While the legalization of marijuana in two states last Nov. 6 may have caused some celebration, others are still apprehensive about the future.
Colorado and Washington made history as voters passed a law that would legally allow adults 21 years or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. While Colorado is still awaiting final certification, Washington’s new law will be in effect on Dec. 6.
Alison Gayer, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, heard about the laws beforehand but was very surprised they had passed. Gayer said because the use of marijuana recreationally is still federally illegal she was not sure where the states would be going with this new law.
“I think it’s a bold move,” Gayer said, “So there are potentially going to be federal ramifications.”
The new law will also allow for the regulation and taxing of marijuana exactly like alcohol or tobacco, which proponents believe will help the state’s economies. Regulation of the drug also has some believing it can help reduce youth access to the drug, since consumers would be asked for proof of age before purchasing it.
Although there could be many benefits to these new laws, there are also a lot of unknowns that require time and research. Kevin Mumford, an assistant professor of economics, wrote in an email that with the federal deficit around $1.3 trillion, the potential revenue from marijuana is tempting, but increased use of the drug could lead to other problems such as increased government expenditure on Medicare or Medicaid.
“It is difficult for economists to study things that are illegal,” wrote Mumford, “so we just don’t know.”
Katie Cahill-Rincon, a graduate student studying political science, thinks these new laws raise some questions about state law versus federal law. She said these states will try to respect what the voters have asked for but she does not think the federal government will ignore any overt violations of federal law.
“The states, and I think appropriately so, are being very cautious about how they’re going to implement this new sort of change,” Cahill-Rincon said.