BY DIANE DIMOND
I’m going to make a bold prediction: America’s War on Drugs is now officially over.
Oh, no one in Washington is going to make any sort of announcement to confirm this, but take it from me: Our four-decades-old drug war strategy is now formally kaput. To be entirely honest, it has been sputtering along for years now accomplishing little and costing us upward of a trillion dollars.
Citizens in two states — Washington and Colorado — sealed the deal. They voted that marijuana should be legalized, no prescription or medical excuse needed. And not only is recreational pot smoking by adults legal in those two places now, but medicinal use of marijuana is already the will of the people in 18 other states and the District of Columbia.
Sure looks like a trend to me.
President Obama’s Justice Department still considers marijuana to be an illegal substance, and in the past, Attorney General Eric Holder has moved to shut down legally mandated medicinal clinics and to penalize those who use marijuana for health care. But in advance of this November’s pro-pot votes, Holder issued none of the usual dire warnings about enforcement. Hmmm, I wonder why not…
Perhaps Washington has quietly decided to join with what a majority of Americans think: that marijuana should be legalized. The president is clearly driving this bus.
An article this past July in GQ magazine reported that Obama had a plan for his second term to move away from military wars and to “pivot to the drug war” here at home. The magazine said ever since his days as a state senator in Illinois, “Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure.” And during Obama’s first run for the White House, he told an interviewer, “I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate.”
As soon as the newly passed laws are certified, it will be legal in Colorado for an adult to grow up to six pot plants and smoke it in the comfort of his or her own home or any other private location. In Washington, consumers will be able to buy marijuana from state-licensed providers.
Most important? The new laws to legalize, regulate and tax the weed are expected to either save or generate multiple millions of dollars for these states.
Once that happens, how long do you think it will take other cash-strapped states to follow this lead? That’s right, probably not long at all. Marijuana money will go a long way toward helping states pay the bills.
Washington and Colorado will soon see their police officers unburdened from making picayune pot possession arrests. Their costly jail and prison populations will begin to dwindle. Their courts and prosecutors will finally get out from under the massive numbers of small-time drug-bust cases that clog the dockets and are so expensive. Everyone will be freed up to focus on much more serious matters of crime and justice.
The budget-balancing rewards of legalizing recreational pot will simply be too tempting for other states to ignore. If you doubt the new pot laws will have much of a financial impact, consider these facts:
–Every 42 seconds, police make a marijuana arrest somewhere in America. That’s according to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police officers, judges, prosecutors and other criminal justice professionals who advocate the legalization of pot.
–A recent FBI report concluded that 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana laws last year, almost 90 percent of them for mere possession of pot. With that many arrests, can you imagine how many more Americans smoke pot and just haven’t been arrested?
The National Geographic Channel reports that at least 15 million U.S. citizens use marijuana at least once a month.
Once the positive economic reality of regulating and taxing marijuana becomes evident, how long do you think it will be before we start hearing serious talk about legalizing all street drugs? That’s right, not long at all.
It is so logical, and yet I can just hear the knee-jerk protests from those spouting tired laments.
(SET ITAL) But teen-agers will get their hands on marijuana!
People high on pot will get behind the wheel and drive!
Smoking marijuana kills brain cells and causes other health problems! (END ITAL)
Let’s not kid ourselves. Those things are already happening, and we’ve dealt with it. When pot is legalized, it doesn’t mean existing laws are tossed out. There will still be statutes against smoking in public, illegal underage sales and use and driving under the influence. As for the health issues marijuana might cause? Well, I don’t think the government should be in the business of regulating personal choice about what someone puts in their body — not sugary drinks and certainly not some weed that so many citizens have voted should be legal to smoke.
I understand there is still the argument that smoking marijuana leads users to harder drugs like cocaine, meth or heroin. People prone to abuse their bodies with cigarettes and alcohol have been known to turn to other addictive substances. But the fact is, there are no conclusive scientific studies proving marijuana is a gateway drug.
One more point: If America — no, I’ll say (SET ITAL) when (END ITAL) America — legalizes marijuana, think of what that would do to the profit margin of the vicious drug cartels. The money made by criminal enterprises in foreign countries could stay right here in America if we just got our playbook straight.
What’s lacking is definitive leadership from Washington. That’s a shame, because this legalization train is moving down the tracks with or without the politicians.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net.