Pubdate: Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2015 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes


States With Legal Marijuana Sales Have Seen Voters Make That 
Decision. .. and It's Certainly Starting to Feel Like Really Not That 
Big of a Deal.

PORTLAND, ORE. - What if we legalized marijuana and no one really cared?

That's the overwhelming feeling I get standing inside Zion Cannabis 
in downtown Portland as customers buy marijuana from the friendly 
staff five days after legalized marijuana legislation went into 
effect Oct. 1. No muss, no fuss. Oregon is the third American state 
to legalize recreational marijuana sales, following neighboring 
Washington, where legal pot debuted in the summer of 2014, and 
Colorado, where cannabis has been legal since Jan. 1, 2014. Hardly 
anyone is paying attention.

In contrast, the start of Colorado's legal sales - the first ever in 
the USA - drew international notoriety. Media organizations descended 
upon Denver to report on the long lines, tight supply and temporarily 
high prices. Late-night comedians joked about Denver truly becoming 
the Mile High City and how everyone in Colorado was Rocky Mountain 
High. I began to grouse about all the marijuana-related conversations 
I kept having with tourists.

Washington got a lot less press when legal sales began. And nearly 
two years after Colorado started the trend, the wider world's 
response to Oregon's legalization feels a lot like "meh."

There has been little national coverage and even less international coverage.

Not that Oregonians are indifferent. They bought $11 million worth of 
pot during the first seven days of legalization, according to the 
Oregon Retail Cannabis Association, dwarfing the early sales in Washington.

"It's a fun kind of experience," said Stephanie Hess, 22, after 
buying a small amount of marijuana at Zion. "It's awesome to have 
informed people" to answer questions.

Having spent the past two years covering the marijuana industry, all 
the attention that gets paid to the notion of legal pot has often 
struck me as disingenuous. That's because marijuana is the most 
widely used illegal substance in the country.

It's no coincidence that the first three states to legalize 
recreational marijuana use started by legalizing medical marijuana. 
Over the years, marijuana advocates have made no secret of their 
"camel's nose" approach: By cracking the door to medical use and 
demonstrating that adults can use marijuana safely, pro-legalization 
groups laid the groundwork for looser laws.

Those looser laws haven't changed life or culture much in Colorado 
and Washington and are unlikely to do so in Oregon. Are there fears 
about potential upticks in youth use? Absolutely. Are there concerns 
some people have ingested too much and needed to be hospitalized? 
Sure. But there has been no apocalypse. By and large, life in 
Colorado is pretty much the same as it was pre-legalized pot.

The next big test for legalizing marijuana will come in California in 
2016. If legalization passes in America's most populous state, more 
than a sixth of the nation's population would live where recreational 
marijuana is legal. That sure starts to feel like an unstoppable trend.

Of course, this could all change significantly if Americans elect a 
president opposed to legalization. But here's the thing: All three 
states with legal marijuana sales (plus Alaska and the District of 
Columbia, which have legalized pot use but not selling it) have seen 
voters make that decision. It wasn't a mandate by the Supreme Court. 
Outsiders didn't make them do it. No, they chose it, and it's 
certainly starting to feel like really not that big of a deal.

As I stand here in yet another marijuana store, watching customers 
come and go, I can't get a line from The Hollow Men by T.S. Elliot 
out of my head: "Not with a bang but a whimper."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom