Pubdate: Fri, 31 Jul 2015
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Orange County Register


If current trends hold, it is likely that California will soon 
legalize marijuana for recreational use  if not in 2016, then in the 
not-too-distant future. To prepare for this eventuality, the Blue 
Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin 
Newsom, was established in 2013 to analyze questions and policy 
issues arising from legalization. The commission released its final 
report last week, and the results are a mixed bag.

The report details 58 strategies, goals and other recommendations, 
including focusing on education and treatment programs, limiting 
youth access and ensuring that smaller businesses have as much 
opportunity to enter the market as larger ones.

Though the "highly regulated market" the commission envisions would 
require too much government involvement for our taste, there were 
some positive suggestions, such as engaging the federal government to 
try to get it to at least relax federal banking regulations and IRS 
rules to facilitate legalization.

Furthermore, the commission "was emphatic that the goal of 
legalization and regulation should not be to maximize tax revenue, 
arguing that such a goal could potentially run counter to the goals 
of protecting youth and promoting public health and safety," Lt. Gov. 
Newsom's office noted in a statement.

Legalization is not the boogeyman drug warriors make it out to be. A 
new report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows, for example, that, 
since marijuana was legalized in Washington state, violent crime is 
down 10 percent, burglaries are down 6 percent, the overall crime 
rate remains at a 40-year historic low, the number of traffic 
fatalities is down, marijuana usage rates are unchanged for sixth- 
and 12th-graders and slightly lower for eighth- and 10th-graders, and 
millions of dollars are being saved each year by not prosecuting 
low-level "offenders."

One need not endorse marijuana use to recognize that, contrary to 
critics' fears, legalization has brought many benefits where it has 
been tried. By contrast, just as with alcohol during the 1920s and 
early 1930s, drug prohibition has cost a fortune, increased violence 
by militarizing the police and forcing users to deal with criminals 
willing to skirt the laws (thereby depriving consumers of quality 
control and legal protections) and destroyed the lives of many 
nonviolent people simply because they chose to put a substance into 
their own bodies which the government did not approve. The drug war 
has done much more harm than good and should be ended as swiftly as 
possible. Fully legalizing marijuana would be a good first step.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom