Some in Colorado are celebrating the new year by making the first legal recreational marijuana purchases in the country.
Throughout the state a handful of licensed, regulated and taxed marijuana stores are now selling marijuana to any adults 21 or over. The number of locations of these marijuana stores is limited at the moment but they will become more common in the months and years to come.
This is a truly historic moment but what is really significant is how uneventful it has been. This is a time when inaction speaks louder than words.
These recreational sales are proceeding with few issues. Most importantly, there has been basically no interference by federal law enforcement. Marijuana is still technically illegal under federal law, and if the federal government wanted to they could have stopped this legal marijuana industry in its tracks by raiding every one of these stores the moment they opened. Instead, the federal government has done nothing today.
While federal officials could always get aggressively involved later, their inaction today has set a precedent and created an expectation. It has sent a signal that it is possible for states to set up a legal marijuana system and individuals can run marijuana businesses within these green states.
The lack of federal response this morning undermines one of the most powerful arguments against state-level legalization campaigns. Previously, some had opposed state legalization efforts by claiming the federal government won’t allow it, but today it seems the federal government tacitly is.