As many around the US know, marijuana tolerance has grown exponentially in the past decade, and Americans’ moral acceptance has been affecting the actions of policymakers. Little by little, less-tightening regulation has been placed on cannabis. And just in the beginning of 2014 was yet another monumental feat for the pro-marijuana crowd: Colorado legalized the controversial plant.
Becoming the first state to make a somewhat wishful attempt at allowing the Colorado citizen a freer toke of the dense green, “Amendment 64” working with “Proposition AA” went into effect the first day of the New Year.
Passed by a wide margin of Coloradoans voting 60 percent in favor, the proposition fell in congruence with “Amendment 64”, which was passed in November 2012. The widely covered amendment legalized marijuana, as well as regulated it.
Adults over the arbitrary age of 21 can legally, by Colorado law, smoke marijuana pending the compliance to regulation standards such as licensing. Where it gets sticky is with business operation in the marijuana market, which can be somewhat of a headache, especially for owners, employees, civil libertarians and market enthusiasts concerned with not only personal freedom, but also economic.
In the regulations and taxes pertaining to marijuana sale, “Proposition AA” comes back into the picture. Among the strongest is the 15 percent wholesale tax statewide, in addition to the 10 percent retail sales tax. And for Boulder residents, another 8.5 percent local tax is added on. Of course, along with taxing marijuana is the monopolizing power by state officials to pick and choose who can and can’t operate a licensed retail store.
The personal issue of smoking marijuana was center stage in Colorado, and unfortunately took up the entire stage. While their intention was to bring Coloradoans a basis for personal freedom, or at least the ability to smoke marijuana without imprisonment, policymakers and citizens forgot about freedom in its entirety, which includes freedom in the pocketbook.
And by shaking off economic freedom, as if it were the invisible friend, it seems the pundits have molded marijuana legalization to correlate with what it’s like to end prohibition. Put simply, marijuana legalization in Colorado certainly doesn’t mean the end of marijuana prohibition itself; the noose has just been loosened for smokers. The trend of “ending prohibition” is catching on nationwide, and one should remember that when a prohibition ends, so do the laws guided around that prohibition, and Colorado’s hasn’t.
Looking at the big picture, Coloradoans were given the option to either accept marijuana laws across the board as they were, or to vote in favor of new marijuana laws (“Amendment 64”), which in the end lessened penalty for marijuana use. However, “Amendment 64” and later “Proposition AA” never ended the state’s prohibition of marijuana – the legislations gave more choice back to the Coloradoan, in exchange for their money, forcibly.
Steve Esposito of FEE.org wrote, “The assumption seems to be that no market is legitimate unless it is regulated, and that regulation is some sort of fairy dust to keep “criminal dealers” out of the industry.” By lessening the state’s grip on marijuana, which, oh by the way, is a heavily demanded good in Colorado, bureaucrats and handlers are able to dictate what business is created, who can sell the marijuana and how much it will cost. Increasing the cost of marijuana has already put a burden on smokers.
Twitter’s recreational tweeters lit up after hearing of the price controls on marijuana sale, with one person saying, “[The state] can keep [its] legalization if weed’s gonna cost $65/8th!” and another satirically asking, “$400 an ounce?” The lack of economic freedom that’s driving up prices is only putting a hurt on the marijuana market. Consumer incentive would lead the marijuana smoker to a cheaper buy, which means evading taxes.
Jumping through tax and regulation means the consumer is headed right back to the black market where marijuana sales started in Colorado – that is if the consumer wants a cheaper price than the heavily taxed, state-stamped marijuana. Costing the coerced Coloradoan even more is the payment for state regulations, on which according to the NY Times has not been decided. The trade-off of being able to smoke marijuana without fear of state enforcement at the price of marijuana tax and regulation is debatable to one side.
To put costs into price perspective, the Summit Daily reported that for some rocky mountain folks, buying an ounce of mid-grade marijuana in Colorado would come with an additional $50 to $60 in taxes. Other sources like Twitter, as mentioned, have noted eighths costing about $50 to $60 after taxes. The tax and regulatory burdens thrown onto Coloradoans will inevitably lead some, or many, to the black market for cheaper prices.
Other state mishaps in the marijuana market include the artificial supply of marijuana products, which isn’t based off demand, but rather state guideline. It’s not only restricted to prices either, considering the state is also approving who’s allowed to set-up a retail business. The lack of supply and demand would eventually lead to the higher prices: something that’s already taking place, and causes a domino effect within the black market.
Overall, instead of Colorado’s finest arresting Mary Jane and her boyfriend for smoking marijuana on their back porch, fining and imprisoning them, now they can smoke legally – as long as the couple purchases marijuana from a state-approved seller and pays the coerced tax. That’s the Colorado version of ending prohibition, at least for some media heads and advocates.
Even aside from economic free will, the Coloradoan isn’t allowed to smoke marijuana on any public or federal properties including sidewalks, parks and roads. Despite being allowed to smoke in your home, you can’t smoke in areas, which although are privately owned, have been deemed public, such as rooftop cafés, restaurants, bars and other venues. Citizens aren’t even allowed to buy as much marijuana as they’d like. A buyer is only allowed to purchase one ounce per transaction.
Since Colorado’s announcement of cutting back on marijuana prohibition, others have tried to follow suit in the depiction of the Centennial State’s end of prohibition. New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo is adopting medical marijuana legislation, repeating the moves by New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Running along with “ending prohibition” are states like Michigan and California.