The temptation is to celebrate the enormous progress we have made over the last few years by legalizing marijuana for medical use in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Even more importantly, we’ve legalized marijuana for all adults in Colorado and Washington.
Thus, it’s easy to presume we’re getting near the finish line in this decades long struggle to legalize marijuana.
But that would be both presumptuous and premature.
The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement activities in most states today. They read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state laws will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that that next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little weed.
Proponents of a statewide initiative to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana have turned in 145,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The total is almost twice the number of signatures from registered voters necessary to place the measure on the 2014 electoral ballot.
State officials have until August 2 to verify the signatures.
The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Petition 53) seeks to regulate the personal possession (up to eight ounces), commercial cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Taxes on the commercial sale of cannabis under the plan are estimated to raise some $88 million in revenue in the first two years following the law’s implementation. Adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis (up to four plants) for personal use will not be subject to taxation.
A statewide Survey USA poll released last month reported that 51 percent of Oregon adults support legalizing the personal use of marijuana. Forty-one percent of respondents, primarily Republicans and older voters, oppose the idea. The poll did not survey respondents as to whether they specifically supported the proposed 2014 initiative.
Alaska voters will decide on a similar legalization initiative in November. Polling data shows that 55 percent of registered voters back the plan, while 39 percent oppose it. Florida voters will also decide in November on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy. A May 2014 Quinnipiac University poll reported that Floridians support permitting physicians to authorize medical marijuana to patients by a margin of 88 percent to 10 percent.
Washington’s first wave of state-licensed cannabis retail stores are anticipated to open for business next week. Initiative 502, approved by a majority of voters in November 2012, authorizes the establishment of state-licensed cannabis producers and retail sellers.
The state’s Liquor Control Board is expected to begin issuing licenses on Monday, July 7. An estimated 20 retail stores are anticipated to open their doors later in the week. Similar state-sanction stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.
With only a small number of stores likely to be operational at first, regulators anticipate that consumers’ demand for legal cannabis may initially outpace supply. In Colorado, retailers struggled initially to meet consumer demand, resulting in temporarily inflated retail prices for cannabis. Prices have steadily fallen in Colorado as additional retailers have opened for business.
Since the passage of Initiative 502, police filings for low-level marijuana offenses have fallen from over 5,000 annual arrests to just over one hundred.
[UPDATE: Here is a list (c/o of the Seattle Post Intelligencer) of the first 24 state-licensed stores:
WHIDBEY ISLAND CANNABIS COMPANY — 5826 S KRAMER RD STE, Langley
WESTSIDE420 RECREATIONAL — 4503 OCEAN BEACH HWY, Longview
VERDE VALLEY — 4007 MAIN ST, Union Gap
TOP SHELF CANNABIS – 3857 HANNEGAN RD, Bellingham
THE HAPPY CROP SHOPPE — 50 ROCK ISLAND RD, East Wenatchee
SPOKANE GREEN LEAF — 9107 N COUNTRY HOMES BLVD, Spokane
SPACE – 3111 S PINE ST, Tacoma
SATORI/INSTANT KARMA — 9301 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
NEW VANSTERDAM — 6515 E. MILL PLAIN BLVD, Vancouver
MARGIE’S POT SHOP — 405 E STUEBEN, Bingen
MAIN STREET MARIJUNA — 2314 MAIN ST, Vancouver
HIGH TIME STATION — 1448 BASIN ST NW, Ephrata
GREEN THEORY — 10697 MAIN ST STE B, Bellevue
GREEN STAR CANNABIS — 1403 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
FREEDOM MARKET — 820A WESTSIDE HWY, Kelso
CREATIVE RETAIL MANAGEMENT — 7046 PACIFIC AVE,Tacoma
CASCADE KROPZ — 19129 SMOKEY POINT BLVD, Arlington
CANNABIS CITY — 2733 4TH AVE S, Seattle
BUD HUT — 1123 E STATE ROUTE 532, Camano Island
AUSTIN LOTT — 29 HORIZON FLATS RD, Winthrop
ALTITUDE – 260 MERLOT DR, Prosser
4US RETAIL — 23251 HWY 20, Okanogan
420 CARPENTER — 422 CARPENTER RD, Lacey
2020 SOLUTIONS – 2018 IRON ST, Bellingham]
July 1st 2014 marked the 6 month anniversary of the launch of Colorado’s great social experiment – the legalization and regulation of marijuana for all adults age 21 and over. News coverage of the state’s highly scrutinized, yet burgeoning retail cannabis industry has been lukewarm, but a review of the last six months shows that (although inconclusive in its early stages) this policy has not only failed to cause the reefer madness social breakdown predicted by prohibitionists, it appears that this new industry is starting to positively impact the state and its communities.
Colorado is projected to save tens of millions of dollars in law enforcement expenses this year. Job opportunities continue to open up and revenue is expected grow at an unprecedented rate – a significant portion of which has already been allocated to public schools and education programs.
Below are five positive social and economic developments that can be attributed to Colorado’s 6-month old retail cannabis market:
- $69,527,760 in retail marijuana pot sales.
-10,000 people working in the marijuana industry(1,000-2,000 gaining employment in last few months)
- 5.2% decrease in violent crime in the city of Denver.
- No Colorado stores found selling to minors.
- $10.8 million in tax revenue (not including licensing fees)
All in all, these first few months have shown in practice that the benefits of legalization significantly outweigh those of prohibition, both morally and economically. One can’t deny that there will be bumps in the road. As this new market continues to evolve we should be prepared for the emergence of new, unanticipated issues. However, one can be comforted in the fact that any rising concerns are being addressed and rectified in a responsible and expeditious manner – both on the part of lawmakers and industry leaders. As Colorado moves forward, and more states begin to implement similar policies, the politicians and the population will see that this is the right policy for our children, our economy and our society.
“I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits – and millions of Americans agree with me.” –Dr. Hunter S. ThompsonOne of the serendipitous occurrences in my life was meeting the late Hunter S. Thompson, the original Gonzo journalist, in 1972, at the Democratic National Convention in Miami. Hunter was there to cover the event for Rolling Stone magazine and I was there, along with a myriad of other activists, hoping to find a way to get some national attention on the need to legalize marijuana, and to stop arresting marijuana smokers.
I had founded NORML 18 months earlier in late 1970, but few people were yet aware of our work, so we jumped in my 1961 Volkswagon camper, a common set of wheels for a would-be hippie back then, and headed to Miami to join the anti-Vietnam war activists along with proponents for all sorts of social change, from environmentalism to gay rights to workers’ rights, and everything in-between.
At the time, we didn’t have any party connections and we didn’t really have any idea of what was going to happen in Miami; but we made plans to go anyway because the prior Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 had been a watershed moment for American political dissent. In what must be a high point in political street theater, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Youth International Party (the Yippies) nominated a pig for president, and captured national media attention in the process.
When I met Hunter he was smoking a joint under the bleachers at the opening night of the convention. I was sitting in the stands listening to the speeches when, quite suddenly — and without any question in my mind — I smelled marijuana, and quickly realized it was coming from down below. I looked below the bleachers and what I saw was a fairly big guy smoking a fairly fat joint. He was trying to be discreet, but it wasn’t working very well. I could see him hunkering in the shadows — tall and lanky, flailing his arms and oddly familiar. Jesus Christ, I suddenly realized, that’s Hunter S. Thompson!
Like every other young stoner in America I had read “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” as it was serialized a few months earlier in Rolling Stone. Hunter would soon gather great fame for himself, the kind of fame from which one can never look back upon. But on the night I met Hunter, his star was still ascending.
Screw the speeches, I thought to myself.
I quickly found my way under the bleachers and approached as politely as possible.
“Hu-uh – What the fuck?!! Who’re you?!”
“Hey, Hunter. Keith Stroup from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We’re a new smoker’s lobby.” Easy enough.
“Oh. Oh, yeah! Yeah! Here,” Hunter held out his herb, “You want some?”