Consider this premise: For better or worse, the full legalization of recreational marijuana in the United States is inevitable.
How did we reach the point of inevitability? Little by little then suddenly. Colorado was the first state to allow sales of recreational marijuana, effective Jan. 1, 2014. Authorities predicted annual sales of $ 200 million and tax revenues of $ 70 million. In 2017, sales had reached $ 1.5 billion, and the Colorado Department of Revenue reported $ 250 million in tax revenue from pot sales.
Other states took note of the recipes, as well as the public will, and began to get on board. Currently, 18 states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational weed. In 2020, domestic sales reached $ 20 billion.
And last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined the senses. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden to propose legislation – the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act – that will decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Part of the revenue generated by the law will be redirected to communities that have been hardest hit by the so-called war on drugs.
So the current trend is clear, and the outlook also suggests inevitability. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly 70% of all Americans support legalization. In the 18-29 age group, the level of support reaches almost 80%.
Weed legalization finds less support among Republicans, but even there the figure hovers around 50 percent. Moreover, legalization embodies two elements that attract two strains of Republicans: those who love user tax revenues and those who profess libertarianism.
In short, it seems Americans want the pot to be legal, and it’s up to both parties to take this into account when considering their political futures.
Of course, the inevitability of legalizing marijuana does not mean that it is a wise or healthy decision. But at least that would resolve two thorny paradoxes we’ve tolerated for decades:
The first is the annoying fact that marijuana is still illegal in most states, while alcohol and tobacco – at least as dangerous and probably more – are not, a contradiction that seems impossible to rationalize.
The second paradox concerns the inconsistent consequences we apply to marijuana offenders. A person of color can spend years in prison for drinking marijuana; celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Woody Harrelson and Bill Maher have made marijuana part of their public brand with no significant consequences. Legalizing weeds would solve this blatant injustice.
So there is considerable logic in supporting the legalization of marijuana. Yet this is not a step we should take lightly. Indeed, I have apprehensions.
I never broach this subject without thinking of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. In addition to his huge “War and Peace” and other great novels, Tolstoy wrote a short essay in 1890 titled “Why Do Men Get Stunned?”
For Tolstoy, “amazement” was any condition that interfered with the rigorous application of a person’s consciousness. His answer was total abstinence from all narcotics, especially wine, beer, spirits, narcotics, and tobacco. And he didn’t like other distractions from a focused moral purpose, like “fun” and “games.”
With our culture already inundated with narcotics, including an abundance of drugs, legal and illegal, as well as our all-consuming and addictive distractions of social media, video games, food, video and sports, Tolstoy might wonder why we want to legalize one. After. It’s a good question.
On the other hand, few of mankind’s discoveries have caused more misery, ill health, disruption and violence than alcohol. Yet would we want to live all the time under the sober dictates of the severe and sober conscience that reigns in Tolstoy’s ideal world? Well, that’s another good question.
But both questions are moot. Americans don’t have much of an appetite for self-denial bans, and we are unlikely to continue depriving ourselves of the pleasures and dangers of weed. Since legalization is probably inevitable, the answer is moderation.
Unfortunately, moderation is not our strong suit either. Yet if alcohol, anti-vaccines, and anti-masks haven’t destroyed our country, marijuana is unlikely to either.
John M. Crisp, opinion columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at [email protected].
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