Stores opened in Colorado on Wednesday to sell recreational marijuana, the first in the country to do so after voters there legalized the drug last year.
Forty state-regulated shops opened on New Year's Day to begin selling marijuana to those over 21. It costs $50 to $60 for an eighth of an ounce, and buyers can purchase up to one ounce at a time. The law prevents buyers from carrying the drug out of Colorado or providing it to minors. Residents could previously consume marijuana legally and grow up to six plants at home, but dispensaries could only sell to those with a state-issued medical marijuana card.
Washington also legalized marijuana sales in a vote last year, but will not begin selling the drug until later in the year. Recreational marijuana is already legal in that state, and medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Federal law continues to prohibit marijuana sales and consumption, but the government decided in August not to intervene in the sales in Colorado and Washington. However, it reserved the right to challenge their laws in the future if the Justice Department is unsatisfied with the states' ability to regulate sales on their own:
If any of the stated harms do materialize — either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one — federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.
Some still argue that legalizing marijuana does not outweigh the negative impacts of drug use, and the taxes collected from sales will be dwarfed by associated medical costs. They also say legalization won't necessarily decrease the amount of arrests associated with the drug:
Even the supposed benefits of legalization may not pan out. Ironically, under legalization, we could see arrest rates for marijuana actually increase, similar to what we see with alcohol (there are 2.7 million arrests a year for alcohol versus 800,000 for marijuana), as more users drive high or violate marijuana growing and using laws.
What do you think? Will Colorado's pot legalization experience pave the way for national legalization? Take the poll and comment below.
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