The Legalization of Marijuana

5 Reasons Why Colorado Legalized Marijuana

Legalizing Marijuana, for medical or recreational use, has been a topic of debate for quite some time. Until recently, however, few regions have made drastic moves to change the drug’s legal status. Colorado and Washington have done just that, erasing prohibitory statutes which have traditionally made use and possession of the drug a crime.

Morality weighs-in to the arguments – both for and against. Proponents of legalization consistently point out the mundane nature of the drug, as well as the potential to save significant money by law enforcement by decriminalizing pot. Those clinging to the status quo, however, see marijuana as a gateway drug capable of leading users to harder drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. As such, prohibiting its use is seen as a moral obligation to those staunchly opposed to legalization. Countless studies however tend to show that this “sky is going to fall in” thought process is not correct. In fact, Dr. Gupta from CNN has now changed his own position on this important matter and now suggests that marijuana is not the evil gateway drug that the conservatives like to suggest it is. In fact, when factoring in the reality of what marijuana is against a similar substance like alcohol, and then factoring in the overwhelming cost of law enforcement detection against the taxable revenue, it becomes a no brainer for which most if not all states will jump on in years to come.

Progressive legislators in Colorado have taken the plunge, so countless other state governments are keeping a close eye on how the decision to legalize marijuana plays out in the western state. While the jury is out for many observers, others see merit in the decision to legalize, asserting that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. So what are some of the factors influencing Colorado’s decision-makers to change their legal view of pot?

Public Sentiment Favors Legalization Too often, modern politicians are seen acting contrary to their constituent’s interests. While it can be argued government maintains a watchdog role, others see intrusion into personal liberties as off-limits for federal and state authorities. Marijuana advocates in states like Colorado see their use as a personal choice, like the decision to consume alcohol, so they believe it is outside the scope of legislative enforcement.
To remove moral objections from the outcome, Colorado put the question up in a referendum vote, which eventually earned an endorsement from the voting public. Regardless of the issue, voters received clear representation when they were allowed to decide the issue themselves. In hindsight, most residents support the move, which has a track record of a few months, and greater than 50% support from Colorado residents.

Enforcement Dollars Better Spent Elsewhere At times, money is the root of public policy decisions, especially in cash-strapped states seeking to bolster revenue and reduce spending. Few initiatives do both, but Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana opens the door to significant windfalls in both areas. Enforcement, for example, and efforts put forth to limit marijuana imports and smuggling throughout the state, account for astronomical entries in annual budgets, which yield diminished returns year-after-year. Demand fuels supply, so until significant reductions are made in the call for marijuana, spending will continue to fall flat in the effort to fight its use. Colorado recognized and embraced this reality sooner than other states, so the state will be the first to realize the savings tied to decriminalization.

Increased Revenue from Marijuana Taxes In addition to wiping-out a significant annual expense tied to enforcing marijuana laws, decriminalization creates an entirely new revenue stream for the State of Colorado. Taxing legally obtained marijuana taps a once black-market commodity for revenues that would otherwise be lost to illegitimate trade. Colorado residents can purchase up to an ounce of pot, which yields a tax for residents. But out of state buyers are also welcomed to purchase a quarter ounce of the material, so legalization also generates tax payments from non-residents.

Penalties Should Match Crimes For too long, a double standard has placed criminal penalties on marijuana use, while turning a blind eye to alcohol infractions. Penalties against drunk drivers have been elevated to reflect the seriousness of the crime, but alcohol is otherwise integrated into most aspects of society. Marijuana laws, on the other hand, have included penalties disproportionate to their crimes at times, including mandatory drug sentencing guidelines which incarcerated countless offenders for small-time marijuana crimes.

Floodgates Unlikely to Open Opponents of legalization point to the possibility that widespread availability and legal status will lead to automatic increases in the number of pot users across Colorado. While decriminalization is a relatively new phenomenon, it does not appear to be having a dramatic impact on the number of users found within the state. In fact, voters polled several weeks after legalization rolled-out reported similar usage rates to those found before the initiative took effect, around 10%.

Wherever you fall on the social spectrum of marijuana decriminalization, it is hard to argue against the positive economic impacts the experiment is having in Colorado. Progressive attitudes prevail on the shift, which is widely seen by residents as a positive development. And while the new law is subject to ongoing revue, negative impacts have thus been limited in scope and number.

Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from and you can reach her at