While state-licensed pot stores began selling marijuana only this week in Washington, they have been open for business in Colorado for six months. Possession and consumption of marijuana have been legal in both states for 18 months. In my latest Forbes column, I consider the consequences so far. Here is how it starts:
In 2012 John Larson, a retired high school math and science teacher, voted against I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana in Washington. Yet this week Larson was one of the first government-licensed marijuana merchants to open a store in that state: Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver. "If people were dumb enough to vote it in, I'm all for it," he told The New York Times. "There's a demand, and I have a product."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also seems to have had a change of heart about marijuana. The former brewer, who opposed Amendment 64, his state's legalization initiative, is not about to become a budtender. But in a recent interview with Reuters, Hickenlooper conceded that the consequences of letting people grow, sell, and consume pot without fear of arrest have not been as bad as he feared.
"It seems like the people that were smoking before are mainly the people that are smoking now," Hickenlooper said as Colorado marked six months of legal recreational sales last week. "If that's the case, what that means is that we're not going to have more drugged driving, or driving while high. We're not going to have some of those problems. But we are going to have a system where we're actually regulating and taxing something, and keeping that money in the state of Colorado…and we're not supporting a corrupt system of gangsters." Hickenlooper sounds cautiously optimistic, and there are good reasons for that.