This newspaper has long campaigned against Britain’s hidebound drugs laws, which we believe are counterproductive, repressive and unnecessary. Regrettably, our own politicians have not seen fit to question, let alone revise, their opinions on this matter, but it is good to see a bolder approach being tried out on the other side of the pond. In Colorado, the first shops selling marijuana for recreational use opened yesterday.
Business on “Green Wednesday”, as it has been nicknamed, was expected to be brisk in the Rocky Mountain state, not least because no other US state has followed in its footsteps, although Washington is expected to do so this year. Shops in Denver were busy rolling huge numbers of joints in preparation for a surge of demand from out-of-state visitors as well as locals.
It will be interesting to see whether the decriminalisation of the sale of marijuana leads to a local collapse in Colorado of civilised values, as well as to an upsurge in drug use and drug crime. Critics of the reform insist that this will be the case, but we trust that the counter-argument of the state authorities will be vindicated, namely that the smugglers and cartels will now lose a valuable slice of their trade, and start to shrink in size and influence.
The drug barons will not disappear, of course, because other drugs remain illegal, even in liberal Colorado. But one answer to that dilemma is to go further and extend decriminalisation, leaving the traders with less and less room for manoeuvre.
In the meantime, we hope that the enlightened and experimental policies pursued in Colorado and Washington, as well as in Uruguay in Latin America, will start to shake our own political establishment out of its complacent reliance on a policy based on prohibitions pure and simple. It is absurd that we continue with a drugs strategy that ministers have freely admitted does not work but to which – apparently – there is no alternative. The state founded by pioneers has shown that an alternative does exist. Let’s hope their pioneering spirit rubs off on us.