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A Look at Legalization in Washington Seven Years Later

Flickr @ Bob Doran

A little over seven years ago voters in Washington approved I-502, which legalized adult-use possession and sales in the state. TV station KREM in Spokane recently took a look at how well the state has fared under legalization.

They broke down the determination of success or failure into several categories, including tax revenue and legalization’s impact on criminal justice and public health. In those categories, it seems that tax revenue is exceeding expectations, and while little has changed in terms of people actually going to jail for marijuana, certainly fewer people are being entered into the criminal justice system over simple possession.

When it comes to public health, the article rightly points out that the rise in “marijuana-related” traffic accidents under legalization has a lot to do with how long cannabis stays in someone’s system. And when the Spokane County Sheriff tries to claim that marijuana users are getting younger under legalization, the article’s authors point out that use has not gone up for teens under legalization, either statewide or in Spokane County, saying “young people are certainly more accepting of weed than they used to be, but that hasn’t translated to usage”. They even provide a handy graph to drive home the point.

All-in-all, the review was pretty even-handed and came to the conclusion that legalization has had mostly positive impacts or, at the very least, a lack of negative ones. In any case, there is no mention of the most positive effect of legalization of all: adults have a greater measure of freedom in their daily lives. Sure, there are still a lot of improvements needed in Washington’s legalization law – namely, the addition of home growing outside of the medical cannabis system. But, by any measure, the citizens of Washington are much better off under legalization than prohibition.

This comes as no surprise to legalization advocates. We have known that the doom-and-gloom scenarios proffered by prohibitionists would never come to pass for a long time now, and have been saying so for decades. And to me, while the effects of legalization have always been a secondary reason to legalize (the first being that those who possess, consume, grow and sell marijuana are not infringing on the rights of anyone else), there is a certain satisfaction that comes with being proven right.

The lack of “problems” with legalization is being seen by voters in other states, and to some extent, lawmakers as well. It helps move public opinion and shows prohibitionists to be the frauds we know they are.