But at a time when polls show widening public support for legalization — recreational marijuana 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 say.
Warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded.
When we were growing up in the 1960s and 70s marijuana was defined as a plague on society, supposedly powerful enough to launch all manner of social degradations.
The shift has occurred thanks to two factors: state rather than national approaches and decisions based on data rather than ideology. The lesson here points to the question of what other social issues would progress through strategies of data based localization.
This is a profound shift from national level hierarchical mandates to peer learning among states, from mass assumptions to collective intelligence brought about more by heuristics than hysterics.