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Legalizing Marijuana

Why Marijuana need to be legal NOW! (Part One)

I wrote this page some time ago and while it still remains valid, I have published some additional thoughts that I title "Legal Marijuana - Part 2".  I encourage the reader to check it out.

For years this country has been engaged in “the war on drugs” with little to no tangible evidence that any good has been done as a result of this (at least in my view) misguided effort.  Particularly of note is the damage, and yes I said damage, done by perhaps well-intended persons with regard to marijuana usage.  Now is the time to admit failure and move on.

If you think about it, there are really only three groups who are strongly opposed to the reform of marijuana laws; law enforcement agencies and other like prison guards in "the system" (it’s their job after all so can you really blame them), preachers and other zealots (who also oppose alcohol and for that matter fun of any kind) and of course drug dealers (who also make a living on the illegal nature of marijuana). 

Before we get any further into this, I should note (if you don’t know already) that I am a retired United States Coast Guard Officer.  I consider myself fortunate I was never directly involved in drug interdiction activity as I have always considered it a complete waste of resources with regard to marijuana. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has wasted, yes; I said wasted, millions upon millions of tax payer dollars on this folly.  As I write, the Coast Guard is struggling to come up with the money to “recapitalize” its aging fleet.  Just imagine if some of the money that was (and continues to be) wasted on drug interdiction was used somewhat more positively.  Of course, don't blame the Coast Guard, like all good soldiers we do what we are told by the politicians.

The arguments against legalization would be humorous except that the people making them seriously believe they are correct.  If anything, drug (ab)use (both of illegal and diverted prescription drugs) is really much more of a public health issue than it is a law enforcement issue.  Of course, I have rarely met a police officer who didn’t think any social problem could be solved with law enforcement.  Eddie Murphy had it right in that classic movie “48Hrs” when he told Nick Nolte’s character that “a badge and a gun will take a man a long way”.  Please do not read this as a knock on the police; police officers have a tough job and the vast majority sincerely thinks they are doing the right thing.  I’d just like to see them employed in a more positive manner.

It’s tough to figure out where to start, but perhaps the most ridiculous argument is that marijuana is a “gateway” drug.  This theory was debunked more than a decade ago but the prohibition crowd still clings to it.  There are millions of people who regularly use marijuana that have and will never use any other drug.  If you really want to make a gateway drug argument, I would offer that cigarettes are more of a gateway drug since smoking teaches you to inhale the smoke from a burning substance.  Of course that argument is so nutty I can’t believe I just typed it!  There is one “gateway” that marijuana provides; that is the gateway to other illegal drugs.  Most drug dealers don’t deal in a single product and offer a variety of choices for their consumers.  Were marijuana legal, there would be no reason to ever encounter drug dealers.  Another thing, drug dealers don’t ask for proof of age either which is why it is often easier for young people to acquire drugs illegally than alcohol or tobacco (of course, age restrictions are a joke anyway but that’s another topic).

Speaking of smoking, how many people die annually from smoking related disease?  Let’s assume for a minute that marijuana smoke is roughly as harmful as tobacco smoke.  Tobacco is legal (as it should be – again, another topic) even though these concerns have been well known and established for more than half a century.  Besides, the average smoker smokes about 20 cigarettes a day.  An average cigarette contains about 700 mg (0.7 g) of tobacco.  A pack of 20 is about ½ an ounce.  Even the most hard core “stoner” does not go through ½ ounce of marijuana daily.

How about problems caused by people under the influence of marijuana?  We currently “accept” around 30,000 alcohol related vehicle deaths per year in this country.  How many “driving while under the influence of marijuana” deaths are there?  Although I am a big consumer of beer and other malt beverage (not to mention fine wine and bourbon), I deplore driving while intoxicated (or for that matter even remotely under the influence of alcohol).  I can’t imagine how I would feel if I took someone’s life because I was too stupid to get a ride.  Here’s a radical idea – instead of wasting limited resources going after people for minor possession, let’s even more vigorously enforce DUI laws.  Let’s make it clear that DUI is not acceptable and that punishment will be swift and certain.  Perhaps if we devoted our limited resources to this effort we could maybe even save a life or two along the way.  When you have limited resources you really have to use them in a manner that provides the greatest return.

Minor possession cases clog our courts, again diverting resources from actually preventing crime.  Remember how much marijuana is in a single cigarette.  When I see someone going to jail for amounts measured in grams it makes me want to puke.

The last group whose opinion I care about regarding the legalization of marijuana is law enforcement.  They like to tell us that they’ve seen firsthand the problems caused by marijuana. The thing is they along with the current laws ARE the problem, not the solution.  A couple guys smoking some weed at home are not causing trouble.  The “troubles” only begin after these casual users are pulled through the knot hole that is our criminal justice system.

Another horrible argument is that marijuana funds criminals.  Well that’s only because it is illegal. 

Quite frankly, the current laws regarding marijuana are like most (if not all) prohibition type laws; an effort to legislate morality that attempt to defy the laws of economics.

I think I should add one note; if marijuana was legal today there is about a 99.99% chance that I would NOT be partaking for various reasons (and quite frankly I’m not sure what the 0.01% would be).  When I state my position, a typical response is “so it’s ok for pilots to show up stoned to fly.”  Such ridiculous statements irritate me more than anything since the people making them obviously haven’t put in much thought before running their mouth – of course it isn’t just like it isn’t ok for them to show up stoned just like it is not ok to show up drunk. 

I’m told my position is being easy on crime.  No it isn’t – as I stated above, I’d love to see DUI laws more vigorously enforced.  REAL criminals belong in jail.  Again using economic theory, if you look at how much economic damage a real criminal (not a guy who smokes a little weed) can do, the cost of incarceration starts to look like a bargain.

As a final thought, the prohibition of hemp growth is even more ill advised.  That’s a subject for another time though.  You can check out my thoughts on that here.

The bottom line is that it is time to “fess up” that the whole sordid “war on drugs” has been a terrible mistake and it’s time to move on.  The parallels to that failed experiment knows as the 18th Amendment should be clear to almost anyone with a half-ounce of common sense.  Of course, you can’t solve a problem until you are willing to admit you have one.

Reviewed (and still found valid!)  June 27, 2017

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