Those who support marijuana prohibition like to talk about all of the problems they feel are inherent to and result from legalization. As someone who wholeheartedly supports an end to prohibition, I can admit there are some major problems with legalization, especially in the U.S.
A glaring problem is that government lawmakers and bureaucrats are in charge of implementing it. This leads to a myriad of delays and compromises that we chronicle regularly here at The Marijuana Times. But some would say that an even bigger problem is the incremental, piecemeal way legalization is being enacted.
Of course, political realities have dictated the course of cannabis law reform. With the federal government refusing to budge when it comes to marijuana, a state-by-state strategy was the most likely option for success. Since voters and lawmakers and government officials decide in each state what the law will be, not only are there variations from state to state, but also from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state.
This has created a situation where someone driving from New York to California could be subject to scores of different laws regarding cannabis along the way. The inefficiency of this is obvious and the confusion it causes is immeasurable. It is such a clear problem that the mainstream press can even see it, as evidenced by this recent piece in Politico that focuses mainly on the friction between the federal government and the states over cannabis.
Prohibition itself was a pretty cut-and-dried process, especially with the passage of The Controlled Substances Act of 1970. That legislation made everything pertaining to cannabis illegal and subject to federal law enforcement, allowing for the creation of the DEA. State legislatures had to follow suit or face all the consequences that come from defying the federal government.
But to reverse that process is a much longer and more arduous journey. Fighting state by state, sometimes even town by town, takes much more time than debating and passing a comprehensive bill in the federal Congress. More time allows for more setbacks, which adds more time, and so on.
If the federal government has passed and enacted marijuana legalization in, say, 2012, how many states would be left today still fighting to keep prohibition? Outside a handful of more conservative states, I can’t imagine too many lawmakers would want to put up that fight.
Now consider the path we are currently on. Without federal legalization, how long do you think it will take until 40 states have adult-use legalization? Does “decades” seem like an unreasonable answer? I would submit that it does not.
The bottom line is that the way we have to go about legalization sucks. It’s slow and takes a tremendous amount of effort for relatively little progress. It creates many problems that would be avoided if things were different on the federal level.