US News & World Report: “Should Marijuana Use Be Legalized?”

Next Tuesday, three voters in three states — Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — will be deciding on statewide ballot measures to legalize the adult possession, use, and distribution of cannabis. Today, US News & World Report ‘Debate Club’ asks its readers: “Should marijuana use be legalized?”

I, along with Alison Holcolm (New Approach Washington), provide commentaries in favor of ending cannabis prohibition. [Update: MPP’s Morgan Fox also now has a commentary here.]

An excerpt from my op/ed appears below:

Marijuana Regulation Works and Prohibition Fails
via US News & World Report

Come November 7, voters in one, if not two, U.S. states will have decided in favor of legally regulating cannabis. Why? The answer is clear: regulation works; prohibition fails.

Since 1965, the FBI reports that U.S. law enforcement have made over 22 million arrests for marijuana violations. Yet cannabis consumption and the public’s access to pot remain undeterred. Cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes upon legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

It’s time to stop stigmatizing and criminalizing tens of millions of Americans for choosing to consume a substance that is safer than either tobacco or alcohol.

… [A] pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults—but restricts use among young people—would best reduce risks associated with its use or abuse.

… In short, it’s legalization, regulation and public education—coupled with the enforcement of age restrictions—that most effectively keeps mind-altering substances out of the hands of children.

You can read the full text of my commentary here.

You can read Alison Holcolm’s contribution, “Marijuana Use Should Not Be a Crime,” here.

Predictably, longtime cannabis prohibitionists Kevin Sabet, a former assistant to the Drug Czar, and David Evans, an adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation, provide the ‘con’ perspective. You can read their contributions (largely for entertainment purposes only) here and here.

As in past editions of US News’ ‘Debate Club’, editors are asking visitors to vote ‘up’ the commentaries they like and to vote ‘down’ the arguments they oppose. Make your opinion heard. Please vote and share.

24 thoughts

  1. What I find encouraging is that the pro-legalization votes are over 10-20 times the pro-hibition votes.

    Actually, the comments following the prohibitionists articles are far more entertaining than the drivel in their articles.

  2. One point I wish that the pro-regulation camp would emphasize is that prohibition hurts youth far more than cannabis does. Depending on age, a marijuana arrest means unnecessarily introducing youth to the criminal justice system which may affect their ability to obtain employment, further their education and a conviction may affect access to federal financial aid. The consequences of marijuana use are severe, but only due to the consequences which are created by prohibition. Simply said, prohibition harms youth in measurable and absolute ways while responsible marijuana use has little lifetime impact.

  3. If any off these states Legalize/ Decriminalize do you think other states would follow such as Wisconsin? If so how long do you think it will be?

  4. Small grammatical/logical error at the beginning. “Three voters in three states..” haha I surely hope more than three people are voting on this!

  5. Small grammatical/logical error at the beginning. “Three voters in three states..” haha I surely hope more than three people are voting on this!

  6. All very encouraging stuff but I would just like to take issue with the fact that the prohibitionist argument is entertaining. It is now time that we not only refute their arguments be we also show contempt for the hatred and lies they are peddling – it is not funny !

    Prohibition has blighted the lives of millions of people, it has cost untold billions of tax dollars and brought unnecessary suffering to sick people for three quarters of a century. Anyone who advocates more of that is contemptuous to the point of criminality. In the civil rights movement of the sixties no one thought the racists were funny for their hatred and discrimination so why should we feel that way about the prohibitionists.

    I think people involved with marijuana have been oppressed for so long and so thoroughly that they have not yet woken up to their human rights and gained the dignity they deserve. There is a lot of healing to be done after 75 years of hatred.

  7. I agree phrtao the prohibitionist position started off as entertaining and now it’s just outright lies and twisted facts.

    Prohibitionists say it causes psychosis. Where are the millions of users getting their treatments at, I mean this should be an epidemic with all the cannabis users out there.

    My favorite is ” People entering drug treatment centers and classes are at an all time high ”

    Really? After getting arrested for possession you can go to jail or you can take a drug class as a diversion. I wonder how many people elect jail time.

    Yes it is time to get upset and expose prohibitionist on their lies.

    Marijuana opens the mind and makes many neural connections in the brain normally not made. Are we just more enlightened and see through this BS or are people so uneducated, ignorant, or passive they just believe the lies? I often wonder.

  8. It is indeed laughable that the prohibitionists Kevin Sabet, a former assistant to the Drug Czar, and David Evans, an adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation really got their debate points shot down in flames! It is getting ever more clear that We the People do not agree with these small-minded people who want to continue this totally failed prohibition.

  9. I agree with Andy and Phrtao. It’s time to show our teeth instead of appease those who would perpetuate this crazy war on our own. Legalization is a good thing. I have an intense disagreement with how its being proposed, but if I lived in any of those three states, I’d line up to vote for it. My issue with the current trend of legalization is that we’re giving the “dangerous” angle far too much play. Cannabis is an herb that’s been around for 60 million years. We’ve been using it since our ancestors climbed out of the ocean. It’s one of the most healthful, nontoxic plants on the earth, so why are we condoning this level of control? From my perspective, this just feeds the misconceptions and lies.

  10. I agree with Shawn that we do not emphasize the destruction our “justice” system does to youth. Interview some of the kids that have been locked up or forced into rehab for marijuana. Show videos of the some of these facilities that they lock kids up in so these people will have to face what they have done.

  11. I think we need a president to run a 4 year test. Completely legalize marijuana for 4 years. Package it, regulate it and tax it, just like tobacco, and see where the tax debt is after that time. I think with how many “open” pot smokers and “closet” pot smokers there are out there that after 4 years everyone would be like, “What tax debt?! We don’t have one!”

  12. Cannabis prohibition is a crime against the people of this nation and not only does not help anybody, but hurts millions. Billions are spent on prohibition of a natural plant, and it doesn’t even achieve it’s goal, which is to limit or eliminate the use of one of the safest substances known to man. In the process, it violates a constitutional right to put in our bodies what we wish. It creates drug dealers that sell to our kids, it puts people in jail for nonviolent crimes… it destroys families when one of the parents is put into jail… it encourages people to drink alcohol which kills millions all over the world every year. The prohibition of cannabis honestly makes me feel like I’m in the twilight zone. This plant cures cancer (this is fact by the way), has no harmful side effects, and is impossible to OD on, and it’s illegal. Somebody please explain this to me. The fact is, nobody can.

  13. I would just like to make clear that I don’t advocate aggression or hatred to any individual – just towards offensive ideas. I really think if they drop the stupidity then we should bear no ill feelings. This is the best way to get people on board and show that marijuana advocates are not extremists and freaks but just sensible caring people.

  14. Decriminalization is a much better option than Legalization which I could not support. Legalization forces marijuana on every family. Decriminalization gives families the choice. Regulation leads to more regulation, loss of freedom and increased taxes. Legalization can’t be implemented until Marijuana is removed as a Schedule 1 substance. Feds would simply threaten and then arrest state officials and anyone involved in manufacture or distribution. An easy task when regulated. Decriminalization can’t be countered by the feds unless we give them enormous resources to do so. Decriminalization works great in New York. There is just the problem of interpretation of public view, which is being abused by police. The public view restriction is needed to insure family choice.

    [Editor’s note: Let’s keep arresting a cannabis consumer every 42 seconds…because that makes sense why? Decriminalization is an unsatisfactory compromise that no longer has to be offered by reformers as the alternative to outright prohibition.

    >Feds would simply threaten and then arrest state officials and anyone involved in manufacture or distribution.

    Wrong. This is currently incorrect in no less than CO, NM, ME, VT and NJ (soon to be joined by DC, CT, DE and RI) where govt officials already sanction/regulate/tax large scale cultivation and retail sales under the auspices of medical use. The feds are not harassing and prosecuting local and state govt officials in any of these states for creating and profiting from ‘legal’ cannabis industry at state level.

    Your fear is unfounded.]

  15. To concerned: You say decriminalization works well in New York. I dare you to tell that to the many black and latino people of NYC who have been stopped, frisked and abused by law enforcement with too much time on their hands. When you say you just want decriminalization, you are still advocating sanctions against marijuana. You are no friend of marijuana, so stop pretending that you are.

  16. Dear concerned, “decriminalized” is still too much regulation! We need legal pot. How does stopping the police from acting like rejects for harassing and arresting people for no good reason “force marijuana” into your house? Honestly, it is the fucking pigs that are “forcing their way into people’s homes”.

    Free people have something called “choice”, but you indicate not having a choice about the issue is “freeing” your family in some manner???

  17. COMPLETE legalization of marijuana is what’s called for. Doesn’t matter WHY you use it, be if for recreation, medicinally, and/or spiritually. It is NON-TOXIC — actually, it’s BENEFICIAL for the health of mind, body, and soul. So either remove it from its Schedule I category, to the LEAST “dangerous” classification, or better yet, LET EACH STATE decide for themselves, via their respective electorate, how they want to handle marijuana; then respect state sovereignty, and stop the federal raids in states like mine, California.

    As a Baby Boomer, a registered voter, a lifelong marijuana user, and a taxpayer, I’m tired of this 70+ year “war.” Do the “cents”-ible thing — stop squandering our government resources and taxpayer dollars on prohibition. The cartels are HOPING the U.S. continues these counterproductive strategies, because the longer prohibition is sustained, the greater their profits, and thus, their power!

    Peace to all, and smoke ’em if you got ’em!

  18. Yes it should be legal.The police in my town searched my trash,found 2empty roach wrappers 1empty rolling paper package.Got a search warrant for misdemeanor possession of marijuana ,came in with the swat team ,destroyed my house dumped everything including food on the floor for an ounce of pot. Governor Brownback in response to a letter I wrote to him when he was a senator concerning legalizing pot ,stated he would never vote for any type legalization. So now he is our governor . We in Kansas have a very hard fight

  19. Think about this: How many thousands, if not millions of real crimes have gone unsolved and thus unpunished thanks to the police being distracted by enforcement these silly marijuana laws? It could be a huge toll!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could grow our own and let the police focus on their job: fighting crime, not declaring crimes on innocent people? I just read how some believe legalizing pot will actually help the drug cartels—and this makes no sense on a couple levels. One, the cartels will no longer be making money on a non-crime like selling pot and all their money would then be crime related; while you and your neighbors will be making money selling our home grown pot. They will be cut out of the market so the Cartels will get less money and be further sidelined socially which is perfect!

    Two, the rest of the Cartels businesses like drug dealing, prostitution, human trafficking/slaving, and general thievery would have to operate under a more comprehensive police focus. With legalization, there would be a big difference in crime as in there would be less. The police fighting against legalization are pretty stupid for it, as it would certainly make their job safer!

  20. Here in Virginia I would 100% welcome marijuana decriminalization since it would be a major improvement over the incredibly stupid laws we are currently forced to obey (or get locked away). That said, even decriminalization sucks in comparison to what should be the rule of the day: legalize and regulate (I say regulate because without regulation kids can easily get it and the product itself could be contaminated in various ways). I do 100% believe that adults should have the absolute right to grow their own or to share it with other adults.

  21. Like I’ve always said ” If you can take it from the garden straight to the table and eat it without altercation it shouldnt be taken away from people because it is a vegtable”
    Ya know when you stop to think about it every time you read anything from the haters of cannabis they always seem to throw out ” prostitution, drunk driving, or murder”, or whatever other words that shove off negative aspects.
    If i say those words with our everyday things that we have now then it makes you start to rethink about them for instances”
    lieing cheating double crossing backstabbing child molesting gas station clerk”
    see now gas station clerks are all bad people if you let this ignorent idea into your head.
    those of us who know gas station clerks know that they are not like this but it is the haters of cannabis who push their uneducated ideas towards the ignorent( ignorent is a term that is givin to those who have not been given the chance to become educated.) , that keep the prohibition in place. I think there is a lot of good and bad that can come out of the ending of prohibition but am willing to deal and compromise with the situation because the long running policy that has been in place is not working for anyone.
    just remeber the romans once decieded that Christianity was no longer going to be allowed among the people because they felt thretened by allowing the people to have a choice.

  22. Congratulations to the folks in Colorado & Washington, but a quick dose of reality, the federal government has the clear intention of ignoring the people votes,the DEA just had a budget raise of several million for 2012, money that will get used to prosecute folks in Colorado; enough marches and conciliatory talk, it’s time for civil disobedience, the kind that really will get their attention: several national non spending days: all pot advocates nation wide should not buy a single thing for a day, paralyze the economy, if enough people do it, then repeat it , the loss of millions $$ will get the government attention more than a million marches; this civilian disobedience is where NORML can help organize, advertise and deliver an economic blow which is what the government fears more than anything else.

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