Contra the Washington Post, 18 months is not less than a year
Despite overwhelming support for marijuana legalization among the residents of Washington D.C. the Washington Post’s editorial board has come out against Initiative 71, a legalization measure on the ballot this November. What is particularly disappointing about their piece is they got the basic facts wrong, which completely undermines their main argument. From the editorial:
It’s not been a year since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana use and, as the Smart Approaches to Marijuana has catalogued, there have been negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving and increased use by youth. With marijuana already decriminalized, there’s no reason for the District to rush the next step; why not at least give Colorado a bit more time to provide lessons?
This first statement is completely wrong. Recreational marijuana use for adults was legalized on December 10th, 2012 almost two years ago. While the state didn’t allow the first licensed adult use marijuana retail stores to open until January 2014, possession of up to an ounce and home cultivation of up to six plants has been legal for adults since late 2012. That is especially important in this debate because Initiative 71 would only legalize limited personal possesion and home growing by adults, so Colorado in 2013 provides a perfect test case.
In addition the “proof” that marijuana legalization has gone badly comes from citing an anti-marijuana legalization group without pointing to any data or studies. The best public data we have from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment actually found marijuana use among teens dropped after the state legalized marijuana, but the Washington Post might have missed this because they didn’t realize marijuana was actually legalized in late 2012 not in 2014.
The editorial board even ignored the Washington Post article by Radley Balko which highlighted the flaws in Project SAM’s argument about impaired driving, with data showing traffic deaths are down since the retail shops opened.
It is hard to take them seriously when their argument is ‘there hasn’t been enough time to judge,’ yet they don’t even know how much time has actually passed.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Mike Herbst under Creative Commons license