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Conflicting pot regulations cause confusion

To travel through Colorado these days is to smell marijuana.

The unmistakable odor of pot is everywhere, at restaurants, gas stations — anywhere really. During a trip last summer through the Centennial State, we didn’t give much thought to legal marijuana. But after a stop at a small sporting goods store, our minds turned to weed.

The smell was on everything in the store, and probably on us when we left. We started to wonder if the kids would get high if we spent any more time there. We also started noticing pot dispensaries alongside the road. They are clearly marked with a green cross out front that is a signal to everyone looking for it.

It was odd to be in a state where marijuana was legal, since getting caught with a tiny amount of it in Mississippi can land you in prison.

I’m not here to debate the issue of legalized marijuana, but our country has as many different rules and regulations about weed as there are different types of it. Something has to change. Either it’s bad for you and should be illegal or it’s not and should be legal. Why can’t we get on the same page with this?

Currently, it is legal to purchase weed in eight states with California being the latest to legalize it. Not soon after the new law there took effect, the Trump administration lifted the policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on pot sales in those states where it is legal.

The result is a lot of confusion for the pot industry.

Even though marijuana is legal in some states, the businesses that sell it operate under the radar to some extent. They typically can’t use normal banks to deposit money since federal regulations might consider it money laundering.

So they have to find creative ways of stashing loads of cash — hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time. Most of them also have to pay armed guards to move their cash around since they are easy targets for thieves.

The businesses also have trouble securing financing to build stores and other hurdles that other businesses don’t face. I’m not here to stick up for pot stores, but states and the federal government need to work to solve this issue.

The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth by Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed the pot business to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some state government programs, The Associated Press reported.

In California, pot sales are expected to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue. That’s serious money for any state, even one as large as California. These states will likely fight any federal policy that hampers that industry.

Opponents of legal pot say it allows traffickers to grow and ship the drug across state lines. Proponents would argue that legalizing it everywhere would solve most of those problems, because it would eliminate a black market for it.

As more states legalize pot, the federal government will have to be crystal clear on how it plans to enforce federal law. States rights is more than just a talking point for some states. It’s a mindset that permeates every fiber of their governments. I’m guessing they will fight any federal policy that directly tramples those rights.

Here in Mississippi, it’s not a debate we need to worry about. The Magnolia State will be the last to legalize weed, if it ever does. I’m guessing Mississippians will be able to purchase lottery tickets before they can legally purchase pot.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.