Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana;…permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities;…requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund…?
Unequivocally, without any hesitation, a complete and resounding yes. Immediately I sound as though I’m a stoned hippie who is more likely to blather about peace, love, and karma than mathematics, science, and politics. But I’m not. I’ve tried marijuana once or twice in my life, mostly from second-hand smoke at concerts or random college parties, but never have I purchased marijuana in any form or any quantity, nor have I tried more than a preliminary puff to see what all the hub-bub was about.
Why, then, would I so adamantly encourage legalizing it? It’s a mind-altering drug, after all. It can be addictive and may lead to the use of other drugs (despite research that shows otherwise). Not to mention hippies use it, man. Why should we encourage that behavior?
In response, I say that all these arguments could be made against the legalization of alcohol. It’s a mind-altering beverage, is highly addictive, and leads to marijuana use. Not to mention it indirectly causes pregnancy and, later on, domestic violence. If legalized, who determines the legal limit of consumption? What’s the age limit? Can children consume it? What if people are caught driving after using it, for God’s sake?
But for whatever reason, having a sip of wine with dinner is normal — and expected — by some people, whereas marijuana is still viewed as some sort of demonic force in the world meant to corrupt our youth and drain our coffers.
Again, why am I so ardently supportive of legalizing cannabis when I don’t even use it? Because possession and use of marijuana is a victimless crime. Banning its use is encouraging the nanny state that we all despise so much. I despise marijuana prohibition in the same way I despise anti-online gambling and anti-sodomy laws. Why do we care so much what people are doing in their own homes? If we value freedom so much, why don’t we allow people to be free in their places of residence?
At this point, usually some counterargument is made along the lines of “I don’t want my kids getting high just because they walk by some hippies in the park!”
To which I respond: Smoking bans have been enacted in half the country (and are spreading) and half the country has open container laws, so why do we think people will even be allowed to smoke it in public?
Moderation in all things, I say. We know prohibition simply doesn’t work (yeah, check out the 21st Amendment), so why is this country so desperately clinging to an outdated mode of thought when it comes to marijuana?
And why do we think alcohol hurts any less than marijuana? Some studies have shown that marijuana can hold a positive influence on the brain and that teens who drink are more likely to lose cognitive memory functions and experience symptoms of depression. And if you’re worried about substance abuse and what effects marijuana users may have on the general public, fear not — all the same laws regulating alcohol use (i.e. driving under the influence) will apply to marijuana use. Not to mention doctors are prescribing mind-altering drugs like Percocet and Vicodin every day.
And let’s consider the monetary benefits. The Colorado Department of Revenue expects revenue from state taxes on marijuana to climb between $5 million and $22 million per year. Per year! And they’re going to send some of the revenue out to fund schools. How can we possibly argue with that?
Also, we’ll be refraining from incarcerating people “guilty” of victimless crimes, so that should help free up some state expenses. Good news all around.
(In fact, check out my “point-counterpoint” column for Colorado State University that shows the federal government saving $18 billion a year if it were to stop incarcerating people over possession of marijuana.)
And let’s talk about freedom. If we love freedom so damned much, why are we giving government the power to take it away? What if tomorrow they decide to take away alcohol again? Or hell, what if they want to ban soda? If they have the power to ban marijuana, you can bet they can (and will) ban whatever they want.
So what about other drugs like PCP and heroin? I suppose that’s a separate issue since they’re so volatile. But we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
And so what if it conflicts with the federal government? This is an opportunity to send them a message that we won’t tolerate victimless crimes or nanny states.
But if you’re so worried about marijuana, I suggest you put down your beer, stop taking Vicodin and Percocet, and just don’t smoke the ganja.