Big Steps on Pot Legalization, But at What Cost?

D.C. and Philadelphia push lighter marijuana laws

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Yesterday was April 20th, which as "4/20 day" is an unofficial day of marijuana, shall we say, awareness. With medical marijuana provisions and even some legalization laws slowly moving through various U.S. state and local legislatures, April 20th is often used by legalization advocates as an opportunity to take stock of their progress. The Wire covered the state of the legalization debate yesterday. Here's a look at some specific measures, including ones being pushed in D.C. and Philadelphia.

  • Legalization Laws Doing Well  Politics Daily's Sandra Fish cheers, "On this 4/20, with medical marijuana legal in 14 states and outright legalization on the ballot in California and possibly Colorado, the drug's legitimacy is clearly gaining ground." However, "As medical marijuana becomes more prevalent and states consider legalization, a range of issues emerge about how pot would be regulated." Smoking bans, taxation concerns, and question about distribution all pose real challenges.
  • But Public Opposes  Politics Daily's Bruce Drake notes, "polls find most oppose legalizing marijuana." For example, "A CBS News poll conducted March 29-April 1 says that 51 percent of Americans oppose legalization while 44 percent support it, with 5 percent undecided. That result was not much different than a CBS survey conducted last July, but it did show a drop in opposition from March 2009 when those against legalization numbered 63 percent."
  • D.C. Approves Medical Marijuana  The Washington Post's Tim Craig explains the bill, "unanimously approved" on 4/20 day, to "allow chronically ill patients to receive a doctor's prescription to use marijuana and buy it from a city-sanctioned distribution center." Wonkette's Jim Newell scoffs, "Happy National Marijuana Day, hippies."
  • Philly Pushing Decriminalization  The Philadelphia Inquirer's Craig McCoy reports, "The city's new district attorney and the state Supreme Court are moving to all but decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in an effort to unclog Philadelphia's crowded court dockets. Under a policy to take effect later this month, prosecutors will charge such cases as summary offenses rather than as misdemeanors."
  • Legalizing Doesn't Make Economic Sense  Former Congressman and DEA official Asa Hutchinson cuts against the pro-legalization argument that the market would provide big tax revenues. "Put plainly, marijuana was made illegal because it is harmful; citing revenue gain as reason to legalize the drug emphasizes money over health and ignores the significant cost burdens that will inevitably arise as a result." For example, the health harms would ultimately cost more than those tax revenues would produce.
  • The Marijuana Market  In a massive, multi-part report, CNBC explores the $40 billion/year U.S. marijuana industry, touching on everything from the economics of the market to the legalities of the trade to the drug's surprising role on Wall Street and in U.S. business. Here's an excerpt:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.