Position: 37°17’30″N 107°52’32″W

For those desirous of such things, with adequate planning it is now possible to discover the western United States on 50mg of THC per day. Almost legally. Allow me to elaborate.

The Wild Wild West


Making our way across the hot, dry deserts of America’s west, we find ourselves slipping in and out of competing views of what constitutes a social ill and what constitutes a good tax revenue opportunity. The left coast is all in on dope. From the border of Mexico to the border of British Columbia, stoners may blaze away safe in the knowledge that state’s rights trump federal mandates.

It’s hard to think of anything that so clearly places American constitutional law into context like state legalization of weed. Sure, there are sideshows like voting rights, gerrymandering, and the electoral college that keep legal scholars up at night, but when it comes to reefer and its derivatives the Feds have decided (so far) not to press charges.

That is unless you’re on Federal land, i.e., anywhere owned or operated by the Department of the Interior (like the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management), or the Department of Agriculture (the National Forest Service and other attractions). From the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific the US Gummint owns well over 50% of the land. While lighting up a spliff in public is generally illegal everywhere, when you’re visiting Uncle Sam’s backyard best leave your stash at home.

What About Beer?

What’s a diehard dope fiend to do? For my six bucks they’re better off drinking a pint of hoppy India Pale Ale. Hops and MJ share a genetic history and beer is legal in all 50 states. Plus, you don’t have to inhale beer. You can, but it’s not the best way of enjoying it. My childhood asthma steers me clear of any kind of sinful inhalational agent, much to the delight of my medical insurers. But, even today there are places that frown upon beer.

Utah for example. Utah frowns on most everything. In the past couple of years it reluctantly relaxed some of its stiffer rules around booze. In the old days you had to be a member of a private club before you could even enter a bar and drink 3.2 (three-two) beer. Most membership requirements are waived these days and beer is up to a knee-buckling 5% ABV in strength. Like my uncle might say, drinking beer in Utah is like making love in a canoe.* In Utah’s defence medical marijuana is legal, albeit expensive.

Rocky Mountain High

Potheads heading east might wake up groggy on the border of Oregon, battle their way past crowds of Idahoans at the local head shop, then cross dope-dry Idaho and Utah at the legal speed limit of 80mph heading for Colorado. There is literally no reason to stop in Idaho unless you’re forced to. The truly savvy will skip Idaho all together and head south through more enlightened Nevada and bisect Utah instead. As you rightly suspect, transporting THC across state lines remains illegal, even in states with full recreational use laws. That said, traceability for cash-based transactions is notoriously challenging. I have it on good authority that thanks to federal banking laws cannabis dispensaries are cash only enterprises.

Things are chill in Colorado. They should be. Colorado sells over two billion dollars worth of cannabis a year, with nearly $400 million of that going directly into the tax coffers. That’s a lot of school lunches. Post-ageist hipster enclaves like Durango cater to all manner of tastes. Durangotangs [sic] have a reputation for pulling their dungarees on over their pyjama bottoms and heading to a favourite coffee shop for a quick pour over and a beignet before taking a hit and contemplating how to productively waste the rest of the day.

Our next stop is New Mexico. New Mexico passed its recreational use law this year. Sales of recreational ganja start January 1, 2022. Anticipation for a thriving new industry (and tax source) is high. Northern New Mexico College already offers an eight-week certification course for prospective Cannabis Establishment Technicians.

Blithe Spirits

With so many dominoes falling, how long will it take the Feds to revise their thinking? Cynics point to the booze lobby and its efforts to stop revenue dilution as a major stumbling block. Yet, by many accounts booze sales in reefer friendly states have neither stirred nor shaken. More likely, a large and active underground market walked into the sunshine and redirected its cash.

I suspect that full federal legalization is still a ways off. In the meantime, Washington should throw serious science at researching the clinical effects and side effects of cannabis, with a view to establishing informed regulatory oversight. It should also establish manufacturing standards with a means of compliance testing, as it does for many industries. Thanks to misguided ideas about the war on drugs, both areas are woefully lacking in data.

Yet, it’s hard to pretend the cat(nip) is still in the bag. Two thirds of Americans now support full legalization, the reverse of 20 years ago. Whether legalizing marajahoozie will calm America’s fractious politics remains unclear, but it could blunt some of its sharper edges.

*It’s f***king near water.



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