As Colorado enters its third year of recreational marijuana legalization, by many measures it’s going very well. But it probably would be going a whole lot better if some of our neighbors and the federal government would get with the program.
The advent of legal weed here and in other states appears to be crippling the violent Mexican drug cartels that supplied most of the marijuana consumed in the United States pre-legalization. That doesn’t mean that American-grown pot has completely eliminated the criminal element. In fact, officials in several of our surrounding states have complained that the influx of marijuana from Colorado has overwhelmed law enforcement. The concern is allegedly so bad that Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska have sued Colorado in federal court.
The problem with these suits is that they go against federalist (i.e., states’ rights) principles so revered by conservatives in beet-red states like Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, so a plaintiffs’ victory could open a massive can of marijuana-infused gummy worms here and elsewhere. (A small handful of Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma at least seem to recognize this.)
As that courtroom drama unfolds, marijuana’s banking issue continues to be unresolved. A U.S. District Court has denied attempts by a local credit union to certify itself as a banker for the industry, primarily because marijuana is still federally illegal. As long as the courts keep denying such applications, they’re putting the pot industry in a cash-only bind that will only exacerbate the potential for criminality that the hand-wringers so fear.
We know that one of the primary reasons marijuana remains verboten at the federal level is because it’s classified under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it’s officially considered to be as harmful as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and more harmful than cocaine and meth. The Schedule 1 designation is what many marijuana opponents cling to when advocating their resistance, but anyone who honestly believes it’s accurate can’t possibly be taken seriously as a lawmaker or as an adult who’s in possession of basic common sense. If anything in our system is begging for a good executive order, a rescheduling of marijuana would be it.
The legalization movement still has a long way to go before it can be called an unqualified success, and the truth is, it may never be. (More than 85 years after the Prohibition Era ended, would anyone call the production, sale, and marketing of alcohol an unqualified success?) But as Americans take the time to examine the truths and myths around marijuana—even when their legislative representatives decline to do the same—support for well-regulated legalization continues to grow, reaching almost 60 percent nationally as of this past October. Support for medical marijuana is even, um, higher across the board, including in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. That hasn’t stopped officials in Kansas, for example, from taking draconian actions against certain marijuana “offenders” that are excessive to the point of being downright cruel.
But in order for legalization to have a chance at greater success—in the categories of safety and sensibility as well as in revenues—the more people, states, and the feds can cooperate, the better off our entire society will be. There will always be those who make ignorant claims about marijuana’s dangers while hypocritically ignoring far more pressing problems such as alcoholism (and the violence that too often accompanies it), and the plagues of meth, heroin, and prescription drug addiction. Unfortunately, we live in an era when political cooperation is as rare as common sense.