Pubdate: Sat, 22 Mar 2014
Source: Calhoun Times (GA)
Column: RedBlue America
Copyright: 2014 Calhoun Times
Authors: Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


First, 20 states and the District of Columbia passed laws legalizing 
marijuana for medical use. Then in 2012, voters in Washington state 
and Colorado approved measures legalizing the sale and possession of 
marijuana for non-medical use, with state oversight. Now at least a 
half-dozen states from Alaska to Maine are considering following suit.

Marijuana still remains a federally controlled substance, but 
Attorney General Eric Holder in January said the U.S. Justice 
Department would soon issue regulations to let state sanctioned 
marijuana businesses have access to banking and credit.

Can full legalization be far behind? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the 
RedBlueAmerica columnists, try to wrap their heads around the question.


The University of Colorado system reports a 30 percent increase in 
applications this year. University officials credit their new and 
improved application, along with better high school outreach.

But High Times magazine, a sort of Cigar Aficionado for stoners, has 
a different explanation: it's the legal pot.

Can that really be true? A CU spokesman told the magazine he has 
"hard time believing that someone is going to make that kind of 
significant decision about investing in their education based on 
whether they can smoke marijuana in the state" - which only suggests 
he hasn't visited his Boulder campus recently, or knows very much 
about the law of unintended consequences.

More kids looking for a cheap and legal high are one such 
consequence. Here's another: if you smoke pot and want to buy a gun 
in the Mile High State, odds are you will be turned down. Sure, 
marijuana use is legal under state law; but the federal government 
still considers it a crime, and no federally licensed firearms dealer 
would risk his business to make a point about states' rights.

Fact is, Congress isn't about to legalize pot, and Eric Holder won't 
be attorney general forever. More states venturing down the path of 
legalization invites conflicts with the feds that nobody can foresee.

But the better argument against legalization is cultural, and it 
comes from an unlikely source: California Gov. Jerry Brown. A 
Democrat with a reputation for wild ideas, Brown shared his 
skepticism about legalization on "Meet the Press" this month. "If 
there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned 
and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty 
dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 
hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put 
together." Brown is right. It may be the case that public opinion has 
shifted too far in favor of legalization. If so, then freedom must 
come with responsibility. Tax marijuana, certainly, but also let 
employers decide whether they want stoners on their payrolls, lay 
heavy penalties on sales to minors - and hope the unintended 
consequences aren't too dire.


Consider the following facts, courtesy of the American Civil 
Liberties Union: "Every 0.01 hours someone in the U.S. is arrested 
for having marijuana; Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be 
arrested than white people. The United States spent $3.6 B enforcing 
marijuana laws in 2010." Worth it? Almost certainly not. Why? 
Marijuana may be illegal, but it's also pretty mainstream: A 2013 
Gallup poll suggests that 38 percent of Americans have tried 
marijuana, a number that has little changed since the "Just Say No" 
reefer madness of the 1980s. And while Ronald Reagan had to withdraw 
a Supreme Court appointee who admitted smoking pot more than a decade 
earlier, these days there's hardly anybody at the forefront of public 
life who won't admit having dabbled with doobies in their youth. The 
republic survives.

There are concerns that legalized pot would somehow rob America of 
its vigor: "How many people can get stoned and still have a great 
state or a great nation?" California Gov. Jerry Brown asks. Brown's 
rationale is almost exactly the same as was used for the failed 
prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. We never learn.

"I remember in 1977 when Gov. Brown was first in office, we went from 
indeterminate sentencing to determinate sentencing - we had 20K 
people in our prisons. In 2007, we had 173K people in our prisons," 
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pointed out recently. You start 
looking at the war on drugs, you look at the corollaries as it 
relates to mandatory minimums and our aggressive efforts ... to 
incarcerate our way to solving this problem, it's failed. A trillion 
dollars wasted."

Criminalizing weed makes hypocrites out of otherwise law-abiding 
Americans, reduces respect for the law, and saddles our nation with 
the expense of prosecution and prison for folks who pose very little 
threat to society. Thank goodness for the legalization movement.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom