Legal Weed So Far

Ten states plus Washington DC have legalized pot for adults.

In several states it’s been legal now for 5 years. How has it worked out?

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John Stossel visited legal weed stores in California and talked with people on the street.

Almost unanimously, people said: legalization has worked well.

“See any disasters? Seems pretty alright to me,” one man told Stossel.

One woman added: “There’s a dispensary around the corner from my house and it’s actually probably cleaned up the corner.”

“Why would it clean up the corner?” Stossel asked.

“They have a lot of security … they really paid attention to who’s on the sidewalk, who’s interacting with their customers. They’re actually pretty much a class act.”

But Paul Chabot, a drug warrior who served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, disagrees. Years ago, he told Stossel that legalization would create all kinds of problems. He hasn’t changed his mind.

Chabot tells Stossel that, “Colorado youth have an 85% higher marijuana use rate than the rest of the country.”

But Stossel pointed out that a New England Journal of Medicine study says that teen use actually dropped slightly after legalization.

On the other hand, data on marijuana-linked traffic fatalities is mixed.

Chabot tells Stossel that “pot driving fatalities in Colorado are up 151%.” But that statistic is misleading because many of those people may not have been high while driving. The 151% includes anyone who tests positive for marijuana after an accident, even though traces of marijuana stay in a person’s system for weeks. A more stringent measure that more reliably predicts whether someone was high at the time of an accident indicates cannabis-related accidents are up 84 percent.

That’s still an increase. But the total numbers are low– just 35 accidents in 2017. More study is needed.

Marijuana is not harmless, but Stossel notes that the drug war usually does more harm than the drug itself. Banning marijuana drives sales into a black market, where criminals make the profit. Driving sales underground also deprives consumers of the quality and safety testing now provided by competitive legal markets. It doesn’t stop teenagers from using the drug. A study before legalization found that teens said marijuana was easier to buy than alcohol. A black market leads dealers to sell in schools and may even increase marijuana’s use.

America once tried banning alcohol. That, like the drug war, created organized crime, and much more violence.

“Prohibition hasn’t worked,” Stossel tells Chabot.

“Just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean that we end it … doesn’t mean we quit,” Chabot replies.

“At some point when it’s doing more harm than good, shouldn’t we quit?” Stossel responds.

“No, because then we give up. And that’s not American,” Chabot tells him.

But more and more, Americans are giving up on the drug war. New Jersey and New York plan to legalize marijuana soon. Stossel says that’s a good thing.

“Adults should have the right to make their own decisions about what to put in their own bodies.” he says.