SCOTUS decision paves way for expanded cannabis legalization

On March 18, the Oregon Department of Revenue announced that during the first month of legal cannabis sales, nearly $3.5 million in tax revenues were raised, which far exceeded projections. Reuters reported, “tax receipts from January also surpassed the first-month tallies from recreational cannabis sales in Colorado and Washington state, the first two states to legalize general commercial distribution of pot for adults.”

The tax rates and regulations vary between the three states which allow adults over the age of 21 to legally purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries. Reuters added that regulators in Alaska, where recreational cannabis was approved in 2014, “expect stores to open by the end of this year.”

Not everyone has welcomed the legalization of cannabis. Legal challenges were filed by the Attorneys General of Nebraska & Oklahoma to the cannabis regulations in neighboring Colorado. The Washington Post reported on the lawsuits last year, the AG’s are “arguing that Colorado’s law violates the Controlled Substances Act, which dictates federal drug policy. Their lawsuit contends that ‘the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.’”

On March 21, 2016 the Drug Policy Alliance reported “the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado over its marijuana legalization law.” The Post added, the 6-2 decision was released “without comment.”

In a statement from the Director of Legal Affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance, Tamar Todd, said, “The Supreme Court’s rejection of this misguided effort to undo cautious and effective state-level regulation of marijuana is excellent news for the many other states looking to adopt similar reforms in 2016 and beyond. Other states are looking to what Colorado has accomplished: the drops in racially disparate arrests, the criminal justice dollars saved, and the tax revenue raised and want to adopt similar marijuana law reforms. The dismissal of this action means that the four states that have adopted ballot initiatives by decisive margins to tax and regulate marijuana for adults, as well as the many states that have adopted laws to regulate medical marijuana, can proceed without interference at this time.”

While I welcome the inaction by the US Supreme Court on this issue, I do so for different reasons than those expressed by the DPA. I am no fan of regulations, no matter how “cautious and effective” they may be, because regulations by their very nature prohibit one group of individuals from providing a good or service that others are authorized to provide. I long for the day that cannabis – and every other substance that any person can grow, manufacture, process, possess and/or consume – is as legal as tomatoes. Until we get to that point, I welcome any action or inaction by a government that prevents said government from interfering in consensual activity.