State is OK to legalize marijuana but not to make it a business
Should Connecticut legalize marijuana, as the General Assembly is considering doing? It depends.
If legalization means simply repeal of all state laws attaching criminal penalties to possession and sale of the stuff, then the answer should be yes. For marijuana is essentially legal in the state already. Decades of enforcement against it have accomplished little. The weed is more available than ever. Penalties for possession and minor sales have been reduced so much in Connecticut as to be inconsequential.
While its abuse can do long-term physical and psychological damage, marijuana is less damaging than legal alcoholic beverages and the opioid prescription drugs that lately have been causing thousands of fatalities throughout the country every month. Marijuana is the least of Connecticut’s drug problems.
But if legalization means not just repeal of criminal laws involving marijuana but also state government’s licensing and taxation of marijuana sales, as is already the case with “medical” marijuana, then the answer should be no. For any state authorization of business in marijuana contravenes federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a maximally dangerous drug and heavily penalizes its possession and sale, even though federal authorities seldom bother prosecuting smaller incidents, leaving them to the states.
In these circumstances a state’s indifference to marijuana, its leaving all enforcement to the federal government, is perfectly appropriate, but a state’s encouraging and taxing the marijuana business would be a form of nullification of federal law.
Of course Connecticut is far down the path of nullification already, giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses and other forms of identification, as well as public college tuition discounts, to facilitate their defiance of federal law. But that would not justify encouraging the marijuana business.
The proper solution here would be to legalize marijuana federally, letting the states handle it in