It is beginning to look like marijuana prohibition may more quickly than anyone imagined 10 or 20 years ago.
The medical marijuana initiative has changed the facts on the ground in California. Pot shops are everywhere, operation on the tissue of legality provided by medical professionals with the broadest possible interpretation of the ills pot may be presumed to treat. But there are no signs of great damage done by making weed more openly available, and no sign of a serious movement to recriminalize it.
Instead, California is moving toward the next obvious step: legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis. Two referendum questions are being proposed for the 2010 ballot.
Colorado is going the medical marijuana route – a Denver alternative newspaper is advertising for a pot critic in anticipation of a California-style open market. And Rhode Islandis taking a similar path, though how it will play out remains to be seen.
The opponents of medical marijuana were right when they predicted it was a slippery slope to legalization. If they had just taken it off the drug schedule, let it be legally produced and sold only with a prescription, things might have been different. But ultimately, the medical model isn’t as appropriate as the alcohol model.
The alcohol model will be the one before the Joint Committee on Revenue at the Massachusetts State House Wed., Oct. 14. The committee will hear testimony on H2929: An Act to Regulate and Tax the Cannabis Industry.
More info on this initiative can be found here. An oped on the topic by Richard Evans was in today’s MetroWest Daily News. I’ll be interested to see if the committee takes it seriously, and if the media, if it covers the hearing at all, can do it without jokes and smirks and winks (as opposed to, say, Matt Lauer’s discovery of “stiletto stoners”).
Prohibition was the nation’s number one culture wars issue for 50 years, but it fell apart quickly in a time of economic stress. People realized that it wasn’t stopping folks from drinking booze, and that it had spawned a vast criminal enterprise. Legislators figured out that if there was another legal sin, they could pin a sin tax on it – and they were really hurting for revenue. If the new Prohibition follows the old one, it could collapse just as fast.
Also posted at Holmes & Co.