Next month, voters in five more states will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. As reported by The New York Times in an insightful article on this issue, some legalization advocates hope a (green) thumbs up from voters in these states (California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada) will blow enough smoke in the face of “the war on marijuana” to help bring about nationwide legalization. In fact, the lieutenant governor of California is quoted in the article as believing that legalization in California’s ginormous economy will “put more pressure on Mexico and Latin America” to also consider legalization.
The article discusses that, notwithstanding pot-legal states’ “direct conflict, the federal government,” particularly the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), (which has repeatedly declined to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act), and the practical business barriers to “marijuana companies,” cannabis clearly is big business—and becoming even bigger. In fact, The New York Times reports The Arcview Group, which touts itself as the “legal cannabis industry’s premier hub for investment, data and progress,” projects the marijuana market will grow within four years from a $7 billion to a $22 billion dollar industry if California votes yes to recreational marijuana.
On the other hand, many people are worried that the push to legalization is “ill-thought-out” and fraught with uncertainty and risk. The New York Times article reports that even though 57 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, some scholars caution that legalization is “very much a shot in the dark, a vast health experiment.” In that regard, some experts have sought to dispel the perception that marijuana is a “mild drug and less harmful than tobacco or alcohol,” especially with respect to marijuana’s impact on adolescent development. Meanwhile, the DEA’s Acting Administrator, Chuck Rosenberg, recently pledged the DEA will continue to work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and “work on other measures” to support marijuana research. One thing is for certain, it will remain interesting to closely monitor how states and the federal government adapt and respond to these complex issues.