At a time when polls show widening support for marijuana legalization — recreational pot is about to become legal in Colorado and Washington, and voter initiatives are in the pipeline in at least three other states — California's 17-year experience as the first state to legalize medical marijuana offers surprising lessons, experts tell the New York Times. Warnings voiced of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use have proved unfounded.
Research suggests that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people in states that have legalized medical marijuana and that driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol. Imposing a local tax on medical marijuana, as several places have done, has not pushed consumers to drug dealers as some analysts expected. Presumably that is because it is easy to get high-quality marijuana legally. For consumers, the era of legalized medical marijuana has meant an expanded market and often cheaper prices. California buyers gaze over showcases offering a rich assortment of marijuana, promising different potencies and different kinds of highs.