Now Comes the Backlash

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It’s a plot line repeated in the midst of almost every political movement. First comes the buildup, then the big victory, and then the backlash. The final step in that procession is now underway, with major media turning, almost in unison, against legal weed.

New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd
New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd

Within the last few weeks, The New York Times ran an ominous, pessimistic assessment that declared Colorado a hotbed of lawlessness and regret over legalization – all empirical evidence to the contrary.

Times columnist Maureen Dowd then laid bare the details of her pot high from hell, suggesting legal weed is out of control. She later insisted she still supports legalization.

Colorado Deaths Fuel the Marijuana Backlash

And amid it all, the media continues to beat the drums over two Colorado deaths linked to edible marijuana. Never mind that the state has already enacted new regulations to prevent such incidents in the future.

“Denver, capital city of the first state to legalize recreational pot, is an important experiment in the limits of cultural tolerance. Five months into that experiment, there are troubling signs,” declared the Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in a state that adopted medical marijuana in 2010.

The animosity toward legalization is perhaps greatest in the conservative states that surround Colorado, where residents voted to end marijuana prohibition in 2012. They were joined by voters in Washington State.

Police in some states that neighbor Colorado have complained that their communities are awash in weed, though statewide statistics on drug seizures don’t back up their claims.

Cops Take Advantage of Weed Backlash

The negativity isn’t just coming from the American West, though. In Washington, D.C., where House members recently passed a landmark bill protecting medical marijuana, the head of the DEA has dug her heels in, making it clear she won’t carry out cannabis-related reforms without a fight, even under orders from the president.

She and others like her generally have the backing of rank and file law enforcement, especially drug warriors. This matters, since police groups in some places have the political power to stop weed reform in its tracks.

Head of DEA, Michele Leonhart
Head of DEA, Michele Leonhart

There has been a long, slow backlash against legal pot on the local level as well. Court rulings in California have made it possible for hundreds of communities to ban MMJ dispensaries, while many local governments in Washington State are trying to do the same.

Cannabis Movement Continues Despite Backlash

Still, there are no signs the backlash is likely to make much of a dent in the marijuana movement. In addition to Colorado and Washington, 21 states allow medical cannabis, though the drug remains entirely illegal under federal law. The vote by the House signaled that change may be coming at the federal level.

And more states continue to adopt MMJ. Minnesota did so in May, and voters in Florida are expected to approve a medical marijuana initiative in November. What’s more, in the same election, Alaska and Oregon will both vote on full legalization.

Unless voters there have second thoughts after recent events, it’s considered a good bet both states will go legal. Other states are likely to follow them in coming years.

And with a few exceptions, most of the people complaining about weed now opposed it from the start. So it’s not clear the current backlash has changed very many minds, however much of the media have jumped on board.

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