Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jan 2014
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Author: David Sirota, Creators Syndicate
Page: E3


DENVER- Seven years before legal marijuana went on sale this month in
my home state of Colorado, the drug warriors in President George W.
Bush's administration released an advertisement that is now worth 

"I smoked weed and nobody died," intoned the teenage narrator. "I
didn't get into a car accident. I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day.
Nothing happened."

The television spot from the White House drug czar was intended to
discourage marijuana use by depicting it as boring. But in the
process, the government suggested that smoking a little pot is
literally, in the words of the narrator, "the safest thing in the world."

Why is this spot worth revisiting? Because in light of what's
happening here in Colorado, the ad looks less like a scary warning
than a reassuringly accurate prophecy. Indeed, to paraphrase the ad,
for all the sky-will-fall rhetoric about legalization, there haven't
been piles of dead bodies and overdoses. Nothing like that has
happened since we started regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, as I saw during a trip to 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, it
has been the opposite. There, I didn't find the mayhem predicted by so
many drug warriors. I found an understated retail facility, a
technologically advanced horticultural operation, respectful customers
and a staff with expert knowledge. It was, in fact, similar to one of
Colorado's much-ballyhooed craft beer companies.

The only major difference was that, according to decades of medical
and social science research, the mind-altering product being sold at
the cannabis center is far safer than the alcohol being peddled at the

Of course, this portrait of tranquility, normalcy and pragmatism is
often downplayed by the sensationalist national media in faraway
Washington, D.C. There, amid wild speculation about absurdly
apocalyptic hypotheticals, the fist-shaking "Get off my lawn!" fogies
are negatively caricaturing legalization in a fit of reefer madness.

For instance, there's been tripe like Ruth Marcus' Washington Post
screed that at once warns of the supposed "perils of legalized pot"
and absolves herself for previously using the drug. There was also the
lament from The New York Times' David Brooks, in which he first fondly
reminisced about his erstwhile pot smoking and then claimed that
legalizing marijuana harms America's "moral ecology."

To these hypocrites, and others like them, it is apparently OK for
media elites to have smoked weed as kids, but not OK for today's
adults to do the same (you also have to wonder how many of them
chatted up the "perils of pot" this month while enjoying a
post-workday cocktail).

Worse, in casting legalization as a hazardous experiment, these
sententious moralizers ignore how the failed and destructive
experiment isn't legalization - it is prohibition. After all, despite
prohibition, the federal government acknowledges that marijuana has
been "almost universally available" through an unregulated underground
market. Meanwhile, marijuana prohibition has become a weapon of
bigotry. As criminal justice data prove, though whites and
AfricanAmericans use the drug at almost the same rate, the latter are
almost four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges.

To be sure, ending prohibition won't singularly eliminate the
underground market or end racism in law enforcement. But it is a
constructive step toward those goals, especially considering the
aforementioned White House ad correctly acknowledging that marijuana
isn't egregiously dangerous. Sure, the government's "safest thing in
the world" line may have been an overstatement - but it was certainly
closer to the truth than all the fear-mongering about our decision to
embrace reefer sanity here in Colorado.

This decision, mind you, will not be free of rough spots. Nobody says
it will be. But as we are already proving, it is clearly the prudent
way forward - no matter how much the drug warriors and professional
alarmists try to pretend otherwise.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt