Mark Kleiman has offered some intriguing observations (here and here) regarding what may happen if a state legalizes marijuana this November. He forecasts the responses of state government, federal government and legalization activists, all of which is fine as far as it goes, but he leaves out an important detail: Legalization would create a new player in pot politics, namely whoever sells legal pot.
As we have seen with the drugs we have already legalized (e.g., alcohol) a legal industry in psychoactive substances will make a great deal of money and use it to keep regulatory structures weak. In Oregon, the legalization initiative gives the private pot production industry a baseline of control (self-regulation only) that the alcohol and tobacco companies could only dream of. In the other states, any new industry will immediately go to work eliminating the weak regulatory controls proposed in the initatives.
How successful these new corporate entities will be in their lobbying isn’t knowable, but it is clear that one cannot predict post-legalization scenarios without taking into account the actions of this new player in the game.