The real question has been about legalizing marijuana for medical purposes and not for casual use. Today, 14 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and recently the Justice Department ruled it would no longer prosecute legitimate growers and users of medical marijuana. This is good news because this is an obvious win for state rights, which I am an advocate. In fact, I would not have a problem with each state deciding on whether to legalize marijuana for not only medical purposes, but for casual use. In a recent Gallup poll, 44% of all Americans favor legalizing marijuana while 54% oppose. In fact, in the West, 53% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and taxing it sales to raise revenues. Revenues from legalizing marijuana can be used to improve law enforcement and make our streets safer. Funds can be used for the prison system and make sure criminals finish sentences instead of being released prematurely because of lack of space and funding.
The problem with legalizing marijuana is that the medical marijuana programs set up in 14 states has been a nightmare. If the states cannot control and regulate medical marijuana, they certainly will not be able control legalized marijuana. In my state, Colorado, there is over 1500 dispensaries state wide. I seriously doubt that this many dispensaries are needed to support cancer, glaucoma, and other ailments. It makes more sense to have pharmacies dispense the drugs with a doctor prescription. Pharmacies can buy the marijuana from a state regulated marijuana farm. If states legalize marijuana the number of dispensaries will go two or three fold and this becomes harder and harder to regulate. Some advocates say there is evidence if marijuana is legalized it will lower the usage of more powerful and addictive drugs like meth. This remains to be seen. But before states legalize marijuana for everybody, it is imperative they must first get the medical marijuana situation under control.
In the fight against illegal drugs, there are so many drugs that are more of a concern than marijuana. Law enforcement often ignores marijuana offenses because they have bigger fish to fry and do not have enough resources to worry about marijuana. Many may think this is a liberal point of view, but even the father of conservatism, William F. Buckley, advocated for the legalization of marijuana. As long as legalizing marijuana does not become a federal issue decided by national politicians and courts that overrule state decisions, it should be acceptable to all. There are many other illegal drugs available to the U.S. public that are much more serious in nature. They are much stronger, and more addictive. These drugs are more of a priority with law enforcement. Many states, like Oregon, have already legalized marijuana in small quantities. Marijuana possession is not the focus of many law enforcement precincts because law enforcement must choose their battles wisely. Thus, it makes sense to give in and legalize marijuana, especially if it can lower crime rates by allowing law enforcement to focus on major crimes. Just as it is illegal to make our own alcohol, it should be illegal to grow, manufacture, and sell marijuana, but it would be okay to buy it from legal distributors. In other words, it can be controlled and taxed heavily the same way alcohol and tobacco is. Most people do not condone the use of marijuana, but people are going to continue to use it regardless of its risks and side effects. Alcohol was once illegal because it was considered a drug. However, the amendment was repealed after so many fought against prohibition back in the twenties. The same is true with marijuana today. Legalizing marijuana can be pursued by each individual state. The states can decide on this matter by having a popular vote every four years. States that ratify the referendum can then benefit from collecting the tax money from the legal use of marijuana.
For the system to work, there will need to be stiff penalties and laws in place prior to ratifying the legal use of marijuana. Any one caught driving under the influence of cannabis should face similar consequences as a person caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana should also be illegal to smoke in any public or private places where tobacco is also not allowed. Also, anyone caught illegally growing and selling cannabis should be subject to a lengthy prison sentence, even for first time offenders. I do not like the idea of legalizing marijuana, but at this juncture I see few alternative solutions that make fiscal sense.
My Book: Is America Dying? (Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com)