Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jul 2005
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2005 Boulder Weekly
Author: Ari Armstrong
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


A Catholic, an atheist, and a leftist walk into a Boulder bar. There's
no punch line, but the three laugh in memory of the ridiculous,
freedom-sucking prohibition laws on gardening and consuming a
particular herb. The three could be writers from Boulder Weekly in the
not-too-distant future. Hell, the bar might even sell the herb (though
I'll still stick with the drug alcohol). As Wayne Laugesen recently
reminded us, a "report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration shows that 10.33 percent of Boulder County
respondents admitted to pot use in the past month." Colorado's state
average was 7.89 percent. In the eyes of Colorado law, all of those
people are criminals. Any legal system that turns so high a fraction
of the population into criminals is unstable, unjust and open to
constant abuse.

Such a system is also expensive. In a recent televised debate,
Governor Bill Owens, who, you may recall, supported one of the world's
largest drug manufacturers for U.S. Senate last year, claimed, "We're
in a real crisis in the state of Colorado." Owens, along with many
Democrats and some other sellout Republicans, are asking Colorado
taxpayers to fork over an estimated $3.1 billion over the next five
years, on top of already-scheduled budget increases.

When you walk into the voting booth come November, just remember that
the state and local governments of Colorado spend $64 million every
year to turn nearly a tenth of the population into criminals. Not real
criminals, who actually hurt other people or their property, but
criminals in name only, gardeners and herb users who have done nothing
wrong. You pay government in Colorado to harass, arrest, prosecute,
force into "treatment," lock away, fine or threaten a tenth of your
neighbors. Handing these politicians even more of your money will only
encourage them to avoid cutting wasteful programs, such as marijuana

According to a study by economist Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor
at Harvard, the state and local governments also lose an estimated
$17.6 million in tax revenue because marijuana is not taxed, for a net
loss of $81.6 million every year (see
Currently, government collects tax revenues from the sale of the drug
alcohol. Alcohol is so politically correct that your tax dollars
subsidized part of a half-million dollar liquor tab for the University
of Colorado, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain News.

Yet, as Jim Kouri, Vice President of the National Association of
Chiefs of Police, wrote recently for, "Although
alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths are in decline, alcohol
abuse is still linked to a large percentage of criminal offenses,
according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Almost four in 10 violent crimes involve alcohol, according to the
crime victims, as do four in 10 fatal motor vehicle accidents. And
about four in 10 criminal offenders report that they were using
alcohol at the time of their offense."

And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "In 2001, an
estimated 75,766 [alcohol-attributable deaths] and 2.3 million [years
of potential life lost] were attributable to the harmful effects of
excessive alcohol use" in the U.S.

If marijuana should be prohibited, then it is even more important to
prohibit the drug alcohol. Those who argue alcohol should be legal
must, unless they are hypocrites, make the same case for marijuana.
(By the way, most of the adverse health consequences associated with
marijuana can be eliminated by consuming it in a way other than
smoking.) If marijuana is a "gateway drug," then so is alcohol.
However, only a small fraction of people who use marijuana or alcohol
go on to use drugs like cocaine, and one doesn't cause the other.

Of course, some funds would still be spent to enforce laws against
endangering minors with alcohol or marijuana.

A release regarding Miron's report notes it "estimates that replacing
marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar
to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings
and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. In
response, a group of more than 500 distinguished economists-led by
Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Milton Friedman-released an open letter to
President Bush and other public officials calling for 'an open and
honest debate about marijuana prohibition,' adding, 'We believe such a
debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and
regulated like other goods.'"

Changing Colorado's laws would save money-and increase
liberty-regardless of what the national government does. However, as
the Denver Post noted, medical marijuana users "should know they could
still face federal charges, the state attorney general said. The state
health department, which oversees the medical marijuana registry, is
composing a warning to let people who apply for the registry know
that, said spokeswoman Cindy Parmenter."

For national politicians and police forces to violate Colorado law and
the federalist guarantees of the U.S. Constitution is offensive
enough. For them to do it to punish the sick is disgusting.

Coloradans concerned about justice, liberty and fiscal responsibility
must demand that Colorado politicians fight to protect the rights of
Coloradans against legal abuse. Friedman and Miron are right.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin