Pubdate: Sat, 14 Nov 2015
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Record


On Monday, the state Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a 
first-ever hearing for New Jersey on legalizing marijuana.

Can we just cut through all of the usual nonsense and legalize it 
once and for all?

It's going to happen, at some point. Medicinal marijuana is already 
in place in New Jersey - albeit grudgingly on Gov. Chris Christie's 
part. Public support for full legalization is growing; a summer 
Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll showed 49 percent in favor and 46 
percent opposed.

While there remains much to learn about the impact of legalization in 
other states that have already taken that step, like Colorado and 
Washington, there's no evidence of great calamities or waves of 
stoners mellowing out the populace.

The arguments for and against are familiar, and they don't change. On 
the plus side, legalization means pot can be taxed and regulated, 
generating fresh - and much needed - revenue for state coffers and 
reducing the dangers that come from black-market distribution. 
Colorado officials, for instance, are anticipating about $125 million 
in pot revenue for 2015. Legalization will also end the debilitating 
and counterproductive waste of law enforcement resources spent on 
rooting out the pot-smoking miscreants who get stuck with a criminal 
record for an act that simply doesn't deserve such a lifelong penalty.

Opponents mostly fall back on one core argument - pot is a "gateway" 
drug leading to more dangerous substances, and as such it would be 
irresponsible to make marijuana more readily available.

The gateway drug theory is, if not entirely a myth, far from 
conclusive. It's also difficult to escape the feeling that the 
gateway argument is mostly an attempt to apply a veneer of legitimacy 
to an instinctive fear not far removed from the "Reefer Madness" days 
when all sorts of crazy horrors were attributed to pot use.

Does pot have negative effects on the body? Sure it does; it's 
frankly hard to imagine it wouldn't, if used often enough for long 
enough. But so does alcohol and nicotine - and sugar, and red meat 
and countless other things, for that matter. Conservatives yammer on 
about personal freedom and small government, but they also love to 
clamp down on personal choice when it offends their moral sensibilities.

The Great Marijuana Debate reminds us of the long, winding road to 
legalizing gay marriage. We wouldn't compare pot smoking to the civil 
right of gay marriage, but in both instances there was growing public 
support over an extended period and an awareness that legalization 
would eventually happen. But critics couldn't accept it and so they 
fought it every step of the way, couching their moral objections with 
other arguments. So the march to legalization was forced to slog 
through countless obstacles, winning incremental gains along the way, 
a few steps forward and one step back. Victory finally occurred on 
gay marriage, and disaster hasn't struck.

Can't we learn a lesson from that, jump ahead, save a lot of time and 
money and just legalize marijuana? Soon enough we'll wonder what all 
the fuss was about.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom