1. It’s not for everybody
I suppose I’m the resident expert on left-handed cigarettes at the paper, due largely to my age — when I was a teenager, smoking marijuana was like using a hula hoop in the 1950s. But a lot of my old dope-smoking buddies have given up the weed as they’ve hit middle age, and a lot of them say it’s because they realized they don’t actually like the way it makes them feel.
2. Yet, it remains very popular
It’s possible that marijuana usage is not as ubiquitous today as it was when I was a teenager — Ginsburg, for example, claims never to have smoked it — but it seems to be pretty mainstream these days, so much so that a New Orleans cop friend of mine lamented on social media that we have not yet come up with a word for the weed stink he says comes off dozens of people he encounters each day on the French Quarter.
3. Because it’s legal (sort of)
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana. That’s practically half the country. Twenty more have ballot issues in place for 2016. North Carolina is not one of them. Our medical marijuana bill was HB78. It was reported unfavorably by committee in March 2015.
4. And it’s generating a lot of revenue
According to Arcview Market Research, the pot industry saw $5.7 billion in sales in 2015 — and that’s just in the places where it’s legal. Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, sold $996 million of it, throwing more than $135 million in taxes and fees to the state.
5. We could do it, too
There’s strong resistance to legalized cannabis in any form in the Old North State, but at this point we could probably use the money to offset major budget cuts of the last few years. Or we could even lower taxes on residents as their burden is subsidized by the industry. An agricultural state like this one could supply half the Eastern Seaboard — okay, maybe just Carrboro — and there are natural marketing opportunities in the Triad, home of Greensboro, High Point and the smoking legacy of RJ Reynolds. It couldn’t hurt our restaurants, either, which would be immediate beneficiaries of legalization.
6. But it’s not all about the money
I have no doubt that North Carolina could grow the best outdoor pot in the world — hell, it probably already does (see No. 2). The industry also dovetails with our state character, strongly influenced by individualism and with a healthy debt to moonshine culture.
7. And that’s not necessarily a good thing
Arguments against it are largely visceral, ranging from the psychological to the biblical, though in my opinion largely conflated and misinformed. Consider that North Carolina enacted alcohol prohibition in 1909, a decade before the rest of the country, while maintaining its status as one of the largest producers of alcohol in the nation.
8. And yet…
According to Pew Research, nearly half — 49 percent — of Americans say they’ve tried it, Ginsburg notwithstanding. More than half, 53 percent, support legalization while 44 percent feel it should remain illegal. Among millennials, 68 percent view marijuana legalization favorably. So really, it’s only a matter of time before North Carolina gets on board… or the road to South Carolina gets a lot more well traveled.