Marijuana users everywhere rejoiced when Washington and Colorado approved legalized sales of marijuana for recreational use last Tuesday.
Although ethical and economic issues surrounding the drug have been addressed at a state level, the federal government has yet to revisit what some might consider an archaic view. It isn’t difficult to understand why. Legalization of marijuana has debatable benefits, but the federal government must decide how to regulate sales of the green weed. Controversies surrounding drug usage, like the drug war and reform, have become pushed to the back burner in this year’s election, in favor of hotter-buttoned issues, like job creation and women’s rights issues.
However, before it can begin, it must overhaul certain components within the U.S. social system. Marijuana was legalized in two states, much to the chagrin of voters who refused it for ethical reasons. For others, the legalization of marijuana has less to do with moral concerns and more about issues of policy, implementation and execution.
For one, will the drug be regulated like tobacco and alcohol is or will it follow a different set of federal standards? Some argue that the effects of marijuana are similar to those of alcohol, so it makes sense that alcohol would undergo similar restraints. But the culture surrounding the two drugs is difficult. Alcohol remained such a celebrated element of American culture not even Prohibition could ban it, while marijuana usage draws out ambivalent views from even the most passionate of stoners.
Two states have broken the marijuana barrier and other states are looking to follow — will marijuana be another battleground in which the “state versus federal government” conflict gets rehashed? Even so-called “government-loving liberals” are quick to acknowledge that drug reform will happen at the state level before it happens at a federal level. Will users be fined for second-hand weed smoke and how will our federal legislative and state judicial systems adapt to the legalization of a hotly-contested drug? And then there’s the matter of drug education and how newly-legalized marijuana will affect children in a culture that once adamantly attested to the drug’s depravity. The legalization of marijuana opens the door other points of contention unforeseen by pot users and denouncers alike.
The federal government must decide how it wants to address marijuana usage on a national scale if it wants to have any clout in the matter. Otherwise, states will be taking things into their hands.
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