There are still thirteen states that have not given the green light to medical marijuana. Among the thirty-seven that have, nineteen still haven’t said okay to recreational use. Meanwhile, federal lawmakers still cannot manage to get a decriminalization bill through both chambers and to the president’s desk. Is there any option that would make enough people happy to settle the marijuana question once and for all?
Admittedly, marijuana decriminalization is a touchy subject. The drug has been illegal in this country for so long that the thought of legalizing it just doesn’t pass muster in many eyes. Maybe things will be different ten years from now. But for now, there are just too many people that are not convinced decriminalization is the right way to go.
We need to do something. Conflicting state and federal laws demand as much. So perhaps the only reasonable option is to change the legal framework so that we can start treating marijuana like alcohol. That would not make everybody happy, but it would probably make them happier than they are now.
Legal Recreational Use
What would marijuana look like if it were treated like alcohol? First and foremost, recreational use would be legal across the country. States would set their own legal consumption ages which, in all likelihood, would be twenty-one. States would also have the ability to license dispensaries, growing operations, and processors.
Washington would have the ability to regulate interstate transport. It would be able to levy a federal tax and require licenses for certain types of operations. It would also continue to have the authority to regulate or completely restrict imports and exports.
Licensed Medical Use
The recreational part is the simpler of the two. More difficult is the prospect of regulating medical use. If marijuana were treated like alcohol, we would have to come up with some sort of threshold that draws a distinction between recreational pot and a medicine.
There would also have to be a push to develop specific cannabis-based medicines that could be obtained with prescriptions. But for that to happen, Washington would not only have to loosen the restrictions on research, but they would also have to get involved in actively funding research.
Again, states would retain some measure of control. For example, Utah would have to be allowed to continue restricting cannabis to medical use only. They would need to have the freedom to tell Provo’s Deseret Wellness that they can only sell to legal cardholders. If we take that freedom away from the states, it would be impossible to maintain a distinction between recreational and medical use.
State and Federal Taxation
If we began treating marijuana like alcohol, state and federal taxation would continue unabated. In fact, we would probably have a situation in which federal and state lawmakers competed to see who could be the most creative with marijuana taxes. There is too much revenue there to leave by the wayside.
Some of the tax money would have to go to education programs designed to teach kids they shouldn’t use marijuana. Much the same way we attempt to teach them not to drink. After all, recreational weed is fine for adults. Teens and preteens, not so much.
The only ones left out in the cold would be those who are against all sorts of psychoactive substances. These are folks that would love to see America go dry again. And they are free to have that opinion. This is America, after all. It is the land of the free and the home of the brave. And it is one that still can’t settle the marijuana question.