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Marijuana Reform: A Critical Examination Of the Arguments For and Against LegalizationBy Gregg NozumAssistant ProfessorWestern Illinois UniversityAbstractThis paper examines the current status of laws criminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana in the states. Efforts to reform the marijuana laws are examined with the arguments for and against continued prohibition discussed in some detail. Arguments regarding the legalization of marijuana, on both sides of the issue, are based upon limited research. Policy in this area is driven mostly by public opinion. Two states have legalized recreational use with twenty-two states and the District of Columbia authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes. While still early in the policy process, few of the promised benefits and almost none of the predicted catastrophes stemming from legalization have come to pass. With the tipping point for widespread legalization rapidly approaching, policy makers should embrace the unique opportunity presented by current reforms to gather data and conduct analyses that could guide future efforts at policy formulation in this realm.BackgroundIt is somewhat axiomatic to say that a society’s values are subject to change over time. This is true in criminal justice as well, with profound implications for the law in general, and the criminal code in particular. Such changes may result in the creation of new crimes or the decriminalization of old ones. We are concerned here with the growing movement towards legalization of marijuana.Marijuana was initially restricted in the United States through the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which was repealed with passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (known in part as the Controlled Substances Act or CSA). The CSA made mere possession of marijuana illegal and listed it as a Schedule I drug; meaning marijuana has a high likelihood of abuse and no medicinal value. Harsher penalties typically attach to Schedule I drugs.According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), marijuana is the third most popular drug in the United States, behind only alcohol and tobacco CITATION Nat14 \l 1033 (About Marijuana). Understandably, given its illegality, marijuana arrests are typically high, with an average of 750,000 occurring annually across the country CITATION Top14 \l 1033 (Brookes, 2012). This diametrical contrast between policy and practice establishes a boundary at which social values and behavior clash, setting in motion the mechanism for change. Marijuana use took off with the counterculture movement of the 1960’s CITATION Fre66 \l 1033 (Freedman & Powelson, 1966). NORML was founded in 1970, following passage of the CSA. Efforts to reform marijuana laws intensified during later years, commensurate with stricter sentencing and enforcement imposed variously by the “War on Drugs”, “three strikes laws”, and implementation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in 1987. While early reform efforts met with little success, recent events presage a fundamental shift in attitudes and likely policy shifts in the near future. A number of states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes (Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and two have legalized marijuana for recreational use (Colorado and Washington). Why such a significant shift in public opinion and policy? Whether prompted by loss of state revenues, concerns over growing rates of incarceration, or advances in holistic medicine is hard to say, and mere conjecture in any case. There are likely many causal factors, not least of which may be the propensity of the millennial generation, those born after 1980, to be more open-minded CITATION Pew14 \l 1033 (Pew Social Trends, 2010). Let’s examine the arguments offered both for and against legalization of marijuana to see which is most persuasive.The Case for Continued ProhibitionInvariably, there are many reasons summoned forth in support of the contention that marijuana should remain a controlled and prohibited substance. These arguments tend to categorize claims generally into one of three different, but mutually supporting, camps: (1) marijuana use is harmful to the individual; (2) marijuana use is harmful to society (others); and (3) marijuana manufacturing and distribution is already heavily controlled by large, drug trafficking organizations. Protecting individuals from themselves is the gist of paternalism and paternalistic laws requiring, for example, use of seatbelts and motorcycle helmets, or abstention from illicit drugs. Individual harms attributed to marijuana use include: long-term addiction; altered perception; gateway status; mental illness; and adverse effects upon brain, heart, and lungs CITATION Dru14 \l 1033 (Drug Facts: Marijuana, 2012) .The health effects of marijuana use are controversial, simply because of the paucity of medical research on marijuana. While groups pro and con can reference supporting studies to bolster their position, adequate research to establish repeatability and reliability of findings is lacking, mostly because stocks of marijuana available for such studies are so tightly controlled. Marijuana has often been depicted as a gateway drug, meaning that early use of less dangerous drugs leads to later use of more dangerous drugs. Anecdotally, it would appear to be true that most users of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine began their history of drug abuse by experimenting with marijuana CITATION Mar14 \l 1033 (Marijuana, On the Road to Drug Abuses). Of course, there is also evidence that alcohol abuse may serve as a gateway to illicit drug use CITATION NSD14 \l 1033 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2005). In the case of both marijuana and alcohol, however, while there is a statistical pairing in occurrence, no causal relationship has yet been established.As with alcohol, marijuana use does result in altered perceptions. A statistic often touted is that fatal car crashes involving marijuana have tripled in the past decade CITATION Car14 \l 1033 (Car Crashes Involving Pot Use, 2014). However, even researchers involved in the study are quick to point out that the presence of marijuana in a driver’s body does not necessarily mean the driver was impaired. Still, marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen, which does operate to change one’s perception of reality. Perhaps marijuana is best understood as being similar to alcohol, the effects of which on operators of dangerous equipment are well-documented.To the extent that marijuana use can be said to have an adverse impact on individual health, there is also implicit a negative cost to society in bearing the cost of addiction therapy, medical treatment, and reallocation/displacement of scarce health care resources. These costs are not borne specifically by the individual, but are spread throughout society. Thus, individual choices in a so-called “victimless crime” do affect everyone.The public safety concerns inherent in having vehicle operators and other critical personnel under the influence of mind-altering substances should be readily apparent. The question remains open, however, as to whether marijuana use is worse than alcohol abuse or vice versa. If marijuana does roughly equate to alcohol in this way, perhaps the issue is whether we should, in fairness, treat marijuana use as we do alcohol; or having realized society made a mistake in repealing prohibition, determine not to make a similar mistake regarding marijuana?A unique aspect of marijuana use --- which differs significantly from alcohol --- is that marijuana is most often smoked. In choosing to use marijuana in a public place, the individual exposes others to the effects of second-hand smoke. The deleterious effects of second-hand smoke in regard to tobacco are well-known. How ironic that Colorado, which labored for years to pass the Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act in 2006, which effectively bans smoking cigarettes in public places, was first to legalize recreational use of marijuana CITATION Pub141 \l 1033 (Public Smoking Ban, 2006).In the months since Colorado legalized marijuana, there have been some interesting, but inconclusive developments. First, emergency room visits from those suffering the after-effects of marijuana use are up, especially among those who are ingesting marijuana in foodstuffs. A second unexpected problem has arisen from those trying to manufacture hashish in home laboratories that subsequently explode and catch fire CITATION Vor14 \l 1033 (Vorhees, 2014). While still too early to establish a clear trend, such occurrences are similar to those associated with methamphetamine manufacture, wherein fires and explosions at clandestine sites are commonThe White House Office of Narcotics and Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also note that marijuana use nationally is a major cause for visits to emergency rooms CITATION OND14 \l 1033 (Public Health Consequences of Marijuana Legalization).As a gateway drug, there is a fear that marijuana use will lead to expanded drug use and commensurately, more crime. Interestingly, violent crime and property crime rates in Colorado are all down in the months following legalization CITATION Vor14 \l 1033 (Vorhees, 2014). From a law enforcement perspective, there are concerns that legalization will not eliminate the black market for the drug CITATION OND14 \l 1033 (Public Health Consequences of Marijuana Legalization), that increased availability and acceptability in legal states will spill across state boundaries into non-legal states CITATION Tra14 \l 1033 (Ross, 2014), that drug use funds terrorism CITATION Pol14 \l 1033 (Hartnett), and that a valuable tool for apprehending more serious offenders will be removed CITATION jus14 \l 1033 (The Dark Side of Proposition 19). Several years ago, the price of a typical user amount of marijuana --- 1/8th of an ounce --- was just $10, giving rise to the term “dime bag”. Today, due to inflation, a dime bag of marijuana costs $25. Legalization has not served to lower the price; in the quest for new revenue, exactly the opposite has occurred. Colorado has established a 25% tax on marijuana in the form of a 15% excise tax and a 10% sales tax. Jurisdictional taxes imposed by localities may add to the burden, helping to raise the average legal price for a dime bag to $65 CITATION Mar141 \l 1033 (Davidson, 2014). Similar results are expected as Washington implements its version of legalization. Black markets thrive under such conditions, empowering and not weakening drug trafficking organizations.Law enforcement officials in states neighboring Colorado and Washington, and even some bordering states that have authorized medical marijuana have complained about anticipated rises in crime rates and marijuana-related traffic offenses. As a trend, these increases have yet to materialize, if at all. To the extent that numbers of marijuana-related DUI (driving under the influence) charges have gone up, that may be due to police targeting drivers from their neighboring state CITATION Cop14 \l 1033 (Cops Targeting Colorado Drivers, 2014).Narco-terrorism, the funding of terrorism through narcotics trafficking (and sometimes the use of terrorist tactics by drug trafficking organizations) is a reality CITATION Dru141 \l 1033 (Drug Trafficking and Financing of Terrorism, 2013). The legalization of marijuana is unlikely to have any significant impact, pro or con, on the phenomenon of narco-terrorism as legalization will not eliminate the black markets upon which such relationships depend.Recreational marijuana use, epitomized by the possession of small amounts of the drug, paraphernalia, and the proverbial “smoking joint”, is rarely charged in a serious investigation because the punishment is so inconsequential. However, since marijuana use is so widespread, especially within the drug subculture, evidence of use and “user amounts” of marijuana often provide reasonable suspicion or probable cause against more serious offenders who are otherwise extremely careful in concealing evidence of their criminal activities. In some cases, much like Al Capone was finally prosecuted for tax evasion, violent criminals and underworld bosses may presumably be brought low by marijuana. Police officers are trained to be observant and knowledgeable about the full range of offenses under the applicable criminal codes. It is not marijuana per se, but the appreciation that deviant behavior manifests itself in a number of ways across the spectrum of criminality that provides such a valuable tool for investigators. Whether marijuana is legalized, in this sense, is immaterial as other misconduct ---- such as traffic violations, possession of contraband, stolen property, etc. --- will invariably provide alert law enforcement officers with the opportunity that they seek. Even within states that elect to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, regulatory restrictions will still pertain, perhaps giving investigators even more tools for the toolbox.In summary then, what can we say about the rationales given for maintaining the general prohibition of marijuana? First, there are a host of individual harms enumerated that are supported by research, but the data is far from overwhelming. Both sides of the legalization argument tend to over-extrapolate from the findings of limited research. Second, the social harms envisioned by legalization are largely without precedent unless we consider the experience of Prohibition from1920-1933, which both sides to the legalization argument are loathe to do. Prohibition conjures up images of failed government policy for those who would maintain marijuana’s illegality, while echoing the false assumptions and unfulfilled promises of the reform movement for those who would decriminalize pot. Neither side, apparently, is eager to be labelled by the taint of Prohibition, although the arguments pro and con are eerily similar. Finally, the fears expressed by law enforcement have not as yet materialized in the wake of legalization in Colorado and Washington, although it is still early. Alaska did legalize user amounts of marijuana in 1970 and experienced a tripling of the crime rate by 1986. However, the crime rate began to subside after 1986, only to begin another gradual rise after 1990 when marijuana was again criminalized without restriction CITATION Ala14 \l 1033 (Alaska Crime Rates, 2012). The crime rate for the United States during this same period displayed a steady rise although it had not quite doubled by 1990 CITATION USC14 \l 1033 (US Crime Rates, 2012). No conclusions about the legal status of marijuana can be drawn from such data. Given the economy of marijuana in states desperate to generate revenue, it does appear that black markets controlled by criminal syndicates will persist in spite of legalization.The Case for Legalization of MarijuanaThere have been many arguments tendered over the years in support of the legalization of marijuana. These range from pedestrian claims, such as “it is our right”, “the people want it”, and the ever popular “alcohol kills more people than marijuana” to more well-thought positions that delineate alternatives to existing policy CITATION Top141 \l 1033 (Top 10 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana, 2011).Drugrehab.us is a website offering general information on all forms of addiction, rehabilitation, and treatment. The site offers one of the most cogent reviews available regarding arguments concerning the legalization of marijuana in the United States CITATION Pro141 \l 1033 (Pros-Cons Legalizing Recreational Marijuana). According to drugrehab.us, legalization of marijuana would provide: (1) a revenue boost for government; (2) more effective law enforcement and criminal justice; (3) less money supporting organized crime; (4) safety controls for marijuana use; and (4) wider access of marijuana for medicinal use CITATION Pro141 \l 1033 (Pros-Cons Legalizing Recreational Marijuana).Legalization of marijuana would provide governments at all levels with the opportunity to impose new taxes on its sale and distribution. Early results from Colorado indicate that approximately $7.3 million has been added to state revenues already from recreational sales, with an additional $5.3 million coming from medicinal sales; total tax revenues from marijuana are projected to reach $98 million by year’s end CITATION Vor14 \l 1033 (Vorhees, 2014). Undoubtedly, legalization will lead to many opportunities to develop new sources of revenue through licensing and taxation, as well as increase the existing income tax base. However, a boost in revenues is a spillover benefit from legalization, not a reason for legalization. If the decision to legalize marijuana is to have moral authority, we first have to surmount the existing presumption that marijuana is sufficiently harmful to make prohibition necessary. What type of society would we be if all of our decision-making was to be guided solely by the bottom line?It is argued that legalization of marijuana would provide more effective law enforcement and criminal justice. This contention presumes that law enforcement and other resources in our criminal justice system are displaced by prioritizing marijuana as an enforcement goal. If marijuana were decriminalized, so the argument goes, these resources could be reallocated to other pressing criminal justice problems. According to the CATO Institute, this could save governments $8.7 billion each year CITATION Mak14 \l 1033 (Miron & Waldock, 2010). Drug enforcement, however, does not focus exclusively on marijuana. Even specialized narcotics units do not investigate solely marijuana, but instead direct their efforts at the full panoply of controlled substances, which include significantly more dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, PCP, and ecstasy --- to name but a few. While decriminalization of marijuana would permit a limited reallocation of resources, the investigation and prosecution of drug offenses would not simply go away. Even marijuana would not drop off the criminal justice radar entirely if legalized; the emphasis would just shift from drug enforcement to investigation of tax violations.A related part of the argument purporting that legalization would lead to improvements in the criminal justice system involves the incarceration rate. The United States leads the free world with an incarceration rate of 716 persons / 100,000 population, or a total of 2.2 million persons currently imprisoned CITATION Wal14 \l 1033 (Walmsley, 2012). While marijuana arrests are indeed numerous, relatively few result in jail time. Nevertheless, as of 2014, approximately 12.7% of state inmates and 12.4% of federal inmates are serving sentences for marijuana-related offenses CITATION alt14 \l 1033 (Armentano). Decriminalization of marijuana would likely have a significant effect on the US incarceration rate in the future, and possibly in the present as well if some form of sentence remediation were offered following legalization.Another benefit alleged to accrue from the legalization of marijuana is that there would be less money flowing from illicit sales to support organized crime. Organized crime, in this sense, would include large drug trafficking organizations. This will simply not happen and there are several reasons why this is so: (1) prices on the open market after taxation are more than twice that of marijuana on the black market CITATION can14 \l 1033 (Commentary on Price War Heats Up by Jacob Davidson, 2014); (2) drug trafficking organizations learned long ago to diversify --- other drugs with a higher price point, that are easier to conceal, will pick up the slack CITATION Imp14 \l 1033 (Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Cartels, 2014); (3) there are varieties of marijuana with greater potency that will be sought after and are unlikely to be made available on the open market CITATION Pot14 \l 1033 (Is Pot Getting Potent?, 2014); and (4) there will always be individuals who need to conceal their use of marijuana and that will be forced to purchase from the black market, not willing to trust their freedom or career to a straw-man purchaser. Finally, there are ample instances of organized crime infiltrating legitimate businesses and organizations CITATION Mob14 \l 1033 (Mob Infiltration of Businesses, 1983). Why would they not seek to do the same thing, following legalization, to a market that they already control?Legalization would permit government to regulate marijuana, which presumably would lead to inspections and some form of quality control. Assuming the equivalent of a “USDA Choice” rating, consumers would then be reasonably assured that the marijuana being purchased would be free of harmful additives. Marijuana has been known to be laced occasionally with PCP, cocaine, heroin, embalming fluid and other substances CITATION ces14 \l 1033 (Marijuana). A task force convened in Colorado to advise the state on how to implement Amendment 64 (the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana in Colorado) recommended regulation of additives and proper labelling to ensure consumer safety CITATION Ame14 \l 1033 (Amendment 64 Task Force Final Report, 2013). Unfortunately, however, legalization preceded preparation of the regulatory infrastructure needed to put all of the task force’s recommendations into effect. Inspections and quality assurance continue to lag. Since the black market for marijuana will not be eliminated by legalization, quality assurance concerns will persist into the foreseeable future. Once implemented, state required labelling and inspections of licensed dealers will provide the safety conscious consumer with an option, albeit at a price.Finally, legalization would make marijuana more widely available for medicinal research. Since marijuana is a controlled substance, the government closely regulates the production and distribution of marijuana for training and research. A common complaint from academia, voiced in an editorial in The Scientific American is that the restrictions placed upon the availability of marijuana for research are “absurd” CITATION Edi14 \l 1033 (Editorial on Marijuana Research, 2009). Indeed, much of the debate on the merits of marijuana, both pro and con, has been significantly hampered by the paucity of research. The legalization of marijuana would do much to alleviate this problem.What can we say then, about the benefits of legalization? Promises that marijuana legalization would lead to greater effectiveness and efficiencies in law enforcement are likely to be illusory. In the greater sphere of criminal justice, there are likely to be gains realized in reducing the overall incarceration rate. Reduced revenues for organized crime are unlikely due to the persistence of the black market and potential for infiltration of the legitimate market for marijuana. Legalization will likely lead to some quality assurance for consumers who elect to purchase from licensed marijuana retailers, but the regulatory mechanisms are not yet fully in place. The only benefits certain to accrue are increased tax revenues and wider availability of marijuana for research.Recent Public Opinion Polls Support LegalizationOctober 12, 2013 may well be the tipping point in the marijuana reform movement, as this marks the first time a majority of Americans favored legalization in a Gallup poll. On this occasion, 58% of those polled favored legalization of marijuana while 39% were opposed CITATION Opi14 \l 1033 (Opinion Poll, 2013). These opinions shifted only slightly in a 2014 poll conducted by Pew Research. In that poll, 54% of respondents favored legalization of marijuana vice 42% who were opposed CITATION Fac14 \l 1033 (Fact Tank, 2014).Also in April 2014, USA Today reported the results of a poll showing that 75% of respondents believed legalization of marijuana was inevitable CITATION USA14 \l 1033 (Wyatt, 2014).Interestingly, attitudes of law enforcement professionals regarding marijuana reform also appear to be softening. As early as December 2011, a poll conducted of 1,700 members of PoliceOne.com revealed that while 56% of respondents were opposed to marijuana reform, 44% were either in favor or willing to entertain reform. PoliceOne.com is a website dedicated to serving and former law enforcement officers. Editor/Contributor Doug Wylie, who reported the findings, noted that 9 out of 10 emails received commenting on the article were categorized by him as “pro-legalization” CITATION Pol141 \l 1033 (Wylie, 2011).A 2014 survey of 11,000 police officers conducted by LawOfficer.com indicated that 35.68% of those responding favored legalization, another 28.76% favored relaxing the laws on marijuana, and 34.7% opposed any reform of existing law CITATION Dru142 \l 1033 (Drug Survey, 2014).While the opinions of those in law enforcement may be mellowing in regard to marijuana, the majority of sheriffs, chiefs of police, and prosecutors continue to oppose any loosening of the legal constraints on marijuana. Prosecutors, police chiefs, and sheriffs gathered in Annapolis in February 2014 to protest the intent of the Maryland legislature to reform marijuana laws CITATION Bal14 \l 1033 (Considine, 2014). In Arizona, the Arizona County Attorney and Sheriffs Association passed a resolution opposed to the legalization of marijuana in July 2014 CITATION Ari14 \l 1033 (Sanchez, 2014).Clearly, American attitudes about marijuana are changing, including among the police and criminal justice professionals, albeit at a slower pace. Law enforcement, especially, tends to be somewhat more conservative than the public at large; an aspect of the police subculture CITATION Zha98 \l 1033 (Zhao, He, & Lovich, 1998).The Mixed Message ProblemThe fact that public opinion supports legalization of marijuana and the law, which the police are duty-bound to enforce, sets up a classic case of “mixed messages”. Marijuana is so dangerous that it must be criminally controlled by the promise of severe sanctions, yet the public expects lenient treatment of violators and worse, patronizes drug use by consumption. Over 94 million Americans have admitted to using marijuana at least once CITATION Int14 \l 1033 (International Statistics). Approximately 11% of the US population is estimated to be regular users of cannabis, which leads the world in consumption CITATION Can14 \l 1033 (Cannabis Market, 2011). This is a lose-lose scenario for law enforcement who, in enforcing the law, draw the public’s ire. While the police traditionally enjoy the confidence of a majority of Americans, the public’s perception of the police has been slowly declining from an approval rating of 60% in 1996 to an approval rating of 54% in 2001, according to a study commissioned by the International Association of Chiefs of Police CITATION The14 \l 1033 (Gallagher, 2001). A more recent survey in 2014 rendered a nationwide approval rating of 53% for police CITATION OnP14 \l 1033 (On Politics, 2014).The “War on Drugs” has not faired nearly as well. A 2013 poll indicated that 53% of respondents believed the War on Drugs to be a failure, only 19% believed it to be a success, and 28% were undecided CITATION War13 \l 1033 (Swanson, 2013).Jocelyn Pollock opined that such mixed messaging provides a societal explanation for police misconduct and corruption. According to Pollock, misconduct can be rationalized by assuming that a hypocritical public doesn’t want full enforcement of the laws, or is accepting of a certain amount of crime, or is tolerant of extra-legal methods used to deal with really bad people. At the very least, the public’s patronage of certain types of crime --- such as marijuana consumption --- offers a ready rationale for non-enforcement CITATION Pol12 \l 1033 (Pollock, 2012).Nothing erodes public confidence in government as much as corruption CITATION Law14 \l 1033 (Law Enforcement Legitimacy, 2014), and few things impact public opinion of the police as severely as enforcement of unpopular laws CITATION Del14 \l 1033 (Delgado, 2012). Conflicting messages regarding the legal status of marijuana will only serve to sow the seeds for corruption in our criminal justice system and erode public confidence in the police. Either public attitudes about marijuana will have to change or our laws will need to be changed to accomodate society’s growing approval of this drug, now reflected by a majority of public opinion.ConclusionsThe debate regarding whether marijuana should continue to be controlled under the criminal statutes is relatively uninformed by evidence of a compelling nature, pro or con. Since marijuana is essentially a prohibited substance, supplies are tightly regulated by the government, hampering research. Additional studies are badly needed, especially since claims regarding the harmful nature of marijuana are supported by limited research that has not undergone the full rigors of being tested via the scientific method: chiefly through repetition and repeatability of result. Provisions need to be made for increased funding and availability of cannabis for research, preferably at the federal level through the auspices of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.Limited and recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington states provides a unique petri dish for observing in detail the results of legalization. The federal government, primarily through the Department of Justice, and with the approval of Congress, should establish pilot programs for both Colorado and Washington that are supportive of state efforts to legalize marijuana and delineate the terms within their boundaries for non-enforcement or abeyance of federal laws that would otherwise supersede and interfere with state legalization. Such programs should be limited in duration and contingent upon state cooperation in facilitating full transparency of their reforms for research and evaluation. Other states should be urged to delay similar legislation pending completion of the pilot programs and attendant research.Current arguments for and against legalization focus on fears and promised benefits that have not (for the most part) been realized in the brief experience to date of these two states, while unintended consequences have emerged. The reform efforts of Colorado and Washington provide policymakers and researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to gauge the true impact of legalization. The alternative to evidence-based decision-making is politics as usual, where public opinion and revenues rule. While many of the “facts” regarding marijuana may be in dispute, two things are very clear: public approval of marijuana reform is at an all-time high and marijuana as a taxable cash crop is proving to be extremely lucrative.References BIBLIOGRAPHY About Marijuana. (n.d.). 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Does Vermont have legal marijuana? Yes, both adult-use and medical marijuana are legal in Vermont, though recreational sales are not yet operational. Vermont legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2004 when the state legislature passed S 76, An Act Relating to the Medical Use of Marijuana.