Selling A “Free” Choice

There has been much written about medical marijuana and the march of brave States to adopt it use.  So far, States have been careful in regulating the growing and sale of medical pot and seem to be eliminating one hurdle after another to ensure medical marijuana is available to all (including children) who could benefit from it.  Now on deck is recreational use.

Colorado is leading the way.  Anyone 21 or older can go to licensed stores and buy (for cash) one ounce (if they can afford it) or less.  So far there are lots of winners.  The State makes easy tax money, the store owners bring in attractive profits, and the purchasers get what they wanted.  It’s a free choice.

Naturally the use of pot like alcohol carries its own set of responsibilities.  Drinking and driving is regulated and so should be marijuana and driving.  Drinking and the use of equipment (say in a factory) is normally against safety rules.  The same should be true for marijuana.  And allowing under age people to share in ones legally acquired alcohol is against the law.  So should sharing marijuana with the under age.

Cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan have long treated marijuana possession like a parking ticket.  Most observers figured this university town was just shirking its duty and taking the easier road making peace with the students.  Maybe not.  Maybe Ann Arbor was just smart.

Philadelphia where marijuana possession is a criminal act is now considering the Ann Arbor approach.  The District Attorney has already decided to not prosecute those found with small amounts of marijuana.  The DA claims it has freed up large amounts of Court and DA time for other more serious crimes.

Philadelphia City Council is about to debate a bill which would codify the “parking ticket” approach.  Councilman Jim Kenny who is sponsoring the bill claims that it makes no sense to continue arresting people if the DA is not going to prosecute.  Kenny says that his bill will reduce the amount of police time currently devoted to arresting pot users.

Kenny does not see Pennsylvania legalizing marijuana anytime soon.  Why?  Kenny says that Pennsylvania is too conservative.  Hmmm.

The Federal Government regulates marijuana as a Class I drug right up there with heroin and cocaine.  It has long been reported by users that marijuana is far more like alcohol and not the awful drug as charged.  With all the medical marijuana States and the coming wave of recreational use States, it will soon be no longer possible to hide behind a miss labeled Federal classification.

Like with casinos, governments (State and local) who once decried the sins of gambling, are now embracing this source of revenue.  The same pattern will most likely follow marijuana.

Recreational marijuana use will not be a free lunch.  Users will pay a marked up price, reflecting regulations related costs as well as taxes.  Licensed distribution by definition restricts free competition so cost will be higher than necessary.

And for sure there will be some horrific misuses.  This must be expected.  The question might be will these horrific misuses be larger than those of alcohol or fire arms misuse?

Never the less, both social norms and the regulatory process seem finally to be moving in a sensible direction.

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