Pubdate: Wed, 09 Apr 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Michael Taube


The War on Drugs Shouldn't Bother With Marijuana

In a world defined by a growing political divide, international 
terrorism and reduced economic confidence, it's surprising how many 
Americans are up in arms about recreational marijuana use. Two 
states, Colorado and Washington, started this recent trend. In the 
November 2012 election, voters supported separate ballot questions 
(Colorado Amendment 64 and Washington Initiative 502) to legalize 
cannabis. In particular, Colorado's marijuana experiment involves 40 
Denver-based stores, all regulated by the state, that are open to 
consumers who are 21 years of age or older.

Meanwhile, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote about 
billionaire philanthropist George Soros' efforts, along with other 
prominent businessmen, to shift long-held American views in favor of 
legalizing pot. He uses "a network of nonprofit groups," such as the 
Drug Policy Alliance, which he funds through his Foundation to 
Promote an Open Society. Mr. Soros has reportedly "spent at least $80 
million on the legalization effort since 1994," according to Ms. 
Riddell, "when he diverted a portion of his foundation's funds to 
organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings."

Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Soros' political positions 
(I'm obviously in the latter camp), he has the right to fund these 
organizations. The question is, why are he and others wasting so much 
precious time, money and efforts on marijuana?

Part of the reason is personal freedom, of course. The other part, 
I'd assume, has to do with the taboo nature of this particular drug. 
Anything that is "illegal" appeals to a certain demographic in our 
society. They want the law lifted so there will be no overbearing 
restrictions or boundaries in place to prevent the use or purchase of 

Like many conservatives, I used to support the so-called war on 
drugs. Through extensive reading and intellectual discourse, I 
gradually came to the understanding that state-run prohibition of 
certain drugs, such as marijuana, wasn't a wise strategy for the 
right to adopt.

As Milton and Rose Friedman wrote in "Tyranny of the Status Quo" 
(1984), "Some proponents of the legalization of marijuana have argued 
that smoking marijuana does not cause harm. We are not competent to 
judge this much debated issue - though we find persuasive the 
evidence we have seen that marijuana is a harmful substance.

"Yet, paradoxical though it may seem, our belief that it is desirable 
to legalize marijuana and all other drugs does not depend on whether 
marijuana or other drugs are harmful or harmless. However much harm 
drugs do to those who use them, it is our considered opinion that 
seeking to prohibit their use does even more harm both to users of 
drugs and to the rest of us."

To be sure, I don't go as far as the Friedmans on this particular 
issue. I've long supported marijuana decriminalization. A person 
shouldn't have a permanent criminal record for the purchase or 
possession of a few joints. If they want to use it in the privacy of 
their own homes, and they're not selling the drug on the black market 
or to children, then that's their business.

Treating marijuana possession as a criminal offense is also an 
unnecessary waste of police resources. They should be going after the 
hippies and shadowy figures who run these illegal marijuana-growing operations.

Marijuana legalization still worries me, however.

Some studies have shown there could be potential health risks 
associated with marijuana, owing to tar levels and certain chemicals, 
such as THC. Wider accessibility could potentially lead to addiction 
- - and increased health care costs - in certain cases. Crime and 
poverty levels could be affected. Moreover, young children could be 
more exposed to marijuana if there were greater availability.

Certainly, there is a free-market argument in support of legalizing 
marijuana. The private sector would reap significant economic 
benefits from increased sale of recreational cannabis and hemp-made 
products. At the same time, state regulation would have to increase 
many times over. If you believe in less government, and not more, 
that's a pretty hard position to stomach.

One final point: Unlike some commentators, I'm not embarrassed to 
admit that I've tried marijuana on a few occasions. I've never 
purchased it, never lost control while using it, and never craved it.

Even so, I still think marijuana should be decriminalized, but not 
legalized. It helps protect those individuals who want to use it 
privately, and prevents wider use, greater exposure and possible 
addiction issues. In my view, that's a more balanced approach than an 
all-or-nothing scenario with the magic weed.
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