Colorado and Washington Legalize Recreational Pot Use

I smoked pot until I was in my 30’s. But then I grew up and became an adult and the allure of getting high and listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Luv” for the 10,000th time pumping full blast on my old Pioneer stereo system was lost. Also, marijuana was still illegal and getting busted back in the days of “zero tolerance” meant they could potentially take everything you own if you were busted with quantity.


Obviously, I quit smoking the stuff too early:

Voters approved an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado on Tuesday, making this one of two states to end prohibition of the drug but also raising new legal questions and setting up potential court battles over the measure’s implementation.

The historic result, projected by The Denver Post Tuesday night, drew raucous cheers and applause from the amendment’s supporters, who gathered in hundreds at Casselman’s in downtown Denver.

“We won! We won!” supporters cried as the results were splashed across a giant screen.

Amendment 64 led late Tuesday night with 53.3 percent voting yes and 46.7 percent voting no, with 1,863,535 votes or about 66 percent of active voters counted, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

“This is really groundbreaking,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. “No modern jurisdiction has ever removed the prohibition on the production and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. … Since no one has done this before, there are a lot of uncertainties.”

Voters in Washington state approved a similar measure Tuesday; in Oregon a legalization issue failed.

The amendment will allow those 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of the drug at specially regulated retail stores. Possession would be legal but not public use.

I’m pretty much of a libertarian when it comes to drugs. If you’re going to be dumb enough to put the synapses of your brain at risk by inhaling a mind-altering substance, then it’s your business.


But of course, it’s not that simple. Heavy marijuana use has serious drawbacks:

The risks of smoking marijuana go up with heavy use. Although the link has never been proven, many experts believe heavy pot smokers are at increased risk for lung cancer.

Heavy marijuana use lowers men’s testosterone levels and sperm count and quality. Pot could decrease libido and fertility in some heavy-smoking men.

Contrary to what many pot smokers may tell you, marijuana is addictive, at least psychologically. Even among occasional users, one in 12 can feel withdrawal symptoms if they can’t get high when they want to. Among heavy pot smokers, the rates of dependence are higher.

Many experts also believe that marijuana is physically addictive. Symptoms of withdrawal from pot might include:

Depressed mood
Decreased appetite

No worse than alcohol? That’s not the point, is it? Why compound society’s problems with drugs by legalizing a substance that causes many of the same social problems as booze?

There’s no right or wrong answer — just the insoluble problem that we criminalize the use of products that many people use and enjoy anyway, and the prosecution of offenders clogs our courts and makes criminals out of people who are sick with addiction.

Jacob Sollum at Hit and Run:

During the next few years the feds will confront the practical limits on their powers, even as they continue to defy the constitutional limits (with help from the Supreme Court). The experiments on which Colorado and Washington are embarking will be instructive for the entire country, not just in terms of drug policy, where new approaches are sorely needed, but also in terms of defining the boundary between state and federal power. No one would ever mistake Barack Obama, who broke his promise to respect state laws allowing the medical use of marijuana, for a federalist. But during his second term circumstances may compel him to step back and let a few states try a little tolerance for a change.


“Federalism,” “tolerance” — sounds reasonable. But legalizing a substance that can do harm to the user makes the state complicit in whatever deleterious effects the change in law realizes. Is this fair to the taxpayer?

Many questions — few answers.


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