcohol, but then I believe they’re all drugs) use–not for lack of trying, I assure you. I was just lucky.

      Yesterday, I celebrated three years clean. I didn’t access mental health or drug abuse treatment, not that I wouldn’t have benefited from them. I happened to find myself in a 12-Step meeting one day quite by accident and had my moment of clarity there. I’ve never looked back.

      I quite understand that adequate and available mental health and drug abuse treatment may not be available in a given locale. But, here are some things I know:

      -The War on Drugs hasn’t lent itself to developing treatment resources. Our government, instead, has devoted its resources toward “combating” suppliers. We’ve seen how that works out.
      -Some people can handle alcohol use in a social setting without destroying their lives and the lives of those around them. Some can’t. Same with pot.
      -While no one treatment regimen or program works for everyone, I can attest that Narcotics Anonymous works for hundreds of thousands of addicts the world over. There are over 53,000 meetings world wide each week.
      -In the Colorado Region, there are nine different Areas in the NA organization with a total of 307 meeting groups. In the Mile High Area alone (Denver metro), there are an average of over 16 meetings a day, seven days a week at times ranging from 5:00 AM to 10:30 PM. They’re free to join. You can find them at http://www.nacolorado.org/denver/meetinglist.html or 303-832-DRUG.
      -Each area has a Hospitals & Institutions subcommittee. It’s charter is to take meetings into hospitals, other treatment facilities and jails/prisons to carry the message to addicts who want to find a better way to live. I personally know scores of felons who got clean this way and now live as productive citizens. Let me know if you’d like to contact one in your area. I can help with that.
      -This is only one method by which a person can get clean and live clean.

      I agree that if personal possession of small amounts of marijuana weren’t illegal our jails wouldn’t be as full as they are now. A very large percentage of those incarcerated today are there for drug offenses, some relatively minor.

      In my experience and in my opinion, marijuana is much like alcohol in its effects although it’s not physically addictive like alcohol is. The biggest difference? Alcohol is legal. It is the height of hypocrisy for a nation to, on the one hand, sanction the use of one intoxicant–which has proven beyond doubt it’s capacity for destruction–yet keeps the other prohibited. If marijuana is the personal and societal scourge people like to make it out to be, then alcohol is doubly so and should be prohibited, too. On the other hand, if alcohol isn’t all that bad and adults should be able to decide for themselves whether or how much to use, marijuana should be placed in a similar category, again, in my opinion.

      I sympathize with your conditions in Colorado vis a vis lack of treatment options. However, I don’t believe that should be used as an excuse for keeping marijuana illegal. Remember: we tried prohibition once, from 1920-1933. It didn’t work then and it isn’t working now. In fact, according to some historians, alcohol prohibition was a prime factor in the development of organized crime in the US. Same is happening with the drug cartels today, many of whom are deep into marijuana trafficking.

      Perhaps an enlightened state would use some of the additional revenue that’s anticipated as a result of regulation of legal marijuana and devote that to enhanced treatment options. Wouldn’t that be nice?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Norris/1597765442 Michael Norris

        I agree…but what happens from here is filled with unknowns.

        • bphoon

          Did we know that families headed by married gays would be a wholesome situation to raise kids in until we allowed some folks to try it?

          I suspect that, like alcohol, when (not if) marijuana is legalized for personal use it will cease to be such a big deal after a time. Surely it needs to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol but if it is done halfway intelligently we’ll be OK in the long run.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Norris/1597765442 Michael Norris

            I apologize for not saying congratulations to you in your sobriety successes. You have faced your addiction with courage and dignity. Live long and prosper.

          • bphoon

            Thanks. I plan to.

    • D_C_Wilson

      This country tried prohibition of alcohol and it actually made many of the problems associated with it worse. I think the same case be made that prohibition of marijuana has equally failed. We’ve spent billions in the “war on drugs” and we’ve haven’t curbed its use one bit. We’ve thrown a lot otherwise nonviolent people in jail and saddled them with criminal record for life. That’s about the only accomplishment we can point to.

      I think your post actually pointed to the real problem: Lack of available treatment facilities. Rather than locking up casual marijuana users, let’s put those resources into treatment for the addicted.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterBWest Peter Bockenthien

    I think you’re all going to be in for a very big surprise. Bob and commenters obviously haven’t read Amendment 64. I don’t think even David Sirota read it.

    As for Michael Norris: Drugs you say? Oh my goodness. If you’re talking about heroin, cocaine and sugar, then you’ve made your point. But if you’re talking about marijuana. I mentioned sugar because it’s just as addictive as heroin. Petition the warden and Aramark to remove all sugar and watch the riot break out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Norris/1597765442 Michael Norris

      We booked in 4 DWUD’s yesterday in my jail–which is relatively small when compared to surrounding county jails. All four were for driving under the influence of THC. Fortunately, no one was booked in for driving under the influence of a Snicker Bar.

      My comparison, Peter, is that we can’t get a handle on the alcohol problems in this state without adding marijuana too. I am not saying that marijuana is anymore harmful than alcohol–it probably isn’t. But I would say that either are more harmful than sugar. My point is–and was–if the people who suggested we ought to experiment, I maintian that we have and the data is clear.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Michael, respectfully, I disagree. Comparing MJ with cocaine, heroin, alcohol is apples to oranges. Furthermore in regards to your statement about crime statistics going up drastically three years ago, correlation does not prove causality. I have a Masters in Criminal Justice and I can tell you that crime statistics are incredibly complicated. The most well documented and statistically proven causal relationship that we know of is the fact that crime rates tend to go up as the economy goes down. The rise in crime you speak of is more likely due to the failing economy than anything else.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Norris/1597765442 Michael Norris

          I hear what you are saying, and your point has validity. But I did not compare marijuana to heroin or other drugs. Marijuana is included in the research data as a drug–as is alcohol. As far as the crime data, I just let the statistics speak for themselves. Either that, or its a hell of a coincidence.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    For many years, while I was teaching, I ran a theatre program at a summer camp. One year I did a stage version of The Simpsons using a book of songs from some of the old episodes (such as “The Stonecutters Song,” “Kamp Krusty,” “Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart,” and the entire Shary Bobbins episode). When I did that, a lot of people suggested I do the same with Family Guy. Of course I never did that and I don’t run the program anymore, but I can’t help but chuckle at the idea of having a chorus of 9-year-olds on stage singing, “Oh, a bag of weed, a bag of weed, oh everything is better with a bag of weed…”

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      That’s one of my favorite episodes.

  • Brutlyhonest

    Sounds like we need to try prohibition again. Classify nicotine and alcohol as illegal, too.

    • bphoon

      Come to think of it, you’re right. Nicotine is more physically addictive than heroin. It has more deleterious compounds. Tobacco cigarettes are the only legal product sold in the US that, when used as designed, will eventually kill the user.

      • D_C_Wilson

        It would be interesting to subject alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana to the same kind of rigorous FDA testing that new products have to undergo and see which ones could win approval under the current regime.

  • Chachizel

    Bottom line….PEOPLE ARE SMOKING ANYWAY!! Once these laws get passed and it becomes legal, it’s not going to be that different from what it is now. The world’s not going to end, the sky is not going to fall, etc., etc. No question that regulations need to be passed, but marijuana is probably less dangerous than alcohol. It’s going to happen, and guess what, people are going to like it….same as Obamacare. C’mon let’s go national with this and keep our black and brown kids out of jails

    • Amy Stone

      “but marijuana is probably less dangerous than alcohol.”

      It is generally accepted to be significantly less dangerous than alcohol.

  • Victor_the_Crab

    “If it works, and the states don’t disintegrate into hellscapes of wacked out, snack-seeking zombies, and if, in fact, tax revenues increase, why not legalize it at the national level?”

    And where will they find all those minorities they can round up and send to for profit prisons?