Colorado made a national splash as smokers lined up early in the morning on New Year’s Day to buy a quarter-ounce or so of marijuana with the governor’s blessing. Yes, the state legalized it.
More to the point, they dropped the hypocrisy. Yes, cannabis has real therapeutic value for some sick people. The major demand, however, isn’t from patients but from users who’d just like to smoke a bowl without fear of picking up a felony record along with a buzz.
The nonsense about 20-something men who need “medicine” for their ankle sprains, attention deficit disorder or insomnia is likely to be a welcome casualty, at least in Colorado, of the full decriminalization. Maybe we can have more straight talk about the drug and less winking euphemism.
What Colorado also built for itself is a system that — even as it removed the state-level criminal penalties associated with marijuana — at least attempts to regulate it far more tightly than is the case under California’s “medicinal” system.
Retail outlets are licensed and required to track their product from first seed to final sale. Codes govern security, sales to minors, testing and purity.
The rules ban an array of dangerous pesticides and advertising toward youths, including all marketing on billboards or via pop-up Internet ads.
And, enjoying the benefit of state licenses, retailers have an incentive to follow the law.
The system won’t be perfect, but precisely what controls are there today to stop backyard growers from selling to teenagers?
The spread of heavy marijuana use will not make for a healthier or more vibrant society, and critics of legalization fear a quick downward spiral.
Maybe so — though cigarettes are wickedly addictive and sold at every gas station and grocery, but education and changing social mores have cut smoking dramatically over the past few decades.
Maybe everything will quickly go downhill up in the Rockies, but for now Colorado looks like a model.