Some opponents of widespread marijuana legalization, recognizing that “reefer madness” scare tactics are no longer credible, have attempted to reframe the debate as opposition to another big tobacco.
Comparing the emerging cannabis industry to the tobacco industry is not entirely fair. Tobacco use has been responsible for millions of deaths and untold illness, whereas, for most people, the biggest danger of marijuana is getting caught with it. Still, the marijuana industry is as committed to profitability as any other industry, and there’s no reason to think it won’t act aggressively in its own best interest. Marijuana’s legalization in the US at this point seems inevitable—but should local, state, and federal governments slow down its commercialization?
The predominant narrative around legal marijuana thus far is that it’s been a success on its own terms. More people who want marijuana can have it, the industry has created jobs and pays taxes, and some of the injustices of the war on drugs— such as criminal records that impede people’s ability to get jobs, housing, and student loans—are being unwound. The US is a polarized country, but in the “green rush,” Americans have shown they can still put aside their differences to make money: Cannabis executives contribute to candidates on both sides of the aisle.