Earlier this week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed six marijuana bills establishing Colorado as the world's first legal, regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults.
Neill Franklin, executive director of marijuana reform advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, stopped by The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to talk about Colorado's historic new marijuana laws.
"I think they've done a wonderful job," Franklin began. "The people of Colorado have done a wonderful job. The team that was put in place to craft these regulations has done a wonderful job. And now the governor has done a wonderful job moving this policy forward -- it's a great day."
Assuming the federal government does not interfere, Maddow asked Franklin how these new laws might affect crime and drug use in the state.
"This is going to be very similar to alcohol. You're going to see different policies in different communities and they have the option to do that. From a public safety perspective, this is really what's needed. We, the police, need to get back to focusing on violent crime. It's a great day that we're not out there chasing marijuana users in Colorado and the state of Washington. Thousands of fewer arrests and more focus on those people who are committing the robberies, the rapes, the murders, the burglaries -- and that's where we should be. This is a great opportunity for the police to get back in touch with the community."
Marijuana is often cited as a so-called "gateway drug," one that may be benign in and of itself, but leads people to other more harmful substances and Maddow asked Franklin what he makes of those kinds of assumptions about pot.
"There are no valid studies that indicate such," Franklin responded. "As a matter of fact, it's the environment that is the gateway into the things that cause us problems in society. So it's the environment of the drug dealer on the corner. Now, with these policies of legalization for marijuana that environment will go away for those who choose to use marijuana."
Maddow also asked if Franklin believes the federal government will allow these laws to move forward or if they will try to keep marijuana illegal, as is its current policy.
"Personally, I think they'll be allowed to go forward," Franklin said optimistically. "This is a wonderful opportunity for the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice. It's an opportunity for them to do what they said they're going to do -- they want more of a health-centered focus on our drug policies in this country, so this is a great opportunity. They've said that we can't arrest our way out of this problem and if you're not going to arrest your way out of this problem there's only one way to go and that's legalization. We have Colorado and Washington state, two states for experimentation to see how it's going to go, and if they follow the alcohol models that we have across the country, it's going to be a great success -- not that alcohol is, but it's better than prohibition."
Watch the full interview above.
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