Out of My Mind, April 5, 2012

Groups disagree about best way to legalize marijuana in Washington

I attended the marijuana roundtable held at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center last Friday night, but came away wondering if supporting Initiative 502 in marijuana reform was really the way to go or not for our state.
Why, because there seemed to be two schools of thought. While they had people arguing for the initiative, they also had one panelist who was arguing against – not because he didn’t think legalizing and regulating marijuana was something the state should do. He felt legalization was right, but that I-502 supporters were going about it wrong way and the state even more vulnerable to greater federal interference (we’ll look at both sides more in depth in an article about the roundtable next week).
Marijuana should be legalized if only because keeping it criminalized has just led to more crime, very similar, but in many cases much more ruthless than, the gangsters who ran booze in Chicago during alcohol prohibition. Don’t take my word for it, a surprising number of people in law enforcement agree – take out the huge money aspect of marijuana, regulate it like cigarettes or beer, and it because no worse than alcohol and in many cases less so. As one panelist asked, Have you ever heard of someone punching out someone when they were smoking marijuana? How about if they’ve been drinking whiskey? Answering his own question, the former long-time law enforcement officer said he had seen it all too often for booze, but never for pot.
Marijuana has been portrayed as some sort of highly addictive killer substance ever since the days of the anti-pot movie “Reefer Madness” from the 1930s. I guess it may have been taken seriously in it’s time, but most people watching it nowadays realize that it was just blatant (and comical) propaganda. The true crime related to marijuana is the millions of dollars the country spends on trying to stop people from smoking it and the prisons full of non-violent people who cost this nation more millions to house. The true crime is the fact the prohibition aspect makes it a big money industry in Mexico elsewhere leading to violence as gangs fight and kill for control of the market.
If the prohibition was ended, and it will have to take place on a federal level, then the big-dollar criminal aspect goes away. At the roundtable while most were arguing for passage of I-502, the lone anti-I-502 panelist said the initiative doesn’t go far enough and that it will take several states passing legalization laws before the law will change at a federal level in a domino affect. Each side agreed there was big money in marijuana only as long as it remained a crime to use it – both for the drug cartels and for the private prison industry that is springing up around the country.
Voters should study the initiative and decide for themselves about how they feel about marijuana and whether it I-502 is a good first step or whether they should wait for an all-or-nothing effort it to come along.