Though marijuana has been illegal for nearly 50 years under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the possession and selling of marijuana seems to be losing its negative stigma. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states, and the recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and the nation’s capital. Despite many states loosening their marijuana laws, the drug remains federally prohibited under the CSA.
This means marijuana is legal and illegal at the same time. The tension between the federal prohibition of the drug and its legality in some states has the potential to cause significant problems for state officials and recently legal marijuana corporations.
Will Marijuana State Laws Be Respected By The Federal Government
It is somewhat unclear what the legalization of marijuana means for the states that have legalized the recreational use of the drug. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado is consistently at the forefront of drug policy reform; the state also legalized syringe exchange programs and has the most comprehensive medical marijuana regulatory scheme in the country.
After legalizing recreational marijuana, Colorado made over $135 million in tax revenue in 2015, and opened the door to a billion-dollar industry that has created thousands of new jobs in the state. So far, there do not seem to be many negative effects of recreational legalization in Colorado. However, it is possible that Colorado’s changing drug laws are outpacing government enforcement. There is still much confusion surrounding marijuana related DUIs, and a problem has emerged with children mistakenly eating THC infused edibles.
Like the alcohol and tobacco industries, it’s possible that the marijuana industry might exploit its profitability to avoid much government regulation. Because of uncertainties like these, it won’t be clear for 5-10 years whether the long-term effects of marijuana legalization are negative or positive.