A California research published last Wednesday deals with consequences of alleged marijuana legalization in the state. The research aims to outline potential negative effects of legalizing marijuana, and takes into account the experience of other states that have already legalized weed. The 93-page document contains suggestions on 58 problematic issues, associated with the subject, ranging from taxation of pot to law enforcement on driving while stoned. Below are the most interesting questions arisen.
1. Banking and federal law.
Currently banks are reluctant to do business with both buyers and sellers of marijuana, since it is still classified as Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. If the business is to come out of the shadows, banking is essential, and without softening the federal law it seems virtually impossible.
2. The right to grow weed.
If growing is officially legalized, should it be allowed only to citizens? Permanent residents? Should cross-state or foreign investments be allowed? A rather simple question, but taxation will basically depend on how you answer it. In California, currently supply exceeds demand, but would it be legal to sell the Goods to other marijuana-legal states, or even abroad? Not an easy point to argue on, certainly.
3. Taxing and allocation of tax revenue.
It’s controversial how to tax cannabis better – from production or sales perspective, since it depends largely on supply-demand ratio. Furthermore, what should the state government do with money collected by the tax? If excise is to be applied, like with alcohol and tobacco, the amount of revenue will be quite substantial. The report suggests that it should be directed to other marijuana-related issues (education, health, drug rehabilitation programs etc.). Not a bad idea, but would that be enough?
4. Status of marijuana drug felons.
Although convictions based solely on cannabis violation are quite rare – most of cases also involve other drugs that are not likely to be legalized – marijuana felons are expected to be stripped from all charges once the thing becomes legal. On the other hand, the law is not retroactive, and we may face a ridiculous situation when former marijuana dealers do their time in jail, while their younger colleagues do business freely with consent of state.
5. Distinguishing between medical and recreational marijuana.
Colorado and Washington have already faced this problem. Logically, prescription marijuana has to be treated – and taxed – differently, since medicating with it should only be assigned by a doctor. This is the way things are in Colorado, where medical marijuana is almost twice cheaper than the regular one. However, it led to a flood of new applications for medical weed from patients who never needed it before – nobody wants to pay more for recreational weed. Washington tried a different approach – they eliminated the medical marijuana as prescription drug class, legalizing it for everyone, and after a while, medical patents started claiming they are running short on their medication. It is hard to tell which option would be more suitable for California, but one can clearly see they are both not without flaw.
6. Stoned drivers.
Anecdotal as it may seem, the problem is serious: how would a police officer determine how ‘high’ the driver is? Regular Alco testers would be of little help here, as it is virtually impossible to track the level of cannabinoid infusion in the breath. A blood test would be a better solution, but then again – should police be allowed to force drivers to undergo blood tests on sight?
These are merely milestones in wide array of disputed topics, associated with weed legalization. A multi-billion dollar industry will not come out of the hide easily, and we must foresee as many problems as we can to be able to react to its challenges.