Consider this premise: For good or ill, the full legalization of marijuana in the United States for recreational purposes is inevitable.

How did we reach the point of inevitability? Gradually then suddenly. Colorado was the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. Officials anticipated annual sales of $200 million and tax revenue of $70 million. By 2017, sales had reached $1.5 billion and Colorado’s Department of Revenue reported tax income of $250 million from pot sales.

Other states took note of the revenue, as well as the public will, and began to get on board. At present 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational weed. In 2020 national sales reached $20 billion.

And last week Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer joined Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden in proposing legislation — the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act — that will decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Some of the revenue produced by the act will be funneled back into the communities that have been most negatively affected by the so-called war on drugs.

So the present trend is clear, and the outlook suggests inevitability, as well. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly 70 percent of all Americans support legalization. In the 18-29 age group, the level of support reaches nearly 80 percent.

Weed legalization finds less support among Republicans, but even there the figure hovers around 50 percent. Further, legalization embodies two elements that are attractive to two strains of Republicans: the ones that are fond of user tax revenue and the ones who profess libertarianism.

In short, it appears that Americans want pot to be legal, and it behooves both parties to take notice as they consider their political futures.

Of course, the inevitability of marijuana legalization does not mean that it’s a wise or healthy move. But at least it would resolve two thorny paradoxes that we’ve tolerated for decades:

The first is the pesky fact that marijuana is still illegal in most states, while alcohol and tobacco — at least as dangerous and probably more so — are not, a contradiction that seems impossible to rationalize.

The second paradox is the inconsistent consequences that we apply to marijuana offenders. A person of color can spend years in prison for dabbling in marijuana; celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Woody Harrelson and Bill Maher have made pot smoking part of their public brand with no significant consequences. Weed legalization would resolve this glaring inequity.

So there’s considerable logic to support the legalization of marijuana. Still, it’s not a step we should take lightly. Indeed, I have misgivings.

I never consider this subject without thinking of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. In addition to his massive “War and Peace” and other grand novels, Tolstoy wrote a short essay in 1890 entitled “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?”

To Tolstoy, “stupefaction” was any condition that interfered with the rigorous application of a person’s conscience. His answer was total abstinence from all stupefacients, especially wine, beer, spirits, narcotics and tobacco. And he wasn’t fond of other distractions from a focused moral purpose, such as “amusements” and “games.”

With our culture already awash in stupefacients, including an abundance of drugs, legal and illegal, as well as our all-consuming, addictive distractions of social media, video games, food, video and sports, Tolstoy might wonder why we want to legalize one more. It’s a good question.

On the other hand, few of humankind’s discoveries have caused more misery, ill health, disruption and violence than alcohol. Still, would we want to live all the time under the sober dictates of the severe, abstemious conscience that reigns in Tolstoy’s ideal world? Well, that’s another good question.

But both questions are moot. Americans don’t have much appetite for self-denying prohibitions, and we are unlikely to continue to deny ourselves the pleasures and perils of pot. Since legalization is probably inevitable, the answer is moderation.

Unfortunately, moderation isn’t our strong suit, either. Still, if alcohol, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers haven’t destroyed our country, marijuana is unlikely to do so, either.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

(12) comments

DickD

You can legalize.marijana but you can't stop companies from making random checks and firing yo if the drug is found in your blood stream. Alcohol goes out of the body in hours. Marijana is in the blood stream for 30 days. Use marijana at your own risk and possibly injury to others, caused by being high on drugs.

shiftless88

If a substance is legal I am unsure you can be fired for using it away from work.

TomWheatley

If you show up drunk and about to climb into your CDL or bulldozer, then yes, you will get fired.

shiftless88

He did not say "under the influence".

gabrielshorn2013

That's only if it remains a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law, Dick. Schumer, and other Senators are trying to repeal that categorization, opening the path to full legalization. After that, what you do on your own time is your business, as long as you don't show up for work under the influence. Although the metabolites of cannabis remain in the bloodstream for a long time, the effects wear of fairly quickly, and the user is no longer "under the influence".

gabrielshorn2013

"Resistance is futile" - The Borg Collective

TomWheatley

True. I am fine with legalizing it, but wanted to point out the flawed experiment over in California. Maryland is dancing down the same path giddy with thoughts of filling the State coffers as usual. Legalize it and let people roll their own.

gabrielshorn2013

You are absolutely correct, Tom. The states see dollar signs for something that can be grown in the backyard. DC already allows that. Just knock of the BS and make it legal for those that wish to partake. As I pointed out previously, "tincture of cannabis" was actually a medicinal product in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and was available at pharmacies around the country. That is, until making it a Schedule I controlled substance in the failed "war on drugs" that jailed huge numbers of people (mostly minorities) for mere possession of small, personal-use amounts.

TomWheatley

How about we learn from California's failing experiment with a rampant black market and water usage in already dry regions? ? At the root cause is the State insisting on million dollar leasing of what is basically a plant anyone can grow. Going after the moonshiners in the 30s (and still today) was one thing as their white lightning 'product' could blind and kill people.

So of course, rattle off all the pluses of legalization, and then rub your hands in glee as to how many money you can bring in by licensing it to your buddies and taxing it. In the meantime, people will continue to grow it in basements or in the case of California, in arid desert regions.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-in-california-black-market-weed-buzzkills-for-california-legal-weed-industry-60-minutes-2020-08-02/

https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/illegal-marijuana-cultivation-creating-enormous-problems-for-californias-rural-communities/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-s-cannabis-black-market-has-eclipsed-its-legal-one-n1053856

Disclaimer: Never smoked it, never will.

Greg F

Going after moonshiners was not about the toxic stuff, but enforcement of a morality law that their morals were better than someone else’s morals. Xtian values run amok. Weed was outlaws to punish poor and minority people, period. Well, that and again put one set of morals against the other that a plant around since the dawn of modern man suddenly is a major issue.

Dwasserba

I heard that that the product that sucks up the water in CA is almonds 🤷🏻‍♀️

TomWheatley

Not overly surprised. There are a lot of nuts in California.

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