Washington may become the first state in the nation to approve recreational sales of marijuana, according to the Associated Press. The marijuana would be taxed and sold at state-licensed shops to customers 21 and over.
The sale of this recreational marijuana may be approved on Nov. 6 if Initiative 502, a measure on the November ballot that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, is passed, according to The Seattle Times.
If I-502 passes the following will be enacted (via the AP):
- Public use or display of marijuana would be barred.
- No marijuana facilities could be located near schools, day cares, parks or libraries.
- Employers would still be able to fire workers who test positive for pot.
- It would remain illegal to privately grow marijuana for recreational use, though medical patients could still grow their own or designate someone to grow it for them.
- It would be illegal to drive with more than 5 nanograms of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, per milliliter of blood, if the driver is over 21; for those under 21, there would be a zero tolerance policy.
“There’s a real disconnect with pot,” Brooke Thompson, a retired teacher from Bainbridge Island who smoked marijuana when she was a young adult, told the AP. “It’s been criminalized and criminals are making money on it. The state could be making money on it, and using the taxes to go into education. It seems like a win-win, and it would be nice for Washington to be the testing ground on this.”
"Testing ground" is the key component. In Washington state, more than 241,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession throughout the past 25 years, many of who were arrested in the past 10 years, according to a new study by a New York-based group of academics. These arrests have cost about $305.7 million over the past 25 years and $194 million in the past 10 years alone.
Legalizing and taxing marijuana at the same rate as alcohol and tobacco could save the United States up to $13.7 billion annually, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron. About $7.7 billion could be saved by not having to enforce the current prohibition and about $6.2 billion could be yielded in taxes.
Charles Mandingo, a former top FBI agent for the Washington region who has 27 years of drug work under his belt, supports legalized marijuana, according to The New York Times. One of the reasons for his progressive viewpoint is the racial disparity -- more blacks are locked up for marijuana-related offenses than whites, the Times notes.
Colorado and Oregon will be voting on similar measures as Washington come Election Day.
In Colorado, the campaign to "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" has gained significant momentum, with more than 300 Colorado physicians supporting Amendment 64, which would legalization marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. Physicians in support of the measure are calling for a "more commonsense policy" one that stops "criminalization of adults for using a substance less harmful than alcohol," said Dr. Larry Bedard, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in a statement.
However, not everyone backs the approval of state-sold marijuana. Some feel that more planning is required to prevent legal marijuana from turning into the next tobacco.
"The war on drugs, like alcohol prohibition before it, has had disastrous effects. The tax-and-regulate approach to tobacco also had bad results until the vigorous crackdown of recent years," a Washington state resident wrote into The Seattle Times. Adding, "Taxing marijuana would provide useful revenue and might help discourage overuse. On the regulatory side, though, a lot more thinking is needed. Remember all the ways the tobacco companies found to attract young people’s interest in their product."
Legalized marijuana will not be advertised on television or radio. TV and radio ads are regulated by the federal government, via the FCC, which does not allow commercials for controlled substances, notes Seattle Weekly. Also, there will not be big marijuana companies forking over cash for promotion.
Denise Walker, a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington and lead researcher on various marijuana addiction studies, told Seattle Weekly that she thinks the public should know about at least four health issues related to pot: it can be addictive, it can diminish intelligence, it impairs driving and it can trigger anxiety and psychological illnesses.