Document Type



This Article provides an overview of the legal, political, and societal landscapes in states that have legalized marijuana and imposed taxes on its sale. The article begins by summarizing the War on Drugs’ origins, its fiscal expenditures, and the social policies that ultimately led to its failure.

Part I briefly details the history of marijuana regulation starting from the early twentieth century up to the Obama administration’s decision to permit recreational marijuana laws to stand in Washington state and Colorado. Part II dives deeper into the social costs of the War on Drugs and outlines the hardships faced by those who have lost specific liberties from engaging in activities that are now legal under state law. Part III explores the measures and means states have employed to bypass federal legislation to craft their own drug policies. Part IV reviews federal enforcement of existing drug policies as the states began adopting and implementing marijuana legalization legislation in what was formerly a distinctly federal field.

Part V examines marijuana’s potential as a viable and reliable revenue stream for states that abide by guidelines enunciated by the federal government. The Article concludes in Part VI by proposing socially conscious, albeit politically sensitive, earmarks for marijuana state tax revenue for developing social programs to assist those disproportionately and adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.