The Great Marijuana Experiment: A Tale of Two Drug Wars

Legal marijuana in America is now estimated to be a $1.43 billion industry. And it’s expected to grow to $2.34 billion in 2014. If those numbers hold, the 64 percent increase – a steeper trend line than global smartphone sales – would make pot one of the world’s fastest-growing business sectors.

Signs of the new age abound. In Colorado, retail marijuana stores welcomed their first legal-age customers (21 and older) on January 1st. Washington state is expecting to license the first of its projected 334 pot shops by late spring. A Gallup poll taken last fall found that 58 percent of Americans supported legalization, a 10-point uptick from the year before. Alaska and Oregon will likely vote to go legal in 2014; California and five other states are expected to do the same in 2016. The legalizing states aren’t going in half-assed, either. Officials tasked with ramping up a marijuana regulatory system are taking to it with a tradesman’s pride. “We are going to implement Initiative 502,” says Sharon Foster, the brassy chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, at a public hearing last fall. “This state is not going to allow it to fail.”

But these gains tend to obscure the dismal reality playing out in many other states. As Colorado and Washington license pot growers and sellers, cops elsewhere continue to carry out marijuana busts at a rate of one every 42 seconds. If you drop a gram of Sour Diesel on the sidewalk in Seattle, a police officer may help you sweep it up. Do that in New Orleans and you could face 20 years hard labor.

What we’re witnessing now is a political movement giving birth to an economic awakening. The struggle to end the War on Drugs – at heart a movement to stop the mass incarceration of black men – is creating one of the greatest business opportunities of the 21st century.

– Read the entire article at Rolling Stone.

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