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Our View: Marijauna – where are we headed?

Hudson police and St. Croix County deputies -- not to mention our municipal judge and judges in St. Croix counties -- routinely deal with marijuana incidents. Yet we can’t help but wonder if marijuana caseloads will skyrocket as other states legalize marijuana use.

Colorado was the first. There, adults 21 and older can grow up to six marijuana plants and possess up to an ounce. Small amounts of pot are sold and taxed at state-licensed retail stores. Consumption is permitted in a manner similar to alcohol with equivalent offenses for driving while high (impaired). The media is already bragging about the amount of tax revenue generated in the first month of marijuana sales in Colorado.

The numbers show the January drug sales generated $3.5 million in taxes and fees. Of that, $2.1 million came from recreational marijuana and the remaining $1.4 million from medical marijuana. The figures from the state Department of Revenue also give a preliminary idea of the size of the marijuana trade in the state, showing $14 million worth of marijuana was sold in the first month of legal sales. Reportedly, the second month numbers are even higher -- no pun intended.

You can be sure there are legislators in every state looking, with envy, at a possible new revenue source.

Washington will have a similar system for legalized marijuana use and sales. Several other states are ready to join. Many already have legalized the use of marijuana as a painkiller for patients with debilitating ailments and diseases. Legislation in Minnesota, said to have bipartisan support, would make marijuana available to those with conditions ranging from cancer and glaucoma to AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder, and could be an option for those with severe pain, nausea or seizures.

Where will it all end? Does the acceptance of legalized medical marijuana slide into eventual acceptance of recreational marijuana?

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a liberal politician from the 1970s and a former Democratic presidential candidate, isn’t sold on recreational marijuana even though his state legalized medical marijuana long ago in 1996.

Brown said, in effect, that California might lose its competitive edge if too many of its citizens got stoned. He said he will see how the Colorado and Washington experiments go before deciding if California will follow suit.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Brown said: “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together…The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And if all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”

That brings us back to Wisconsin and Hudson. How do our schools (and parents) keep teaching and warning children and youth about healthy choices and dangerous drug use? How do our police and judges keep enforcing drug laws when tolerance for a major drug like marijuana is reaching an all-time high in many parts of the country?

As this tolerance and acceptance of marijuana grows and spreads, there will be pressure felt at local and state levels to somehow respond. Unfortunately, this drug dilemma is a work in progress. There is no longer a consensus, which means no immediate solution.