Marijuana and state power

While all the buzz is on the presidential election this year and for good reason, pushes to legalize recreation and medical marijuana were attempted in 13 states and passed in eight. If it wasn’t such a ridiculous presidential campaign, I’m sure marijuana’s victories would be more publicized than the presidency.

Four states, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada legalized recreational use, Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota legalized medicinal use. Arizona was the only state to defeat a marijuana measure on the ballot, 47.8 percent of voters voted to approve the measure, being beaten by the 52.2 percent voting against. Arkansas, Michigan, Montana and Oklahoma attempted to get marijuana measures on the ballot but issues with petition signatures and judicial rulings kept the measures off the ballot.

This is a huge step towards more rational drug legislation and is a message to all the other states that legalization works, has tangible benefits, and has minimal consequences. It’s a sign that people are starting to see the issues with prohibition of a relatively harmless substance and that the general social opinion is starting to shift.

What I like the most is the states starting to stand up to the federal government. Ever since Lincoln, the federal government has really been getting too much power over the states. Even though I disagree with the massive regulations and the impact on medicinal marijuana in Washington, it’s balanced out by Washington standing up to the federal government.

I don’t think there’s a single proper way to manage marijuana or a set of laws that are inherently better than others. I believe in smaller groups of people deciding for themselves what they want over the entire nation deciding for the entire nation what is right or wrong. If Wyoming wants to fully legalize or fully prohibit marijuana, what do I care? I care about the state I live in and what it’s decided. Should I ever need to move to another state, their stance on marijuana may impact my decision whether I want to go there or to an alternative.

Personally, I believe that prohibition doesn’t work. Laws banning a plant so easily grown as marijuana do nothing but promote a black market. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it doesn’t work for marijuana.

However, my personal, subjective opinion has no bearing on what the right thing to do is, and it shouldn’t preclude groups from making whatever rules they want. If some state wants to completely ban marijuana, I’m happy to let them do it. If legalization is a really wonderful thing, then whoever prohibits marijuana will see every other state succeeding and prospering, while they’re left with a ballooning prison population. If legalization is in fact a bad idea, the state that prohibits will succeed as the others crumble.

It’s basic competition, basic evolution. Not only that, but as opposed to biological organisms who don’t have any control of their genetics, individuals or groups of individuals have absolutely nothing standing between them and a change of beliefs. Even if people are personally against marijuana, they can see the benefit it has for others and vote for it. It’s really quite beautiful when everybody is allowed to make their own decisions and those that turn out well are adopted and those that result in disaster are abandoned.

Living in Washington, we have a unique perspective on the situation. We were one of the first two states to legalize recreational use, it’s not a big deal anymore. I see – more accurately smell people smoking in public regularly. Society hasn’t crumbled, basically innocent people aren’t getting thrown in jail, life is the same as it ever was. Really, the only thing I have noticed from legalization is that it’s far easier to obtain marijuana. That, and it’s surprising how diverse customers to recreational dispensaries are. From millennials freshly 21 to seniors, everybody buys at recreational dispensaries.

My one hope for the future is that people start to see the benefits in letting states decide more matters for themselves. Not only does this allow a variety of options to be tried out but it’s the way the country was intended to work.