Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jan 2014
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2014 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Marc Landry


Since Jan. 1, it has been legal to buy and sell marijuana in Colorado 
and Washington states. News reports predict that this is the first 
step toward nationwide acceptance of this drug as a legal product on 
par with alcohol. If our country's experience with lotteries and 
gambling is any precedent, those reports are likely correct.

How can that be? Federal law provides for up to one year in jail for 
a first conviction for possession of any amount of marijuana. The 
answer is "prosecutorial discretion." In much the same way the 
federal government allows certain illegal aliens to continue to live 
openly in our country, a memorandum from the Department of Justice 
directs U.S. Attorneys to defer to the states (with some exceptions) 
in enforcing laws pertaining to marijuana.

Twenty states allow the sale of marijuana for "medical" purposes. I 
have seen interviews with people dealing in medical marijuana. The 
smirk on the interviewee's face is always telling. "Medical" purposes 
is understood by all to be a very elastic concept.

In a recent column, The New York Times' David Brooks described his 
own experience with marijuana as a teenager and went on to say that 
he and his friends mostly just grew out of it. He concluded that 
permissive laws such as those passed by Colorado and Washington are 
likely to lead to a citizenry that is less prudent and temperate. He 
is likely right. President Obama was candid about his own use of 
drugs in his younger days. At a time when he was about to embark on 
his political career, Obama wrote in "Dreams From My Father" that, 
"Pot had helped, and booze, maybe a little blow when you could afford 
it." Can there be any doubt that the DOJ memo was approved by the 
very top of the administration?

If Barack Obama had been unfortunate enough to have been convicted of 
possession of marijuana, could he have gone on to study at Columbia 
University and Harvard Law School and eventually become president? 
Ron Paul has had consistent views on drugs over the years. He 
believes that Washington's War on Drugs has been a total failure and 
a waste of hundreds of billions of dollars. He goes on to say that 
federal drug laws should be repealed and that drugs should be decriminalized.

Paul points out that our country had no federal laws against drugs 
for 140 years and that during such time there were fewer problems 
with addiction and related crimes.

Like Brooks, I would prefer to live in a country where governments 
discourage habits that sap at the qualities that have made this a 
great country. However, I agree with Paul on this issue. It is a 
matter of the greater good or the lesser evil.

I believe those who say that illegal drugs are readily available in 
almost all communities in the United States. As such, the net effect 
of the War on Drugs has been to make drugs more expensive and 
immensely profitable for those who think laws are just an 
inconvenience in furthering their trade. A look at one day of arrests 
in Wake and Durham counties finds that 18 of 60 arrests were for 
drug-related offenses.

As such, it is not just the budget of the Drug Enforcement 
Administration ($2.87 billion in 2012) that is wasted. We are 
spending billions more in arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating 
people in the enforcement of drug laws. Surely, that money could be 
put to better use or, even better, it could remain unspent by the 
state and in the pockets of taxpayers.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom