Sky-High Taxes and NIMBY Regulations: How Pot Legalization is Losing in Colorado and Washington


My latest column for The Daily Beast looks at pot legalization developments in Colorado and Washington state. Voters in both places overwhelmingly approved recreational use of marijuana last year. In January, both states will implement insanely high taxes on weed and, in Colorado at least, all manner of bans on which counties and cities can sell pot.

The spirit behind the legalization efforts in both states was that marijuana should be treated in a "manner similar to alcohol."

Unfortunately, it's starting to look like both states are going to treat pot in a manner similar to alcohol during Prohibition. Not only are pot taxes likely to be sky high, various sorts of restrictions on pot shops may well make it easier to buy, sell, and use black-market marijuana rather than the legal variety. That's a bummer all around: States and municipalities will collect less revenue than expected, law-abiding residents will effectively be denied access to pot, and the crime, corruption, and violence that inevitably surrounds black markets will continue apace.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Gee, the dead hand of government weighs heavy on this implementation? I am shocked!

    Decriminalize and walk away is the only way to do this right.

  2. "See? We told you that legalization wouldn't eliminate the black market!"

  3. Does the psychopharmacology of heavy marijuana use lead to the delusion that "the government" is actually Big Pharma and the private prison industry?

  4. I'm not going to lie. I think weed is a terribly bad... er, weed. And it shouldn't be eaten, mainlined, or snorted off the buttocks of a hooker. Nor should your set it on fire and inhabit the same room on purpose.

    It's also de facto legal in Colorado. And even if it shouldn't have taken a Constitutional Amendment on the matter, it did. At which point the whole idea of punitive taxation for this, that, or the other product on the basis of some putative moral dimension is absurd.

    But so long as we're into taxing immoral things where we cannot justify five years of prison rape. Then if there's anything in the US culture that's considered morally suspect, but for which a ban is too onerous: It's politicians. And I figure that if we're on a sin tax parade, that any such tax that is less than the taxation of politicians and political parties is unjust on its face.

  5. What are the obstacles to a lawsuit trying to enforce the "similar to alcohol" requirement? Lack of standing? Usual issues of vagueness concerning what "similar" really means?

    If I were dictator judge for a day on this, the only parts I can see where discretion in implementation is allowed is DUI level. Possibly potency, if alcohol taxes vary by proof. Do Colorado and Washington allow dry counties and cities? If not for alcohol, then not for pot. Are there special taxes on alcohol? If not, then not for pot.

    1. Hot to trot on not for pot.

  6. Lack of standing?

    Worst case scenario, anybody who pays the too-high tax should have standing to challenge the tax. Similarly, any business who has a permit denied should have standing to challenge the zoning.

    Usual issues of vagueness concerning what "similar" really means?

    Yeah, but at some point you can't say that restrictions or taxes that are an order of magnitude worse are "similar".

  7. Lack of having to spend millions on the incarceration of "silly pot heads" alone is worth legalization. But those in charge, those who don't want it to succeed so they can say legalization does not thwart crime will do what they can to prove their point. The only point they prove is the one on the top of their heads.

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