Colorado this week became the first state in the United States to allow the regulated sale of recreational marijuana in “pot shops.” That means a Colorado resident who is 21 years or older can buy as much as an ounce of marijuana for $200 and not get pounced on by federal narcotics agents.
Of course, they are still forbidden to smoke the marijuana they purchased in public places. Coloradoans have to light their weed in the privacy of their homes. But for the legions of pot users in the US, the legalized retail of their favorite stuff is a nirvana moment.
Legalizing the sale of marijuana was not a decision that was foisted on the people of Colorado. More than half of them voted to enshrine it in the state’s constitution, convinced that the social and criminal fallout traditionally associated with marijuana use is outweighed by the tax windfall it will bring.
There is a 25-percent state tax on retail pot, not to mention a 2.9-percent sales tax. That rings up to $67 million in annual tax revenue for Colorado, of which a little less than half will go to building new schools.
The US federal government still considers the sale of possession of marijuana illegal, but so far it has shown no signs of contesting the Colorado initiative in court. Many interpret this as an indication that Washington is slowly beginning to downgrade marijuana’s ranking as a dangerous substance along up there with cocaine and heroin.
For decades, marijuana has been in the crosshairs of drug enforcement agencies, who condemn it as a “starter” substance, the first rung in the ladder of drug abuse. A pot user in search of a bigger high easily graduates to other, more potent drugs, so their argument goes.
Authorities pin down marijuana as the culprit in the flowering of the drug culture in the 1960s and the harbinger of the billion-dollar narcotics trade run by Mexican drug cartels.
The hardliners have successfully perpetuated the stigma, and marijuana’s malevolent label has overshadowed its proven medicinal benefits. Breakthrough clinical studies, however, validate the healing properties of pot, and even the most skeptical experts are now taking notice.
In places where marijuana is legal, medical cannabis is used as an appetite stimulant. It eases the nausea induced by chemotherapy. Cannabis is taken by rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to relieve chronic pain. Ten countries have approved its use for multiple sclerosis.
The recreational use of marijuana may be making inroads in the US (pot shops in Washington state could open later this year), but don’t expect a pot boutique to open in a Metro Manila mall any time soon. Marijuana is still a banned substance in this country.
Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, possession of 10 grams of marijuana is punishable with life imprisonment or a P500,000 fine. The Food and Drug Administration has also turned a blind eye on pot’s medical potential.
Recreational or medicinal, it is still dangerous, as far as our leaders are concerned.
Already, a senator has declared, “Only marijuana users and addicts are the once who wanted cannabis legalized in our country.”
The whole world will be watching and debating the pot-for-schools experiment.
Maybe, just maybe, they will catch of whiff of the heady changes taking place in Colorado.