In a previous column on marijuana I discussed the legalization turmoil in Olympia, Hempfest, and the subsequent arrests that somehow came as a surprise to those in attendance. I received quite a kickback from readers, many of whom were critical of my views against legalization.
The only problem with that argument is that I’m not against legalization. Truly.
But before anyone considers sending me a link to LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), my own opinion on this topic is the following: I don’t care.
I have neither smoked pot nor spent any amount of time researching the health concerns surrounding its use. But I have yet to read or hear about studies suggesting that marijuana is more toxic to the lungs than a cigar, or harder on the body than liquor. I mention the latter because those of us who imbibe alcohol should be aware of the hypocritical subtext within our own anti-drug statements.
In short, though there may be many of us unwilling to stand in the way of marijuana’s legalization, that same number would also not stand behind it.
My primary concern on the marijuana issue is that those advocating for its legalization must be equal to the task of forging meaningful, real world legislation. And there are many hurdles leading to that result.
First is culture, as in “this is the way it’s always been.” Generations of Washingtonians, especially those who did not spend their wonder years rolling a joint, have accepted the rationale that marijuana is simply illegal. However, that might change in the coming years for many reasons: HTC’s medicinal benefits; public freedom; skyrocketing costs of enforcing marijuana statutes.
Second is crime, as in cartels, gangs and violence. Wresting the distribution of marijuana from these sources will not prove to be a simple matter. Even now, home invasion robberies are increasing as medical marijuana dispensaries and patients grow their plants at vulnerable locations. One possible remedy would be to give the responsibility for production and distribution to the state, which has done a decent job distributing liquor. Either way, solving the public safety issue of legalized pot will require much forethought.
Third is money, as in the unknowable costs of legalization. Without a proper framework, it would be next to impossible to guess how much of an investment this would require. On the plus side, doing away with enforcement, and its requisite court appearances and jail costs, could lighten the load on overburdened city, county and state budgets.
Legalizing marijuana is a complex issue. It will require a determined and professional advocacy, well prepared to tackle the inherent difficulties in changing the culture and system that has been in place for many, many years.
But if the best example of marijuana advocates turns out to be cut from the same hemp as the few irresponsible individuals arrested at Hempfest, we won’t be seeing new marijuana legislation any time soon.