After legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, resistance to legal marijuana is also rising, with an increasing number of towns and counties moving to ban legal sales, reports the New York Times. The efforts have been fueled by the opening or imminent opening of retail marijuana stores in both states as well as by legal opinions that have supported such bans in some states. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues from marijuana sales — promised by legalization's supporters and now anticipated by state governments — that could be sharply reduced if local efforts to ban such sales expand. The fight signals a larger battle over legal marijuana: whether it will be a national industry providing near-universal access, or a patchwork system with isolated islands of mainly urban sales.
The Times says the debate has echoes to the post-Prohibition era, when “dry towns” emerged in some states in response to legalized alcohol. “At some point we have to put some boundaries,” said Rosetta Horne, a minister in Yakima, Wa., at a public hearing last week where she urged the City Council to enact a permanent ban on marijuana businesses. Though it seems strongest in rural and conservative communities, the resistance has been bipartisan. In states from Louisiana to Indiana that are discussing decriminalizing marijuana, Republican opponents of relaxing the drug laws are loosely allied with Democratic skeptics. Voices in the Obama administration concerned about growing access have joined antidrug crusaders like former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), who contends that the potential health risks of marijuana have not been adequately explored, especially for juveniles.