Washington Monthly (Kleiman): How Not to Make a Hash Out of Cannabis Legalization: Leaving it to the states is a recipe for disaster

By MARK KLEIMAN – March, 2014

A majority of Americans, and an overwhelming majority of those under thirty, now support the legalization of marijuana. This change in public opinion, which has been building for years but has accelerated of late, is now generating policy changes.


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In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington State endorsed initiatives legalizing not just the use of cannabis but also its commercial production and sale to anyone over the age of twenty-one. That goes further than the “medical marijuana” provisions that are now the law in twenty states. Nonmedical retail sales started on January 1 in Colorado and will begin in early summer in Washington. Similar propositions are likely to be on the ballot in 2014 and 2016 in as many as a dozen other states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon, and a legalization bill just narrowly passed in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the first time either chamber of any state legislature has voted for such a bill. Unless something happens to reverse the trend in public opinion, it seems more likely than not that the federal law will change to make cannabis legally available at some point in the next two decades.

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