The prohibition of marijuana has had two major effects. The first, and most obvious, is that it made cannabis illegal, conjuring all of the horrific things that come from that. But prohibition did something else, something separate from questions of legality: it created a moral stigma around cannabis that persists to this day, even in places where legalization is taking hold.
This stigma creates its own set of problems, also often separate from legal considerations. A good example of this is towns, cities and counties that limit or outright ban the operation of marijuana retail shops in states where either voters or the state legislature have legalized such businesses, as we are already seeing in Michigan.
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that most of the jurisdictions that ban cannabis shops have no problem with things like liquor stores, bars and pharmacies plying their trade to their citizens, so why ban marijuana shops?
Why would any city or town tell functioning businesses like cannabis retailers that they are not welcome, or otherwise regulate them similar to casinos or strip clubs?
To answer these questions, all we have to do is ask ourselves what the difference is between alcohol/prescription drugs and marijuana/gambling/strippers. The former are not seen by most in society as vices, whereas those in the latter category clearly are.
Alcohol is acceptable, as are drugs prescribed by a doctor, no matter how addictive and deadly they are. Tens of thousands of people die in the U.S every year from these things, so the dividing line is obviously not safety. After all, what’s more dangerous: taking Percocet or getting a table dance from a stripper?
No, cities and towns don’t shy away from marijuana shops and casinos and strip clubs because they are not safe; they do so for strictly moral reasons.
To be sure, the stigma surrounding marijuana is being torn down consistently, as is the stigma around gambling. Many strippers have moved to the world of the Internet where they can be safe and run profitable operations. But there is still much work to be done. A city that bans marijuana shops and the tax revenues and jobs that come with them is doing a disservice to their citizens, and for no other reason that they look down on the type of “crowd” they think comes with legal cannabis.