John Colson: Legalized pot now up to U.S. Senate
Hit & Run
OK, let’s talk about legalizing marijuana, which has come so far in the national conversation that last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing cannabis (that’s the label the pot industry prefers) nationwide.
And, aside from legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use, the bill would eliminate the criminal penalties connected to the use and sale of marijuana, and wipe clean any criminal convictions imposed on users in the past.
The House bill, titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where some hope for quick passage on a bipartisan basis, though there is no guarantee that will take place.
For instance, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, called by many a Democrat in Name Only (DINO), already has expressed reservations about the bill. Manchin, not the brightest bulb in the Senate, is apparently, though illogically, fearful that legal pot might worsen the already frightening opioid epidemic in his state.
We can leave aside Manchin’s decision to add legalization to his “spoiler” role in Congress, which already has helped derail some of President Joe Biden’s most cherished legislative hopes, at least for now.
Instead, I’d like to shine a little light into the darkness that still surrounds marijuana legalization.
For one thing, there are the revenues that states already have realized from legalized cannabis, and which presumably would boost federal revenues as well, since the MORE Act includes provisions for an initial 5% federal sales tax.
The stated goal of the tax, according to published accounts, is to provide funding for programs meant to help communities “harmed by the so-called war on drug policies that established harsh punishments” for distribution, possession and use of marijuana.
Anyways, back to the revenues.
In Colorado alone, tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales, according to the website insight.livestories.com, started at roughly $3.5 million a month (rec sales only) in early 2014, the year recreational pot sales began in Colorado (recreational pot was legalized by voters in Novemenber 2012). The numbers reportedly rose to about $7 million a month by the end of 2014.
When combined with medical marijuana sales, which were legalized by voters in 2000, the total revenue (fees and taxes together) the state reaped was reported to be $76 million in 2014.
In Garfield County alone — covering the region from Parachute to Carbondale — revenue from medical and recreational pot reportedly came to more than $584,000 in 2014.
And the revenue has pretty much stayed at that level or better ever since.
As for other effects from legalization, let’s take a look at what happened to the fears among cannabis-haters that legalization would turn our teenagers into complete stoners and worse.
That prediction that was almost as idiotic as the fears among white men a century ago that smoking pot turned users (meaning mostly Black men at that time) into rampaging sexual predators out to rape white women in droves. In any event, by June 30, 2019, the New York Times was reporting that surveys showed that teenage marijuana use had fallen slightly since medical marijuana sales ramped up in 2009, and has been basically flat since full legalization, citing a 2017 report by the state’s Healthy Kids Colorado survey.
“Five years in, surveys show that most Colorado teenagers are (not regular users). They may have tried it, but 80 percent are not current marijuana users,” the survey declared.
In fact, the Times report continued, “Some school administrators say they are catching more students using marijuana and fewer drinking.”
Of course, there remain doubters about the advisability of legalizing pot nationwide. They point to anecdotal evidence that pot use is up among Colorado adults; that hospitalizations for cannabis-related ailments have risen since legalization; and that in some cases (mercifully very few) pot has been linked to deaths and suicides.
But, hey, people are kind of crazy in general, we all know that, and if someone ignorantly consumes too much of even a good thing (I consider legalization of cannabis a very good thing, in case you were wondering) they might get a little whacked out.
But cannabis use has yet to kill anyone, and is generally viewed as much less dangerous than, say, alcohol.
And if kids are turning to cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, I say, “GREAT!” That’s because alcohol consumption can easily lead to serious, life-threatening diseases and, in certain situations, can kill a consumer by a variety of means.
As many national, state and regional authorities have concluded in recent years, it is far past time that federal law catches up with the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis at one level or another.
“At least 37 states, four territories and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical [reasons], according to the National Council on State Legislatures” says a recent story by The Hill online news outlet, which adds, “About half that number — 18 states, two territories and the nation’s capital — allow it for non-medical use.”
If that’s not a sufficiently valid national trend for the feds to follow, I don’t know what else it might take.
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.