Dr. Randall said the new marijuana is worse than the opioid epidemic because of the long-term unpredictable effects. Some synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as safe or legal alternatives to grown marijuana, but they affect the brain and endanger people even more. She notes that marijuana advocates said legalizing recreational marijuana would have positive economic effects, and it’s true that Colorado’s GDP has expanded by 1 percent because of revenue from legal marijuana sales, but that revenue doesn’t begin to pay the bill for the resulting social toll.
Dr. Ken Finn, a pain medicine specialist in Colorado Springs for 24 years who serves on Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, sees no evidence that marijuana can help scale down someone’s opioid addiction: He says it’s contributing to Colorado’s opioid epidemic, as a “companion drug.”
Ironically, many on the political left who oppose “states rights” conservatives on most issues are adamantly decentralist on marijuana: Although federal marijuana prohibition remains in effect, West Coast states plus Colorado have led the way to states rights on pot, Northeastern states are catching up, and the times are a changin’ elsewhere as well.
Already, though, legalization is not turning out to be the tax bonanza and end of illegality that its promoters advertised. The Merry Jane website headlined one story in August, “Weed Is Legal in California, but the Black Market Is Alive and Well.” That’s because cities are placing high taxes on marijuana, and surveys show that nearly half of pot consumers don’t want to pay more for their marijuana just to be legal.
Legalization is not turning out to be the tax bonanza … that its promoters advertised.
NEVERTHELESS, IF THIS WERE A MOVIE, we’d see the marijuana legalization locomotive racing down the tracks, as some adults stroll across them without looking and some children use the tracks as a hopscotch court. A leaky prohibition of marijuana has lasted for a long time, and probably kept usage below what it would otherwise be, but support for that stand has eroded.
Pollsters this year are announcing that 2 out of 3 Americans favor marijuana legalization, but an Antaeus look shows ground-level complexity. For example, a University of Texas poll this year showed 23 percent of Texans favoring a legalization of pot in any amount, with 16 percent saying possession of any amount of marijuana should be illegal. Three out of 5 Texans were in the middle, with half of them wanting to legalize it only for medical needs and the other half wanting to legalize it only in small amounts.
This is reminiscent of views on alcohol prohibition a century ago. Scientific polling did not exist in 1918, but observers then noticed some Americans wanted a constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcohol use and others wanted no law against consumption. A majority may have been in the middle, favoring a ban on hard liquor that would still allow beer with a 2.75 percent alcohol content and the equivalent in unfortified wine.
That middling majority was surprised when Congress, after voting for the 18th Amendment, prohibited the sale of not only hard liquor but wine and any beer with an alcohol content greater than 0.5 percent. (Today, we call that nonalcoholic beer.) Resentment of total prohibition festered in the 1920s and gained force when the 1930s Depression left millions depressed. When Prohibition adherents still refused to compromise, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.