Sunday, September 19, 2010

End Pot Prohibition: California's Proposition 19 should pass.

Proposition 19 is a California ballot proposition which will be on the November 2, California ballot. It essentially legalizes marijuana and allows local governments to regulate and tax it. Even if legalized by the State of California however, pot may not be legalized due the the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says "this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof...shall be the supreme Law of the Land." Since Proposition 19 conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act, a Federal Court will likely rule California proposition 19 unconstitutional using the same logic they used to declare Arizona's immigration law unconstitutional.

I hope Prop. 19 passes and if I were a citizen of California I would vote for it. Even if the Federal Government uses the Supremacy clause to override the will of the people of California, Proposition 19 will move us toward ending pot prohibition. If California passes proposition 19, this will put pressure on the federal to end federal prohibition.

The governments policy toward recreational drugs, marijuana in particular, makes absolutely no sense. For far too long many people have had their lives damaged, not by marijuana but by a policy that criminalizes a harmless activity. People lose their right to parental visitation or custody of their children, they lose their job, they lose their college scholarships, and they go to jail for simply smoking a little dope.

Casual use of marijuana is much less damaging to society than alcohol. I think marijuana may actually be good for society. If some of the people who drink alcohol switched to pot, we would probably see fewer violent brawls, less domestic violence and fewer fatal car wrecks. Some uptight people might be less uptight and more pleasant if they occasionally got stoned. I suspect the world might actually be a better place if more people got high every once in a while.

I think we should have an immediately end to federal pot prohibition and then let each state decide the issue. I would hope that the several states would then end state prohibitions. Using pot should not be a crime and neither should pot users be considered to have a “drug problem.” While I would much rather see people forced into drug treatment rather than sent to jail, requiring treatment is hypocrisy. Casual users of marijuana do not have a “drug problem.” They just have a preference for a recreational drug that is less dangerous than the society-approved recreational drug alcohol.

I think procession of small quantities or growing small quantities of marijuana for your own use should be legal much like brewing your own beer is legal. I think dealers should be licensed and taxed. The government at all levels loses a lot of money because this large segment of the economy is not taxed. If marijuana was distributed much the way alcohol and tobacco are distributed the criminal element would be driven out of business, much the same way that ending alcohol prohibition drives out bootleggers. Also, with commercial distribution of marijuana the consumer would benefit by having quality control. The consumer could expect honest weights and measures and proper labeling. I can see the day when shopping for pot could be like shopping for wine. I can imagine a weekly pot review article in the Tennessean. It should happen.

While I would not want to see an immediate legalization of all dangerous drugs, I think we should deemphasize prosecution of users of these hard drugs. For the more dangerous drugs, I think we primarily need to educate people to the dangers and then realize that sometimes free people make poor choices. Just the way that some people now abuse alcohol or people make poor financial decisions, we must accept that some people will get strung out on drugs. Help should be available for those with a drug problem who want help, but putting people in prison is not the help they need. Drug treatment would be less costly and more humane than imprisonment.

I suspect that if we end the crack down on the supply of drugs, the price would fall. Those with a real addiction would not commit armed robbery to feed their habit if drugs were less costly and less profitable and we would not enrich Mexican and Colombian drug lords. We might even deny the Taliban a major source of funding.

We can't tackle the whole drug issue all at once, but Proposition 19 would be first step toward rational reform.

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1 comment:

  1. The comparison to Arizona's immigration law isn't a good one.

    In Arizona's case the state is attempting to usurp Federal immigration laws.

    In California, the voters are basically telling the Feds to enforce their own laws. There won't by any state penalties for marijuana.