We have talked about the contentious topic of marijuana legalization on this blog before. Opponents of legalization believe it could lead to rampant drug use (not just of marijuana, but other drugs too), while proponents of the measure believe it could actually decrease crime rates and provide a potentially safer and healthier alternative to alcohol.
Two states made a huge statement on Election Day, legalizing marijuana.
The landmark movements in Colorado and Washington will allow people at least 21 years old to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. There are currently 17 states (plus the District of Colombia) that allow medical marijuana, but Colorado and Washington are the first to legalize the drug for all state citizens.
Now, these laws don't mean that people in Colorado and Washington should be celebrating just yet; and these laws also don't mean that a national agenda will be adopted anytime soon. It is still against federal law to use or possess marijuana, which the government considers an illegal narcotic.
In the coming weeks and months, state officials in Colorado and Washington will work towards establishing a system that allows state-run stores to sell (and tax) marijuana. That system will take time to come to fruition; so even with the passing of these laws, it is by no means in effect. There may also be legal challenges to the law.
But assuming the laws remain on the books, it will be interesting to see how they affect crime rates in their respective states. How far will possession and distribution charges drop? Will other crimes decrease or increase? What about the effectiveness of police -- without petty drug crimes to deal with, will they be more efficient in handling other crimes?
Source: Reuters, "Colorado, Washington first states to legalize recreational pot," Keith Coffman and Nicole Neroulias, Nov. 7, 2012
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