Pot at the Polls

In November, voters in three states will decide on the legalization of marijuana for everyone

In a perfect world, you would be able to walk into a store and openly buy your medical cannabis at will, slapping down cash in exchange for goods and services the way God, our Founding Fathers and the voters intended.

But we live in Arizona, which by and large is pretty awesome, but sometimes sucks a little compared to other states, especially when our governor and attorney general get in the way of those voters I mentioned earlier. Well, it seems like we might soon have a perfect medical-marijuana world just a few states away, maybe even just a few hundred miles away.

Voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado will decide on Nov. 6 whether to make pot legal under their respective state laws—and not just for medical use, but for everyone.

Washington's Initiative Measure No. 502 (sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/i502.pdf) would allow people to buy up to an ounce of buds, a pound of "marijuana infused product in solid form" (butter?) or 72 ounces in liquid. You would also be allowed to grow your own. Licenses to produce or sell cannabis in retail stores would cost $1,250, and the grow operations and retail outlets would have to be 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child-care centers, public parks, transit centers and libraries. (Good luck finding that piece of property.) The law also would include a 25 percent tax on wholesale and retail transactions. Yikes.

The measure is not a done deal, however. As an initiative to the Legislature, the bill will go to state lawmakers if it passes in November. If lawmakers reject or refuse to act on it, the question then goes back to voters for a final vote. In any event, the state liquor board would have to make rules, which could get pretty cumbersome and restrictive, as rules tend to be. But all in all, this bill is a step in the right direction. Go, Washington.

In Oregon, they're calling legalization the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (oregonvotes.org/irr/2012/009text.pdf), which has nice financial undertones. The act would allow people to grow their own or buy it from state-owned stores that buy from approved growers. The bill would create the Oregon Cannabis Commission, which would approve growers and set prices. WTF? The government owning stores and setting prices? I am all for regulation, but I say "no thanks" to the government owning the store. It seems to me the government is the last owner we would want. The commission would also determine possession limits, so the devil in the details remains unseen. Mr. Smith offers a half-baked approval to Oregon's initiative.

Colorado's Amendment 64 to the state Constitution (Google it; the link is too long to put here) would allow possession of up to an ounce, which people could share with but not sell to friends. People could also have up to six plants, three of them mature, but would have to keep the marijuana harvested from plants on the premises where it is grown—seemingly making it illegal to take meds out of the house. It would also allow an excise tax, which would be set by the Legislature. The Colorado law seems somewhere between Oregon and Washington—some details are there (possession limits), but some aren't (taxes).

Ultimately, these proposed laws represent the future. Americans are tired of wasteful spending to enforce archaic laws that even a lot of law-enforcement officers think are ridiculous. We're slipping down the legalization slope now, and eventually, similar initiatives will pass. When they do, there will be even more pressure on the federal government to abandon cannabis prohibition.

That wouldn't necessarily give us a perfect world, but wouldn't it be nice?