Recreational cannabis is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged to add New York to that list in the coming year. Although there is some resistance to this proposal most of the arguments against it fail when looked at closely.
There are multiple issues that are presented when a product that was once illegal comes onto the market, particularly when the product in question is agricultural rather than manufactured.
Lawyers who deal with alcohol licensing issues are fond of saying that alcohol is the most heavily regulated product on the market, and that may well be true.
When we consider how to make something like cannabis legal we certainly want to be sure that a regulatory system is in place for consumer protection purposes, as well as to mitigate the potential for abuse, and to tax the heck out of it, without incentivizing black markets.
Most jurisdictions that have legalized recreational cannabis have allowed for some local options under which communities that would prefer not to allow recreational use may opt out entirely, and all of the jurisdictions I am aware of also restrict the locations of retail outlets.
We don’t allow bars next door to churches or schools, and similar rules are probably appropriate for cannabis. Likewise, public consumption can be prohibited.
Notably, in Colorado, the incidences of driving while intoxicated declined when recreational marijuana became available. Although there is room for speculation as to why this may have occurred, an Uber driver I met in Denver had an explanation that made sense: according to him cannabis users go home, watch Netflix and get “couch locked.”
There have been no reports of roving reefer madness out of the states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and existing laws pertaining to the operation of motor vehicles while impaired seem adequate to the task of controlling that issue.
William C. Altreuter