There’s a reason marijuana laws don’t work: There is no compelling reason for them to work.
Marijuana is not a dangerous drug. Used in moderation, cannabis has few ill effects; used in excess, the intoxicant has fewer and less severe side effects than alcohol. It’s not in a class with opioids that can kill users. There has been no known lethal human overdose of marijuana. The California Medical Association supports state Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for recreational adult use. There is no compelling public-safety interest in government’s ban on adult recreational use — not in a free country.
It’s time for California to cut its ties with ill-conceived federal and state drug laws that ban adult recreational use and thus consign marijuana cultivation and sale to criminal gangs. Just as the mob grew powerful thanks to the American prohibition of alcohol (which failed to douse the public’s desire for spirits), drug gangs have flourished thanks to Washington’s war on drugs. By legalizing marijuana, not simply decriminalizing its use, California can move the trade out of the shadows to a place where the state can regulate and tax it. As Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a proponent, told the San FranciscoChronicle’s editorial board, “The goal is to end the black market.”
Criminalization of marijuana also feeds a public contempt toward the political system. When they were young, Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton flouted the law, partook of the weed and got away with it. If they had been arrested and convicted, their life paths may not have led to the White House. An arrest on drug charges can prevent young men and women from winning security clearances needed for some jobs but not, apparently, for the position of commander in chief. Alas, when Clinton, Bush, and Obama were in a position to do something — to end a crusade that disproportionately hurts young people of color — they could not be bothered.