August 1, 2012–Voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will decide whether to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana in November. If any state legalizes, for the first time in history a vast commercial marijuana business will emerge.
Researchers predict that, depending on the federal response, over time legal marijuana’s price could drop by as much as 80 percent. Users and dealers from other states would be likely to buy the cheaper pot, bringing a windfall of taxes to the legalization state and pressuring other states to legalize to retrieve their share of taxes.
True, if a state legalizes marijuana in November, marijuana will remain an illegal drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA). But Congress can change that and national polls now show that half the population supports legalizing marijuana. In fact, a bill with 20 co-sponsors has been introduced that would remove marijuana from the CSA so that states could move forward with legalization.
If legalization occurs, profit motives will quickly trump public health concerns. Like the tobacco and alcohol industries, a commercial marijuana industry will target society’s most vulnerable people, children, as potential life-time customers. Research is showing how to limit the tobacco and alcohol industries’ marketing efforts to children; can we prohibit similar efforts before a commercial marijuana industry emerges?
With the help of experts who work to prevent underage drinking and smoking, National Families in Action developed 12 provisions that states should include in regulations to govern a commercial marijuana industry. Our provisions address such questions as:
- Should that industry be allowed to sell marijuana edibles – marijuana infused chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and brownies – like medical marijuana dispensaries sell?
- Should marijuana retail shops be located near schools?
- Should use be allowed on the premises of marijuana retail outlets?
- Should the industry be allowed to advertise? On TV? At sports events? On the Internet? At points of purchase?
- Could an increase in use among youth automatically trigger legalization repeal?
- Should a marijuana industry, like the tobacco industry, contribute to a dedicated fund to treat addiction and other health problems marijuana causes?
National Families in Action calls upon responsible leaders to develop contingency plans for regulations that will prohibit a commercial marijuana industry from marketing its products to children if voters legalize the drug. We offer our provisions as a way to begin.