WASHINGTON D.C. —On the war on illegal drugs, there seems to be a turnaround for people who were solidly on one side or the other on the issue. Rarely do I stand in the middle but because I have never used any illegal drugs and generally find that any illegal drug should remain that way, I took a look at an issue that is huge this week in the American debate: the legalizing of marijuana.
USA Today earlier this week printed a story about this issue. A California judge from Orange County named James Gray told the paper, he once saw himself as a drug warrior, a former federal prosecutor and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses. Gradually, though, he became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less. Not that it matters, but Judge Gray is a Republican who has run for Congress in the past.
Whereas, the current White House is run by a Democratic president and the White House’s stance on this matter seems a lot more conservative than Judge Gray’s new feelings on the matter. They seem to feel it should be left up to scientists to decide the safety of using this drug; however, they are not planning on attempting to legalize it or sign anything that opens the process for further discussion.
The state of California has become the first state to allow marijuana for medical use when voters approved a statewide ballot issue back in 1996, and its provisions are so broad that tens of thousands of people have obtained a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana for ailments from cancer to arthritis. This is probably my fear in legalizing marijuana or any other illegal drug. It would seem to me that we’d have a run on trying to acquire that drug, when law enforcement is already overburdened with trying to stop the illegal drug trade in our state and the nation.
As of now, California’s Legislature is considering a bill that would make it the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use as well. It is unlikely to pass this year, but Gray and other advocates hope to have a proposition on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana use for anyone 21 or older.
Perhaps this is becoming an economic issue, which is now opening up the door to one-time conservatives to argue for legalizing marijuana? California would levy taxes that the state tax board says could raise $1.3 billion or more a year for the deficit-plagued state, while saving tens of millions in prison and law-enforcement costs. Sponsors of the ballot issue have turned in 690,161 signatures on petitions for verification, far more than the 433,971 valid signatures required to get on the ballot. Could this be a way for conservatives to raise taxes on the people who are least likely to vote for them? And place themselves at the peril of their core-base, while opening up a new frontier on voters that would normally not consider them viable for political office? Perhaps I’m looking at it too narrowly? It could very well be true that Judge Gray and others who once stood solidly against legalizing marijuana are now correct in their assessment that this is a losing battle and by legalizing it, we take away the illegal trade of it? I’m not sold on this yet, but trying to be open to it.
A 2009 statewide Field Poll in California found 56 percent support pot making pot legal for recreational use and taxing it.
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