Not surprisingly, the states of Colorado and Washington recently voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. What is surprising is that Oregon did not.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 will amend the state constitution to legalize and regulate the production, possession and distribution of marijuana for persons age 21 and older.
The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper did not seem to be pleased by the outcome of the referendum. However, he has indicated that he will respect the decision of his constituents.
Similar to Colorado’s new law, Initiative 502 in Washington will legalize and regulate the production, possession and distribution of cannabis for persons age 21 and older.
Washington’s new law will also supposedly raise tax revenue. The Washington referendum provides for a 25 percent tax rate imposed on the drug on three separate occasions: (1) when the grower sells it to the processor, (2) when the processor sells it to the retailer, and (3) when the retailer sells it to the customer. I have no idea how much tax revenue this will bring to the coffers of the state. However, from what I have heard about some aspects of life in the Pacific Northwest, it could be substantial.
Strangely enough, Oregon voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have allowed the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults. Measure 80 would have legalized pot through state-licensed stores, allowed unlicensed cultivation and use of marijuana by adults and prohibit restrictions on hemp.
I would expect to see another referendum or legislative initiative in Oregon in the near future. Marijuana legalization in Oregon is just a matter of time.
One thing to keep in mind with all this marijuana legalization by the states is that in general, possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law. However, just because it is illegal at the federal level does not mean that the federal law will be enforced.
There is and will continue to be strong political pressure from special interest groups to ignore federal marijuana drug laws. I expect that the administration will do just that. I can’t foresee the DEA spending much time in the mountain resorts of Colorado or roaming the streets of Seattle, Wash.
Since I am a firm advocate of the 10th Amendment, which plainly addresses the rights of the states, I must say that I sympathize with other states that pass laws that their citizens approve of. (Although I believe that federal law does preempt state law on drug regulation). The only difference between me and many of these advocates on the marijuana issue is that I recognize that the 10th Amendment applies to the vast majority of issues surrounding the rights of the individual states. Many of these marijuana advocates, like Barney Frank of Massachusetts, would shutter at the thought of the 10th Amendment applying to such issues as health care or gun rights.
Even though I sympathize with our sister states in the west, I don’t necessarily believe that we need such a law in Georgia. While marijuana is commonly used in Georgia and does not generally contribute to the types of violent crimes that alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine often do, I don’t particularly like the idea of my sons becoming legal marijuana users in the future.
For now, the idea of marijuana legalization in Georgia is more accepted than in years past. However, this state is far from passing any referendums like we just saw out west.
Swindle is a local atorney at law.