Marijuana Legalization 2012 – If You’re Going to Vote for a Dope Anyway, Vote for Weed Too
As far as the failed drug war goes, there isn’t any noticeable difference between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Romney has said he opposes using marijuana even for medicinal purposes. Obama once suggested he didn’t think the federal government should continue pot raids in states where medical marijuana is legal, but his actions have spoken louder than his empty words. It appears that the only way to force politicians to confront this issue like adults is if voters send the message that they’re fed up with prohibition.
Voters in three states – Washington, Colorado, and Oregon – will take up the question of legalizing marijuana in November. If any of them are successful – and they are polling better than one might expect – they might finally force a proper national debate on a wasteful drug war that no sane person supports.
The story so far…
It’s always worth noting that the failed War on Drugs is primarily a War on Weed. In 2010, more than 750,000 Americans were charged with simple possession of marijuana. That would be three-quarters of a million people being arrested for using a substance that is no more dangerous than legal intoxicants such as tobacco or alcohol. 750,000 people’s lives disrupted, employment prospects diminished, for doing something that harms no one.
This November, voters in three U.S. states have the opportunity to take a major step in rolling back the insane drug war. Here’s a look at each marijuana legalization initiative, in order of likelihood of passage.
Initiative 502 (which you can read in PDF format here) would legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The stated intent of 502 is that it:
(1) Allows law enforcement resources to be focused on violent and property crimes;
(2) Generates new state and local tax revenue for education, health care, research, and substance abuse prevention; and
(3) Takes marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and brings it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.
It’s unfortunate that these initiatives need to act all enthusiastic about taxation and tight regulation, but I guess that’s the price of doing business. You certainly can’t argue the point that legalization would allow law enforcement officers to better prioritize, as well as eliminate the downsides of the black market.
Initiative 502 has earned the support of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael Baumgartner, who has a, shall we say, slim chance of defeating incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell. At least his heart’s in the right place. Cantwell opposes Initiative 502, which is further evidence if any was needed that Democrats are painfully uncool.
One poll last month showed that Initiative 502 had a massive lead among Washington voters. This may be the best hope legalization. The only downside of 502 passing would be the flood of lame jokes related to Washington’s state nickname.
Given Colorado’s relatively permissive history with marijuana, its Amendment 64 (PDF here) also holds promise for those of us who oppose prohibition. Like Washington’s 502, Colorado’s 64 would set the legal weed age at 21 and regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol.
Amendment 64 has made some interesting bedfellows. Two police associations – Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association – have supported the amendment. It has also received support from former Republican congressperson Tom Tancredo, who had a reputation as a hardcore conservative. Tancredo joins a long list of politicians who only support sensible drug policies once they have left or are leaving office, as Bill Clinton did, and presumably Obama will.
In opposition is this guy, who claims to be a district attorney and churns out a lame editorial featuring a tedious “for the children” argument and frets about Colorado’s reputation. How I long for the day when we stop caring about the children.
The most recent poll I was able to google up showed slim majority support , although not as strong as in Washington. Marijuana will certainly be legal in Colorado some day, but that day may still be a few years off.
You can read all about Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), at its official website, which features the prominent slogan “Regulate cannabis like liquor. Restore agricultural hemp.” It should be noted that the fact marijuana prohibition also ends up applying to hemp – since both plants are in the cannabis family – is one of the silliest aspects of American drug policy (which is almost unbelievably silly). Hemp doesn’t even contain THC, which is the stuff that gets you high. You could smoke a tree-sized hemp blunt, and the only thing you’d get is bad breath.
Although I have always assumed Oregon has its fair share of recreational marijuana users, it appears that OCTA is the longest shot of these three measures. Recent polling indicates it is technically a toss-up, but the opposition to OCTA is narrowly ahead. The campaign in support of OCTA has less money on hand than I need to keep in my checking account to avoid a maintenance fee. Prominent pro-legalization activists that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in Washington and Colorado are sitting Oregon out.
Adding insult to injury, the supposedly responsible adults at the MSM Oregonian are opposing OCTA – apparently because they don’t like the idea of marijuana distribution being a legitimate business. I guess some folks’ support for civil liberties ends where the profit motive begins. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s a depressingly normal stance for most lefties these days…
The legalization of marijuana is something that future generations will surely look on as so bloody obvious it should have been accomplished much sooner. Perhaps one of the above states is where our descendants will be able to point to say, this is when common sense finally won the day, and decent people took the first steps of ending the senseless, destructive war. And then they’ll wonder why same sex marriage didn’t catch on sooner. Christ, we really are an embarrassment to the future.