COLORADO: They came to Denver, the mile-high city, to get high. They shivered in the cold as they waited for the first legal recreational marijuana (cannabis) shops in Colorado to open on January 1st.
It is too early to judge whether the experiment is working, but the early signs are good. The first American state to allow toking-for-fun has not been seized by reefer madness. Its pot shops are more orderly than, say, a British pub at closing time. One report claimed that 37 Coloradans died of marijuana overdoses on the first day of legalisation, but it was in the Daily Currant, a spoof newspaper. Few readers were fooled: one reason why Americans keep voting to relax marijuana laws is that they have mostly come round to the view that dope is less hazardous than booze.
Opponents of drug prohibition (a position The Economist has held since 1993) may be tempted to celebrate. There is no doubt which way the tide is flowing. Most Americans now believe that marijuana should be legalised, taxed and regulated. Twenty states plus Washington, DC, allow the consumption of pot for medical purposes; Washington state will soon join Colorado in licensing sales to those who simply want to enjoy a spliff. If legalisation works in America (and Uruguay, which legalised pot last month), it will surely spread. But there’s the rub: if the first-movers mess up the details, public opinion may shift and the campaign against prohibition could stall.
Legalisation is just the first step. Pot must also be regulated.