The Cannabis Question: Should Marijuana be Legalized?

Tex Wells, El Vaquero Staff Writer

The writing is on the wall and it has been there for quite a while now: marijuana’s time has come.

Everybody but President Obama and the pope have spoken up for it.

Well, almost everybody.

The list of supporters in favor of the abolition of prosecution for possession of small amounts of marijuana intended solely for personal use has grown exponentially and it has caught many by surprise.

Pat Robertson, the owner of a successful Christian television station and self-appointed dean of conservatism and righteousness for the last half a century, caused eyebrows to raise up and jaws to drop, figuratively speaking, when he announced his position on the decriminalization of marijuana.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.  This war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded,” said the opinionated televangelist in an interview.

Shortly thereafter, a local newspaper sought the opinions of seven prominent religious leaders from Glendale and the surrounding community on the issue of legalizing marijuana.

All three of the female ministers spoke in favor of relaxing the law and so did three of the four male pastors.

A week or two later, on April 7, 114 GCC students — 50 women and 64 men — were asked for their opinion on the issue. In this unscientific poll, the women split evenly with 25 in favor of and 25 against; 50 of the men said legalize it while 14 said don’t make it legal.  Eight of the 14 who said don’t make it legal were sitting next to their girlfriends when they turned thumbs down on the proposition.

The reasons the students stated in support of their leanings varied widely.

“You’re going to get more girls saying no because they broke up with their marijuana-smoking boyfriends,” said a business major in a tangerine-colored Juicy Couture sweatsuit.

“Well it would cut down on crime if it was legalized,” said a 20-year-old soccer player who is yet undecided about his major.   “If you could just go to the store and buy it like a pack of cigarettes that would cut down on a lot of criminal activity.”

Robertson said the so-called war on drugs has been a failure and he pointed to the run-away rates of incarceration, the over-crowding of prisons and the throngs of juveniles in jail for small amounts of marijuana.  He’s right.

The cost of keeping misdemeanor marijuana offenders incarcerated is extremely high: $50 thousand per annum, per offender.  That money could be better spent.  Public schools would be a good place to start and money spent on drug diversion would be well-spent.

If people can go to a liquor store, buy a bottle of alcohol that is going to wreak havoc on their livers and guzzle it down, why shouldn’t they be able to go to a store, buy a pack of marijuana cigarettes then go home and listen  to some good music or just relax  and watch baseball, basketball or football?

“Hey, man.  People are going to buy weed and smoke it whether it’s legal or not,” said a clean cut-looking young man who couldn’t have been more than 19 years old.

That’s true. Look at Prohibition.

From January 1920 until December 1933, it was a federal offense to make, buy or transport alcohol.  The bootleggers thrived, mobsters controlled the liquor industry with an iron fist and anybody who wanted a bottle of booze could get it.  That’s the way it is with marijuana today.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out.  People who want to smoke marijuana are going to find places to buy it whether it’s in some ghetto, on some barrio street corner, in a social setting or some other venue.  Let’s face it — marijuana’s time has come.

Washington and Colorado citizens will take up the question in November when they choose a president.  The time is also right for California.   We should be able to choose legal marijuana when we choose our next president in the fall if that is what the people want.

Even though President Obama is on record against the legalization of marijuana, that doesn’t mean that California Gov.  Jerry Brown can’t throw his hat in the ring.

Brown has advocated cutting services for those who need it most, including seniors, disabled persons, in-home health care workers and Med-Cal recipients.  Money brought in from the taxes on legal marijuana could comfortably cover some of those expenses.

The cuts for which Brown is calling would not be necessary if  his proposed increase in taxes could be passed in the fall election with the help of Republicans.

The taxes generated by over-the-counter marijuana sales would be astronomical.  A veritable windfall would be created and that money could also be used to improve education, health care and help eradicate the budget deficit left behind by the Republican governor who was, mercifully, termed out.

Even the California Medical Association has come out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana although its interest is more scientific than economic.  Decriminalization is the shot in the arm that California needs and the economy needs it most of all.

Let’s face it.  How bad can marijuana really be if an ex-president admitted smoking it although he said, “I didn’t inhale.”