The states are the laboratories of public policy, if’s often said. So what has California learned through 17 years of near-legal marijuana?
The New York Times reports many of the predictions made by opponents just haven’t come true. There’s been no visible increase in crime or the use of other drugs, or the use of marijuana by teenagers. Among young adults, cannabis use is up – but, as I’ve long suspected might be the impact, alcohol use is down:
…research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol.
Researchers years ago had begun reporting that, while novice pot smokers were as impaired while driving as alcohol drinkers, experienced smokers are much better. Apparently it’s possible to learn to be a safer stoned driver, but drunk drivers are equally impaired no matter how much they practice.
Medical marijuana, decriminalization and legalization are also bringing product improvements, lower prices and consumer satisfaction. A side benefit is the money domestically produced weed keeps out of the hands of Mexican cartels.
We’re witnessing a tipping point, both in public policy and public opinion: The latest Gallup poll found 58 percent of Americans now support legalization, up 10 points just in the last year. Pretty amazing, really.