Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jul 2014
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2014 Appeal-Democrat
Authors: Matt Pearce and Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times (MCT)


More than a third of adults have smoked it - including the last three 
presidents. Dozens of songs and movies have been made about it. 
Marijuana is no longer whispered about, nor hidden in back rooms and 
basements. It has come into the open in American life despite decades 
of prohibition and laws treating the drug as more dangerous than meth 
and cocaine. When The New York Times' editorial board called this 
weekend for the U.S. government to end its ban on weed - and let 
states decide how to regulate it - the newspaper reflected what a 
majority of Americans have told pollsters: Marijuana should be legal.

The status quo, according to advocates and even the president, has 
resulted in the disproportionate arrests of minorities and the poor. 
"The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast," the editorial 
said. "There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, 
according to FBI figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin 
and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling 
disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and 
creating new generations of career criminals."

These are not new arguments. But this time they come from The New 
York Times, not High Times.

Support for marijuana legalization has grown so rapidly within the 
last decade, and especially within the last two years, that some 
advocates and pollsters have compared it with the sudden collapse of 
opposition to same-sex marriage as a culture-redefining event.

Gallup has found more popular support for legalizing marijuana than 
for legalizing same-sex marriage.

In Gallup's most recent survey on the issue, in 2013, 58 percent of 
respondents said marijuana should be legal - up from 46 percent a 
year earlier and 31 percent in the early 2000s. This spring, 55 
percent said gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry.

When Colorado passed a ballot measure in 2012 legalizing recreational 
marijuana, more residents voted for legal weed than for President 
Barack Obama (who carried the state). Washington state's legalization 
effort also passed handily.

Yet through a combination of ballot measures, legislative action and 
judicial action, same-sex marriage has found far more success across 
the U.S., in a campaign supporters liken to the civil rights 
movement. For marijuana, a better historical comparison is 
Prohibition - when alcohol was banned in the early 20th century. 
Public officials have moved more slowly on pot, in many cases taking 
incremental steps like decriminalizing possession of small amounts 
and legalizing the drug for medicinal use.

Taboos have slowly faded. Former President Bill Clinton confessed to 
smoking marijuana but famously claimed that he "didn't inhale." 
George W. Bush told a friend in a recorded conversation that he 
didn't want to answer questions about past marijuana use because "I 
don't want some little kid doing what I tried." Obama was bolder, 
declaring before he was elected, "Of course I inhaled - that was the 
point!" In a New Yorker interview published in January, Obama said, 
"I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol." But he worried 
legalizing marijuana would create a slippery slope for legalizing 
more dangerous drugs. The American Medical Association, while calling 
for more clinical testing, has expressed skepticism that medicinal 
marijuana meets federal safety standards for prescriptions. The 
American Psychiatric Association's most recent policy statement says, 
"There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way 
beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder."

Dissenters also worry that creating a legal marijuana industry would 
simply be the next Big Tobacco, with legalization bringing higher 
rates of addiction and mental health problems.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom