Written by Dominic Dezzutti

With the Department of Justice deciding not to interfere with Colorado’s or Washington’s recreational marijuana industry, it looks like the Federal government will seemingly let our own state determine the success or failure of recreational marijuana legalization.

Marijuana proponents see this decision as positive and historic news as the Federal government letting states determine its own marijuana policies for the first time. But opponents saw the decision as a warning that the feds plan to still be involved when it comes to access of pot to children and the trafficking of pot over state lines.

While both of those sentiments may be true, I believe there is another middle ground that has yet to be mentioned.

When it comes to the potential issues that may come with recreational marijuana, it appears to me that the message from the Federal government is that we are on our own. That means that for better or for worse, we are in charge of our own destiny and the benefits and problems that may come with it.

It’s easy to think about the Justice Department only interfering on pot issues that pertain to arresting people who are innocently partaking of marijuana. But the fact is that the feds are the ones who have also helped to enforce some of Colorado’s own laws, especially when it came to making sure dispensaries were too close to schools, etc.

That’s important to remember because if the Justice Department is letting Colorado handle this by itself, it means that if communities encounter any problems with recreational marijuana it will be up to the communities to respond.

That sounds simple enough, but cities are already scampering to keep up with medical marijuana and are worried about having enough resources to keep up with recreational marijuana. We also have many communities opting out of making recreational marijuana available.

What happens when those communities encounter problems but cannot lean on funds made from marijuana sales? Who steps in to address those issues? Will neighboring communities that have welcomed recreational marijuana shops be responsible for collateral damage in neighboring, non-pot cities?

In the past, federal authorities would be the ones to do the dirty work in a situation like that. Now it is up to the state of Colorado to handle it.

Again, we are not talking about major drug trafficking here, we’re simply talking about basic problems that can come up and how complicated it gets when certain communities will welcome this industry and some will not.

These will not be insurmountable, but the problems, like the tax revenue from pot sales, will belong to Colorado.
I think this will be an excellent lesson for everyone who wonders about the effects of Federal government intervention in our lives. Freedom is wonderful, but it is not free. Colorado is about to find out exactly how much that freedom costs when it comes to handling recreational marijuana.

About The Blogger

– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.


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