Marijuana legalization fits into almost any ideology you can think of. That’s why you see these odd bedfellows supporting it, you know, Barney Frank and Ron Paul. It’s not a wedge issue anymore.
Since November, when Washington and Colorado made it legal for people over 21 to use marijuana, we’ve seen an explosion. This year, there are 10 measures at the state level to legalize outright. In previous years, we would have been lucky to even have one. In two dozen states there are forty or so marijuana reform bills in play ranging from simple decriminalization, to medicalization and full-on legalization. Where we’re also seeing the movement is on the federal level where we haven’t previously. There are six to seven federal marijuana bills in Congress and they span the scope like we haven’t seen before including a call for a presidential commission to look at medical marijuana and Jared Polis’ legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would essentially end the federal government’s involvement in marijuana prohibition.
What you see on the marriage equality side is the power that comes when you get some influential people behind this. They’ve had the benefit of Barack Obama in the past year or so just using the bully pulpit on that issue. What we’re kind of waiting for here is that kind of moment to happen.
I disfavor decriminalization of marijuana because it increases demand from illicit sources. I think we need to legalize marijuana (likely starting with medicinal marijuana in view of the current federal prohibition) and then regulate it and tax it. Only be lawful production of marijuana will the cartels, crooks and drug dealers be put out of business in the US.
Legalizing marijuana is foolish because it leads to far more use of the drug and the availability of ever more potent forms. But the foolishness doesn’t end there. Equally foolish is that as a society we have made peace with marijuana while making war on tobacco. This has been a classic example of upside-down thinking; and we are reaping exactly what we have sown. We have produced a generation of young Americans who would never put a cigarette or cigar near their lips, but who increasingly get high on pot.
Yes, tobacco — specifically cigarettes — kills and marijuana doesn’t. But, if you’ll forgive the ultimate political incorrectness, young people would do much better in life if they smoked tobacco rather than weed.
First, tobacco doesn’t kill young people. When it kills, it generally kills much older adult people. Moreover, according to a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, if you stop smoking cigarettes by age 44, you will lose only one more year of life than a person who has never smoked.
Second, regular pot smokers increasingly tune out of life, becoming what are known as potheads, or, to put it bluntly, losers.
Third, as noted in the CBS4 report, “new studies that have been published say the risk of a car accident increases two-fold after someone consumes pot.” In other words, innocent human beings — sometimes whole families — are more likely to be maimed, paralyzed, and killed by pot smokers than by cigarette smokers.
…ponder these questions: Would you rather your airplane pilot smoke pot or tobacco while flying? How would Britain have fared in World War II if Winston Churchill had smoked pot instead of cigars?
Dennis Prager, the author of this National Review piece, seems to think that because marijuana and tobacco are both smoked, they are therefore comparable substances. In fact (and I can’t believe I am forced to write this), they are nothing at all alike. A better comparison would be marijuana and alcohol, and it is of course illegal to consume an abundance of alcohol before operating a motor vehicle. Marijuana legalization advocates, as should be evident to anyone who has conducted even a cursory examination of the pro-legalization argument, think it should be illegal to drive while high. So yes, Mr. Prager, I would prefer that pilots not smoke marijuana before takeoff, just as I would hope they are not guzzling vodka from a tiny bottle they swiped from a stewardess.
As for Prager’s claim that marijuana users are destined to become “losers,” I’ll let Time’s Maia Szalavitz respond:
The idea that “marijuana makes you dumb” has long been embodied in the stereotype of the slow, stupid stoner, seen in numerous Hollywood movies and TV comedies and going unquestioned by much of American culture. But a new study says no: the researchers followed nearly 2,000 young Australian adults for eight years and found that marijuana has little long-term effect on learning and memory— and any cognitive damage that does occur as a result of cannabis use is reversible.
Perhaps most notably, there is no mention anywhere in Prager’s diatribe of the inevitable consequences of marijuana prohibition, such as mass incarceration, the financial burden that prohibition places on taxpayers, the racial disparities that arise when prohibition is enforced, or the escalating crime rates that are a direct result of prohibition. As Conor Friedersdorf notes, ignoring these devastating consequences is “deeply irresponsible.” One wishes National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr. was still around to rebut Prager’s claims. In 2004, Buckley wrote:
Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great. The laws aren’t exactly indefensible, because practically nothing is, and the thunderers who tell us to stay the course can always find one man or woman who, having taken marijuana, moved on to severe mental disorder. But that argument, to quote myself, is on the order of saying that every rapist began by masturbating. General rules based on individual victims are unwise. And although there is a perfectly respectable case against using marijuana, the penalties imposed on those who reject that case, or who give way to weakness of resolution, are very difficult to defend.
It is time we were honest about the problems we face with the drug trade. Drugs are a source of criminal profit, and that has led to shootings and even murders. Just like we learned in the 1920s with the prohibition of alcohol, prohibition of marijuana is fueling violent activity. We also know today that the drug war fuels a biased incarceration policy. The drug war’s victims are predominantly young men of color.
Seattle is the kind of place that isn’t afraid to try a different approach. We support safe access to medical marijuana and made enforcement of possession of marijuana for personal purposes our lowest enforcement priority. But we’ve learned in the past year that with the federal war on drugs still intact, and with our kids still getting gunned down on the streets, we need to do more.
I know every one of the city council members sitting to my left and right believe as I do: it’s time for this state to legalize marijuana, and stop the violence, stop the incarceration, stop the erosion of civil liberties, and urge the federal government to stop the failed war on drugs.
Does this mean that the federal government will be prosecuting individuals throughout California, Washington, Colorado and elsewhere who comply with state law permitting marijuana use, or is the Davies case merely a rogue prosecutor out of step with administration and department policy?
This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana. Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.
Elliot Peters, a lawyer for Matthew Davies. Mr. Davies is the father of two young girls and the former owner of a medical marijuana business with 75 employees. Six months ago, his dispensaries were raided and the Justice Department indicted Mr. Davies on charges of cultivating marijuana.
United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, a 2009 Obama appointee, wants Mr. Davies to agree to a plea that includes a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.
Two girls without a father, 75 workers without jobs, potentially hundreds of sick people without physician-recommended medication, and the loss of a multi-million dollar business…just another “victory” for the war on drugs.
What I’ve seen in Newark is a massive trap in this drug war and it’s not just a trap for the individuals being arrested. It’s a trap for taxpayers, communities, and towns. We’re not making our nation safer with this…drug war.
We need to change, I believe radically change, our national conversation and begin to talk about drugs, especially drugs like pot, in a different way.
President Obama has “clarified” his stance on federal policy towards states that legalize recreational marijuana:
“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” [President Obama] said, invoking the same approach taken toward users of medicinal marijuana in 18 states where it’s legal.
What approach has been taken towards medical marijuana? Rolling Stone explains:
Over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts. “There’s no question that Obama’s the worst president on medical marijuana,” says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “He’s gone from first to worst.”
Since the federal crackdown began last year, the DEA has raided dozens of medical-cannabis dispensaries from Michigan to Montana.
…the federal war on medical marijuana has locked pot dispensaries out of the banking system – especially in Colorado, home to the nation’s second-largest market for medicinal cannabis. Top banks – including Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America – are refusing to do business with state-licensed dispensaries, for fear of federal prosecution for money-laundering and other federal drug crimes.
The IRS has also joined in the administration’s assault on pot dispensaries, seeking to deny them standard tax deductions enjoyed by all other businesses. Invoking an obscure provision of the tax code meant to trip up drug kingpins, the IRS now maintains that pot dispensaries can deduct only one expense – ironically, the cost of the marijuana itself. All other normal costs of doing business – including employee salaries and benefits, rent, equipment, electricity and water – have been denied.
We’ll see how aggressively the Obama administration cracks down on recreational marijuana, but the last few years should serve as a dark omen. The President’s “clarification” should soothe only those unaware of his current policy of supposedly “not circumventing state laws,” which in reality, has resulted in another case of a Democratic President with a worse record on drug policy than the previous Republican administration.
I don’t think it follows that because Obama used marijuana he should necessarily switch postions. But I would hope that it would give him some empathy. In America, Barack Obama was able to become president, despite his drug use. That is a good thing.