The Failed Promise of Legal Pot
"The dream of legal marijuana as it is being sold to the American public
is that it will not only give states a chance to reap a tax windfall off
of a drug millions of Americans already use; it will end the
back-and-forth tussle among cops, users, and dealers, and shift police
resources to more serious crimes. Most compellingly, advocates hold out
the promise of a major step toward dismantling one of the pillars of
racially biased policing—the war on drugs—and finally reeling in a legal
net that has long entangled black men at vastly disproportionate rates.
One-half of the dream is coming true. In the first two states to go
legal, arrests for marijuana possession have dropped dramatically—by 98
percent in Washington and 95 percent in Colorado
as of last year—and high taxes in both states are generating tens of
millions of dollars a year for education and public health. At the same
time, legal markets in Washington and Colorado along with loosening
medical-marijuana laws around the country have together exerted enough
downward pressure on street prices that Central American cartels have reportedly begun to shift production away from marijuana, toward more profitable drugs like heroin.
But the other half of the dream is faltering....
As legalization efforts proceed apace, the risk is that even as
possession arrests taper off, black markets will continue entangling
young black men..."