Pubdate: Sun, 23 Mar 2014
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2014 Star Advertiser
Authors: Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Page: E6


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 answer the question.

Joel Mathis


Consider the following facts, courtesy of the American Civil
Liberties Union: "Every 0.01 hours someone in the United States is
arrested for having marijuana; Black people are 3.73 times more
likely to be arrested than white people. The United States spent
$3,610,000,000 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.

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.

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.

Ben Boychuk


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 doesn't know 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. More states venturing
down the path of legalization invites conflicts with the feds that
nobody can foresee.

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.
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