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Tacoma’s Initiative 1: An invitation to endorse pot

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm with 3 Comments »
October 13, 2011 4:58 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Is Tacoma – a city with more cannabis dispensaries than pharmacies – really out to jail seriously ill patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana use?

That’s the contention of the people behind Initiative 1, a measure that would order the city’s police to make marijuana offenses their “lowest enforcement priority.” Their chief argument is that people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS stand to be prosecuted and see their homes confiscated – although not even the hard-nosed U.S. Justice Department has shown the least interest in doing so.

The overwrought claims about the sick being persecuted point to the difficulty of identifying a practical – as opposed to a political – purpose for this initiative. If the city or county ever prosecuted a dying cancer patient or wasting AIDS patient for using medical marijuana, it would be – and should be – a scandal.

In reality, the police don’t waste much time pursuing adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. A minor marijuana charge is commonly a byproduct of a serious bust – as when a crack dealer gets caught with some weed in his pocket.

As far as we can tell, Initiative 1 would pretty much tell the police to do what they’re already doing.

The actual effect of Initiative 1 would be political. If approved, it would let the operators of Tacoma’s many marijuana stores claim that the public wants them to stay in business. The Tacoma City Council would get political cover for the tolerance policy it appears to be leaning toward.

Advocates of marijuana for recreational purposes would claim a ringing endorsement from the voters.

Endorsements of street drugs, including marijuana, tend to be bad ideas. Compared to “hard” drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, pot comes off looking good. It doesn’t cause death by overdose, and relatively few get addicted to it if they begin to use as adults.

But “safer than heroin” is hardly a great recommendation. All psychoactive drugs have downsides. Strains of highly potent marijuana appear to trigger schizophrenia, among other problems. The famously liberal Dutch government, which has tolerated open marijuana use for decades, is now attempting to crack down on the most dangerous varieties.

Initiative 1 doesn’t distinguish one kind of marijuana from another. For that matter, it doesn’t distinguish possession of an ounce from possession of five pounds. It simply tells police not to bother with possession. It might well lead to open smoking of the drug, in parks and on the streets, after police have been told to look the other way.

There’s a decent case to be made for some kind of marijuana decriminalization. Initiative 1 – a faux legalization without much thought for safeguards – is not the way to do it.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. AdvocateReason says:

    This two part plan is the only action the citizens of the US need to take to end federal marijuana prohibition:
    1) EVERYONE that sees these links sign up at both sites and weigh in on the debate
    2) Propagate those two links and ensure that everyone that sees them go to both those sites.

    Too many people are blaming the President for enforcing the federal marijuana prohibition. Contact Congress (the LEGISLATIVE branch [that's the important one when it comes to law]) via the first link. Contact Obama (the EXECUTIVE branch [until Obama vetos a passed H.R. 2306 it's on Congress - but tell Obama anyway]) via the second link. It really is THAT easy. Participate in democracy!

  2. just legalize it and move on to more

    important matters that will benefit

    our country and our people. get the people

    in congress to start worrying about our

    country first and not there political party



    they are banrupting the usa. well people i can’t

    spell very well but i know what needs to be fixed

    in america.

  3. This is so ridiculous. While I personally haven’t used drugs in over 20 years, ever since prohibition we’ve seen what anti drug laws do to supply, demand & organized crime.

    Legalize ALL drugs NOW. Pit out honest, accurate education. Tax the heck out of them. Use some of the tax money for treatment & education. Put much of organized crime & gangs out of business.

    The drug laws do very little good, & cause much harm. When i was a teenager, I did peer counseling (including drugs) for a large non profit in Bellevue. One of the things they taught us, is before the drug laws, even Heroin addicts led fairly normal lives; as the drugs were pure, inexpensive & regulated.

    I am not advocating that anyone choose to take these drugs; I am simply stating the FACT that the laws do much more ham than good. It’s time for the control freaks on the right to no longer be given the right to tell others what to do.

    As Robert Heinlein once put it, (I’m paraphrasing) the only law should be that anything’s acceptable as long as one’s actions do not harm another.

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