It’s been a full week since legal recreational marijuana sales went live in the state of Colorado, and judging from all of the reports, it’s been an incredible success. On New Year’s Day alone, pot shops reported overall sales of over $1 million, bringing in hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to the state. There have been no reports of deaths, injuries, violence or anything of the sort — in fact, the worst I’ve seen reported was a few citations for public smoking.
It’s a truly remarkable success story for the first completely legal marijuana industry in modern history.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who’s been a vocal proponent for respecting state laws regarding marijuana, has decided to take it a step further. She’s the sponsor of H.R. 964, the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act, which aims to amend the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that federal laws regarding weed cannot override states’ laws. It only makes sense. At a time when favorable views on legalizing marijuana nationally have skyrocketed past 50%, the federal government needs to be sent a message loud and clear: either lead the way on legalization, or stay out of the way as states decide for themselves.
Rep. DeGette sent out an email to her supporters stating the following:
It was a big week in Colorado. Across the state, recreational marijuana was sold for the first time. And guess what? The world didn’t end. Colorado is leading the way, and we can’t let the federal government override Colorado voters and regulate our recreational marijuana sales. I’ve introduced the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act — legislation that will help prevent the federal government from imposing its own marijuana regulations on states like Colorado. Can I count on your support?
We need to take this on from day one: make an immediate contribution to send a strong message: respect Colorado voters and respect states.
If there’s one thing I know about Coloradans, it’s that we’re fiercely independent. It’s my duty to protect the decisions that voters in our state make, and that’s a job I take very seriously. I’m working hard to make sure that Congress passes legislation to respect states and the overwhelming majority that voted to legalize marijuana in 2012.
Thank you for joining me in this important fight.
Not only did the world not end, but Colorado is seeing immediate benefits in the form of much needed tax dollars for school construction — and most likely other needs as well, since sales are now expected to surpass many of the initial estimates. In short, legalization works. The benefits far outweigh any and all risks or hesitations, and even those who were initial opponents are now seeing the light on how beneficial this industry can be for the state.
It helps that Colorado did this the right way. Once the state’s voters made their will known, Governor John Hickenlooper (an initial opponent of legal weed) and the state legislature acted quickly to make sure legalization was carried out properly. From TIME.com:
Despite his reservations about the idea, Hickenlooper set up a task force to make it work, chaired by Brohl and Jack Finlaw, the governor’s top lawyer. “The governor came along quite reluctantly,” says Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver and member of the implementation task force. But once the amendment passed, Kamin adds, Hickenlooper “did nothing to stand in the way. The governor said we’re not going to relitigate this.”
The task force held meetings all over the Front Range, seeking input on issues ranging from advertising restrictions to child safety. The Democratic-controlled legislature, working with the support of law enforcement officials, passed measures to heavily tax sales and earmark the first $40 million in revenue toward school construction. A passel of legal and policy experts hustled through the process of building a regulatory framework, borrowing heavily from a 2010 measure that regulated the state’s existing medical marijuana market. And marijuana activists made pragmatic concessions—from product caps to packaging restrictions to perks for existing medical-marijuana businesses—that helped smooth divisions. “They were able to persuade their brethren in the medical marijuana industry to come on board with those reforms rather than to be oppositional,” says Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
With Colorado’s successful rollout, we’ve now seen the tipping point toward a tidal wave of common sense regarding pot laws. The money to be made cannot be ignored, and the safety of marijuana has been confirmed time and time again. Marijuana is at least one hundred times less toxic than alcohol. Numerous studies, many released in the past couple years, have shown no cancer threat and even cancer-fighting properties within the plant. Even people like Senator John McCain have come out and said that it might be time to legalize marijuana nationally. This wave of support and the actions of voters in Washington and Colorado have proven one thing — the only dangerous experiment we’ve seen regarding marijuana has been its prohibition, and the experiment has failed.
For more information on Colorado’s legal weed market, check out this excellent guide from the Denver Post.
Be sure to check out his archives on Forward Progressives for more of his viewpoints.