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The year is 2020: What's happening with marijuana?

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Californians will decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21 on Nov. 2nd when they vote on Proposition 19.

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By Michael S. Rosenwald
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Social change rarely occurs in a logical direction or at a predictable pace. Many Americans thought rampant, open use of marijuana in the 1960s and '70s would lead quickly to legalization of the drug, but that didn't happen. To the contrary, enforcement of anti-pot laws increased in the 1980s, and penalties grew stiffer.

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But over the past few years, as several states and now the District of Columbia have legalized use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a path to full legalization for recreational use has once again seemed clear to advocates of legalization and skeptics alike. California voters' decision in a referendum Tuesday will play a large role in determining the momentum of the legalization movement.

To explore what that legalization might look like from the vantage point of a decade in the future, The Washington Post's Michael S. Rosenwald pored through reams of government, academic and corporate studies, and talked to experts on marijuana, drug legalization, Prohibition and marketing.

This, then, is a reported fantasy, a look at the State of Pot in America in 2020, based on research conducted in 2010. All sources marked in bold type are real, and their quotations and information are from reporting this fall. All sources in regular type are fictitious, but what they say is based on predictions from sociologists, criminologists, economists, marketers and entrepreneurs interviewed by The Post for this article.

The story takes the form of an article from a news organization in Cleveland that sent a reporter to Washington to see how the nation's capital was faring in November 2020, as Ohio and several other states prepared to vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

***

By Alex DeLarge

Cleveland Times Staff

Washington D.C. (Nov. 1, 2020) -- In the capital's chic Georgetown neighborhood, where nearby university students beam messages to one another's iFaces while buzzing to class on single-engine jet packs, people used to line up for cupcakes. A decade ago, people waited for hours outside Georgetown Cupcakes for $3-a-pop munchies tucked neatly into pink boxes. They especially craved the red velvets. The cupcake craze at 33rd and M streets NW gave way to a gourmet french fry joint called My Fry, where patrons selected "base" potatoes from around the world, then to Shake Rolls, a sushi-and-milkshakes bar where Sasha Obama celebrated her 16th birthday. All of them have gone off to fast-food heaven. Now for sale in the very same spot: pot.

A high-end marijuana cafe called Hypothesis, launched by a California entrepreneur whose parents once tossed him out for toking up in his bedroom, has customers lining up for marijuana-infused teas, pot-laced cupcakes and cookies, and even hemp-fiber granola bars.

There is takeout, too: ounce bags of marijuana from around the world, with strains named Northern Lights and Casino. These aren't your father's dime bags. Made to look like the old Ziplocs that one dipped into for pot (with a bag of Doritos nearby), these premium plastic bags close with real zippers. The company's slogan is embossed in light green letters below the opening: "Beyond a joint."

If the store is reminiscent of Starbucks, that's because Virginia branding consultants designed it that way. "We didn't see any need to reinvent the wheel," said Jeff Kronbon, Hypothesis's owner. "This model has worked for decades. Now, we think it can work with pot."


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