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A Sneak Peak at After Legalization

I’m ready to publish my new book, and I’m asking for your help. The book, After Legalization: Understanding the Future of Marijuana Policy in America, doesn’t just answer the question of whether the prohibition against marijuana will ever come to an end, but how it will. The book is set in the year 2030 to give people a sense of how marijuana will likely be treated after it has been federally legalized. Now that I’ve finished writing it, we’re looking for support on Kickstarter to get it edited and published. If you contribute to the campaign, we’ll do our best to get you a copy of the book within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, check out what I’ve been working on and consider pledging your support. Here is an excerpt from the introduction, and below is an excerpt from Chapter 6.

The rule of thumb in 99 percent of the country is that an adult can consume marijuana only at home, at a limited number of truly private clubs, or at specially licensed marijuana lounges commonly known as “coffee shops.” While “coffee shop” is a strange name for an establishment where people go to smoke weed–and coffee might not even be sold–it is what these places were dubbed in Amsterdam when it was one of the few places on Earth people where could openly buy marijuana, and the name has stuck. When the coffee-shop phenomena started in the Netherlands, marijuana was still technically illegal, so an intentionally ambiguous name was selected. Thanks to tradition, we are stuck with the needlessly confusing nomenclature.

Luckily, New Jersey is among the 22 green states that permit them, and not too far away is Franklin Township, one of few municipalities in the state that didn’t adopt zoning rules against them. When faced with a funding crunch, the township decided to take advantage of the potential revenue from taxes and licensing fees on such businesses. Just as there are very different licensing fees and requirements for liquor stores and bars, the same is true for marijuana retail stores and lounges. Even in the states that allow public marijuana lounges, they can be difficult to find in 2030 because of local restrictions. A combination of anti-marijuana opinion, NIMBY (not in my backyard) sentiment, and bars trying to limit competition has ensured that.

The regulations governing the purchase of vodka at liquor stores are very different from the regulations that govern buying a martini at a bar. The same is true with marijuana: There is a legal distinction between marijuana sold for on-premise consumption and marijuana sold for off-premise consumption. Just because it is legal to sell something doesn’t necessarily mean it is legal to run a business where people can consume it. While this may seem like a strange principle, it has a long history with alcohol.

In several states, when alcohol prohibition ended and they again allowed the retail sale of booze, they continued to prohibit the on-premise sale of alcoholic drinks. In other words, bars and saloons were kept illegal. Alcohol was tolerated but considered sinful and unfit for public consumption. In some states, on-premise sales were allowed only decades after the end of alcohol prohibition. For instance, the voters of Kansas ended alcohol prohibition in their state in 1948, but their newly-approved amendment clearly stated that open saloons would remain “forever prohibited.” It took two decades for the state to relax this restriction, when it approved the Private Clubs Act of 1965, which allowed private clubs to sell alcohol only to official, dues-paying members. True public bars were still illegal. In 1970, the people of Kansas were given the chance to amend the state constitution to allow the public sale of liquor-by-the-drink, but voters narrowly rejected it, 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent. This continued prohibition against open saloons was rigorously enforced. State Attorney General Vern Miller went as far as raiding an Amtrak train in 1972 for selling alcohol while it was traveling through his state. All the alcohol was confiscated from the train’s bar, and the conductor, waiter, and bartender were arrested. It wasn’t until 1986, over 50 years after the ratification of the 21st Amendment, that voters in Kansas finally repealed the restriction against open saloons.

Amazingly, Kansas wasn’t even the last state to allow open saloons. Utah, with its large, non-drinking Mormon population, held out even longer. It wasn’t until 2009 that the legislature authorized the establishment of true public bars. Up until that point, people were allowed to buy individual drinks only if they were dues-paying members at “private clubs.” Before 2009, if you wanted to go out and enjoy a cocktail in a bar-like setting in Utah, you had to fill out an application to become a member and pay a membership fee. By the beginning of the 21st century, these private clubs were functioning almost like public bars just with some ridiculous legal hassles at the door.

This basic pattern was repeated with marijuana legalization. While Colorado and Washington State legalized the off-premise sale of marijuana in 2012, both states still prohibited on-premise sales. Some states didn’t legalize public marijuana lounges until years after they first legalized retail marijuana.

 

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com