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Legalized Recreational Marijuana Not Attracting Much Hooplah in Oregon

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Oregon recently became the third state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. But unlike the massive national and international attention that greeted legalization in Colorado and Washington in 2012, Oregon’s new policy has not attracted much public reaction: What if we legalized marijuana and no one really cared?

    That’s the overwhelming feeling I get standing inside Zion Cannabis in downtown Portland as customers buy marijuana from the friendly staff five days after legalized marijuana legislation went into effect Oct. 1.

    No muss, no fuss.

    Oregon is the third American state to legalize recreational marijuana sales, following neighboring Washington, where legal pot debuted in the summer of 2014, and Colorado, where cannabis has been legal since Jan. 1, 2014. Hardly anyone is paying attention.

    Alaska also recently legalized recreational marijuana – arguably attracting even less national attention than Oregon. Today, unlike in 2012, marijuana legalization seems relatively normal, as opposed to a sensational departure from longstanding policy. This is an important sign of progress for the cause of legalization.

    Both elite and public support for legalization has grown rapidly in recent years. Survey data shows that support for legalization is inversely correlated with age, which implies that it will continue to grow as the process of generational replacement continues. Within the Millenial generation, even 63% of Republicans support legalizing marijuana. A number of conservative political leaders and policy analysts have also become more skeptical about the War on Drugs.

    Experts expect that many more states will legalize marijuana in the next few years, most notably California, which is likely to pass a legalization referendum next year. In 2010, Californians only narrowly rejected Proposition 19, at which time I predicted that things were likely to be different in the near future.

    Marijuana legalization is still opposed by an unlikely coalition of strong social conservatives and the United Nations. But it definitely has strong political momentum on its side.

    To be completely clear, I do not claim that marijuana should be legalized merely because majority public opinion now supports it. Having written a book on political ignorance, I recognize that the fact that a policy enjoys majority support is at best only a weak consideration in its favor. But I do support legalization nonetheless because it will increase individual freedom, and mitigate some of the terrible harm caused by the War on Drugs. As conservative icon William F. Buckley put it in 1995, “it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana.”

    Legalization advocates still have a long way to go before they can claim final victory. Even if many more states abolish their laws banning marijuana, the federal law banning remains in force. Even if it is not enforced very often, its very existence is a deterrent to investment in marijuana production and distribution. Enforcement could expand with a change in public opinion, or the election of a hostile presidential administration. So far, there has not been much in the way of a serious effort to repeal the federal law. Hopefully, that will change in the next few years.

    Even if marijuana is fully legalized in the next few years, it will only be the start of the larger struggle to end the War on Drugs as a whole. Most of the enormous harm inflicted by that war is caused by the banning of other drugs. Although skepticism about the War on Drugs is growing on both left and right, as yet there is little public support for legalizing currently banned drugs other than marijuana.

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the current wave of state-level marijuana legalization is not the end of the War on Drugs. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. But hopefully it will turn out to be the end of the beginning of its demise.

    Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation.

    By Ilya Somin - The Washington Post/Oct. 14, 2015
    Art: The Cannabist
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. gonzochef
    Interesting article, thank you for posting this. I have friends in Colorado and I am from Washington, and we often argue over whose pot laws are better. I believe Washington's system is better for the consumer, but that is for a different thread...
    I've noticed that while I used to be quite aware about what was happening nationwide in marijuana news, as soon as my state legalized, I no longer cared much about what was going on anywhere else. How selfish. I'm not surprised that Oregon has legalized, nor am I surprised really that Alaska has, either. What does surprise me is that I had no idea that this was happening. My ignorance to this news is stunning, considering there was a time not too long ago that not much about legalization in any state would pass without my knowledge.
    It seems like those of us from states where it is legalized seem to take it for granted that we have it, and perhaps also take it for granted that it will soon spread (more or less) nationwide. I don't mean to speak for all Washingtonians, but I have noticed that my friends who are consumers of marijuana are mostly happy the local battle is over and don't plan on going anywhere that they can't have their weed. Producers of marijuana that I know tend to be far more interested in local legislation because those are the parameters they have to live within. I for one am a little embarrassed to have not been aware of Oregon's legislation.
  2. Alien Sex Fiend
    the third state?

    Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon


    Visual Aid
    Thats funny! who would need a pound of weed a month anyway?
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