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Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2011 Source: Muskegon Chronicle, The (MI) Copyright: 2011 The Muskegon Chronicle Contact: http://www.mlive.com/mailforms/muchronicle/letters/index.ssf Website: http://www.mlive.com/muskegon/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1605 Author: Steve Gunn, The Muskegon Chronicle Note: Steve Gunn, a former Chronicle staff writer, is the communications director of Education Action Group. He adds a local conservative voice to our columnist lineup. JUST STOP THE NONSENSE AND LEGALIZE MARIJUANA We live in a representative democracy. That means we elect people to make decisions on our behalf. But some state constitutions, like Michigan's, give the people the opportunity to have the final word through ballot referendums. That happened here in 2008, when Michigan voters overwhelmingly decided to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. The total "yes" vote was over 60 percent. It wasn't even close. But somewhere along the way, our elected representatives have forgotten the meaning of the phrase "the people have spoken." They're attacking the law at the local, state and federal levels, threatening to delete the will of the majority. It's not supposed to happen like this. We've had several recent episodes of federal narcotics agents bursting into private homes and businesses and harassing sellers of medical marijuana. I suppose that's a bit easier to understand, because marijuana remains completely illegal at the federal level and our state law is in direct conflict. The feds really ought to relax and let the states decide what works for them. But that's an argument for another day. I really don't understand numerous municipal governments throughout the state passing ordinances banning the sale of medical marijuana. Even the good people on the Muskegon Township board have been troubled by the presence of a medical marijuana center and have considered an ordinance to ban or regulate it. The people of Michigan are clearly not disturbed by the idea of their fellow citizens using marijuana to kill pain. So why should the government be up in arms? The critics claim the law is too vague, and doesn't spell out clearly enough who can use medical marijuana, where it can be used and who is qualified to sell it. I'm sure the patients and their providers are quite capable of figuring out those details without bothering anyone. So why should the government bother them? Don't our elected officials have more pressing issues to worry about? I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure marijuana of a sufficient potency can blunt any ache or pain known to mankind. I guess that sort of makes it like aspirin. Why aren't our elected officials having fits about the guy downing a few Extra Strength Tylenol? I think opponents of medical marijuana are really upset because the new law has blurred the line between legal and illegal. They prefer the good old days of black and white, when marijuana was considered an evil substance, unacceptable for use in all civilized circumstances. But the majority of Americans have matured beyond that point. Millions actually smoke marijuana on a regular basis, and come from all walks of life. And millions of nonsmokers don't waste their time worrying about other people's habits. The moralists among us must accept a basic fact: We live in a free society, and people have different ideas of right and wrong. It's undemocratic for a small group of zealots to force their rigid ideals on the majority. Perhaps the blurring of pot laws is a necessary step toward eventual legalization. I've read strong arguments from commentators on the left and right who agree that the government is wasting time and resources fighting a substance that the public demands. You would think we would have learned a lesson from prohibition. In 1918, our nation's moral crusaders managed to pass a constitutional amendment banning the distribution or use of alcohol. But they forgot one key fact. The American people liked booze, and they were going to get it, one way or another. A black market quickly popped up, and dangerous mobsters quickly cornered the illegal alcohol market. A lot of turf wars and murders followed, because we were stupid enough to turn a major industry over to the likes of Al Capone. The states came to their senses in 1933 and overturned the ban on alcohol. Instead of waging a war against a popular product, the government regulated its use, taxed it and made a lot of money from it. The best part is that legalization of alcohol put the Capone types out of business and ended a long, ugly period of unnecessary violence. Now there's an idea. Instead of spending billions of dollars every year in a pointless war against marijuana, why not make billions by legalizing and taxing it? Millions of people would be able to possess a product they desire, the government would have a new source of desperately needed revenue, and we could probably reduce the number of senseless shootings in our communities. We could create a win-win situation for everyone, instead of engaging in a pointless struggle to keep people from doing what they're going to do, anyway. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.