Marijuana is legal in two states — Washington and Colorado. Marijuana shops in Colorado opened their doors on the first of the year and made $1 million on that day alone, now known as Green Wednesday.
With Colorado’s success — and by success, I mean the large influx of money devoid of weed-related crime — stores look to expand greatly.
One such store in Colorado, known as Medicine Man, has been open since 2010 as a medical marijuana dispensary. It is rebranded now and looking to change both the method of distribution and the social stigma behind it.
“We really are trying to industrialize a hippie process,” said Pete Williams, co-owner of the store in an article in Yahoo News. By investing $2.6 million in a 20,000-square-foot retail space “all in white like an Apple store,” it is doing just that.
Yet, its dream of becoming a national brand is a distant one, contingent on the legislation of other state governments. This begs the question — why are other state governments not leaping at the model which Colorado has proven viable?
Oregon and California already have ballot initiatives for legalization on the table, but these are still hyper-liberal states. Although polls have become more and more supportive of marijuana legislation, especially among the younger generations, red states remain obstinate.
Part of this stems from a stringency to narcotics that is often misinformed. Conservatives believe that marijuana is a gateway drug, leading to harder, more illicit drugs like heroin. Yet, current polls show that 17 percent of Americans actually believe marijuana use will curb harder drug use, up 7 percent from 3 years ago.
Other reasons are more dastardly. Arizona’s prison system is mostly privately owned. The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest owner of prisons in the nation, has experienced a 500 percent increase in revenue over the last 20 years. This company has sold prisons to 41 governors just last year, shifting these prisons from private to government institutions. This creates a vested interest in the criminalization of marijuana, regardless of the money taxpayers spend to fund these prisons.
With weed approval in the majority in this country, I believe our states have a right to concede to the people. Just recently, President Barack Obama stated that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. This, along with public outcry, will perhaps one day grant ubiquity on this tenuous issue. Until then, stores like Medicine Man will have to play the waiting game.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @izzyg25