Pubdate: Mon, 23 May 2011
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2011 The Springfield News-Leader
Author: Ronald Fraser
Note: Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy issues for the 
DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization.
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


For the time being, Missourians can consider last November's defeat 
of Proposition 19, a California ballot initiative to legalize and 
regulate the personal use of marijuana, as none of their business. 
But as this debate spreads outward from California it will, sooner or 
later, reach Missouri.

Having started the war on marijuana, the federal government is the 
enforcer of the status quo -- even as opinion polls show the public's 
desire for change. So, it is up to the states, one-by-one, to replace 
failed drug war policies with something that makes sense. To see how 
the future marijuana legalization debate might spread, let's consider 
the work of professor Everett M. Rogers.

Rogers says the launch of a new idea requires an adventuresome idea 
champion willing to deal with a lot of uncertainty. A handful of 
"early adopters" will follow suit. Then, after waiting and carefully 
watching what happens, the majority of the potential "late adopters" 
are likely to give the new idea a try. A few "laggards" might never adopt it.

Proposition 19 nearly passed in 2010 with 46 percent of the vote. If 
in 2012 a similar initiative wins 51 percent and California becomes 
the first state to legalize marijuana, states already familiar with 
marijuana policy issues will likely take a fresh look at marijuana 

These states include Alaska and Nevada, where past attempts to 
legalize marijuana failed but medical marijuana laws have been 
adopted, and those states that have approved the use of marijuana for 
medical purposes: Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, 
Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, 
Washington state and the District of Columbia. Legislatures in 
Connecticut, New Hampshire and Minnesota passed medical marijuana 
bills only to have them vetoed by the governors.

Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina and 
Ohio have reduced the possession of a small amount of marijuana for 
personal use from a criminal act to a finable civil infraction. They 
too are early adopter candidates.

After watching what happens in these early adopter states, according 
to Rogers, the remaining "late adopter" states -- including Missouri 
- -- will finally consider whether or not to legalize and regulate the 
personal use of small amounts of marijuana in a manner similar to the 
way alcohol and tobacco are now regulated.

The marijuana legalization debate in California is a public education 
process. Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says, 
"The greatest challenge is to break the taboo on vigorous, honest and 
open debate about all drug policy options, that's what drug war 
advocates most fear." And that is exactly the service Proposition 19 
delivered last year in California. It got people talking about the 
issue in an open and honest way.

For this reason, California is doing the entire nation and the people 
of Missouri a great service by seeking drug-control policies that 
will greatly reduce criminal violence, increase tax revenues and 
permit sensible regulation of a substance that is now acquired 
through illicit, underground channels.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom