Friday, June 24, 2011

Ending the war on pot

The War on Drugs is a contentious issue for a number of reasons. Some say it isn't working, some believe it does more harm than good, while others say it prevents drug abuse from getting even worse than it already is.

It seems to me that there may actually be a large portion of Americans who might be comfortable with the idea of not ending the War on Drugs, but simply taking marijuana off the battlefield, which is exactly what Democratic House member Barney Frank of Massachusetts and libertianish Republican Ron Paul of Texas were supposed to have proposed today.

From the Los Angeles Times:
Reps. Paul (R-Texas) and Frank (D-Mass.), though technically on opposite sides of the aisle, have often spoken out against the war on drugs and will propose a bill "tomorrow ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference," according to a statement from the Marijuana Policy Project via Reason.

The bill would allow the individual states to decide how they want to deal with pot. Currently the federal government bogarts U.S. law, oftentimes arresting owners and employees of medical marijuana facilities, for example, who thought they were operating legally under city, county and/or state laws.

"The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal," according to the MPP statement.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), is the first of its kind to be proposed in Congress that would end the 73-year-old federal marijuana prohibition that began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Though the co-sponsors all appear to be Democrats, it would seem that this kind of bill would appeal to a great many Republicans for two reasons. First, it aims to limit government, a mainstay policy among many conservatives, in an area where Democrats often complain about the excesses of the Federal government.

Second, it promotes "states' rights" in lieu of control by the Feds, another a rallying cry of conservatives. But it's a state's-rights issue that's not about limiting the rights and freedoms of minorities, so it might not resonate with the constituency.

Ahem. At any rate, one has to wonder if this will pass. Most Democrats wouldn't think of voting yes on this unless a whole bunch of Republicans did the same to give them cover. And if it did end up on President Obama's desk, would he sign it? As the article notes, at different times he has been in favor of and then opposed to decriminalizing marijuana.

Only you can smoke prevention...
Wait, hold on...
Only you can prevent smoke potting...
Wait, wait, I've got this...
Only you can presmoke fired forests...
laughs hysterically]
But as the bill suggests, this is not about decriminalizing it. It's about leaving that up to the states. As a moderate, I eschew the liberal notion that the Federal government or any government is always the best solution for every problem, as well as the conservative ideology that government is generally the worst solution to any problem. Instead, I believe that it is necessary to carefully pick and choose which issues are best left up to local jurisdictions to handle publicly or privately and which are more effectively dealt with at the Federal level, again through public or private means. While the nature of insurance markets and health care needs favor a national approach, I think that marijuana legislation (but not necessarily enforcement pertaining to harder drugs) is more appropriate at the local level where local values and concerns can be better represented.

We'll have to see how this goes. I wasn't even aware of this until I saw it in the LAT's "In case you missed it" column. I apparently had.

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