Coloradans take a lot of pride in our pioneer spirit. Today, we are pioneers once again as the first legal marijuana stores open and Colorado becomes the first state in the country where you can carry marijuana and use it in your home without the threat of arrest and criminal prosecution.
Common sense won the day in November 2012 when voters across Colorado approved legalization. Since then, state and local decision-makers have worked to set up a system for taxing and regulating marijuana. New rules have been written to define public consumption and display and a few counties and cities have opted out of the economic benefits that come with new marijuana businesses opening within their borders. As the new framework has emerged, Coloradans have made one thing clear and consistent - arrests for marijuana possession are a wasteful use of police officers’ time and scarce public resources.
Colorado is a pioneer, but there is still much to be done to end the unnecessary and expensive War on Marijuana. Taxpayers around the country spend about $3.6 billion a year investigating, prosecuting, and jailing recreational marijuana users. Surely that money could be better invested in our communities.
And beyond our state’s borders, too many people continue to be swept up into the criminal justice system just for having marijuana. According to the recent ACLU report The War on Marijuana in Black and White, between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million marijuana arrests in the U.S. That’s equal to one bust every 37 seconds. Most alarming, enforcement of marijuana laws has resulted in staggering racial bias, as a Black person is almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.
In Colorado, those resources will now be put to more effective and efficient use and a new stream of income will start coming in from marijuana sales’ taxes and licenses.
This New Year’s Day brings justice and savings to Colorado with the official start of legalized recreational marijuana. With Washington State up next and several other states considering similar policies, Colorado will hopefully be remembered as the state that went first and led the way towards finally ending the needlessly expensive and ineffective War on Marijuana.