Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: marijuana

Dec.
12th

In concern over pot, don’t forget about meth

The Multnomah County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Department website includes before-and-after photos of meth addicts. The photo at right was taken 2.5 years after the one at left.

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

With their open sores, sunken cheeks, glazed-over eyes and decaying teeth, the faces of meth addicts bear a striking resemblance to ones in a popular TV series – “The Walking Dead.”

Law enforcement agencies and treatment providers want the public to see these zombie-like faces and to understand that the horrible toll meth takes on users doesn’t happen over decades. Before-and-after photos on the Multnomah County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Department and rehabs.com websites chronicle the physical damage meth addiction can cause in a short time, sometimes less than two years.
Read more »

Dec.
6th

Public tokers to feds: Please bust Washington

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

True to form, some weed heads hailed the arrival of legal marijuana Thursday by breaking the law that legalized it.

Initiative 502, which took effect Thursday, allows legal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis but forbids smoking it (or otherwise displaying) it in public. That didn’t slow down the crowds of jubilant tokers who jointly lit up in front of cameras in a public park – Seattle Center – the moment I-502 kicked in at midnight.

No surprise: Dope-smokers are not renowned for respecting drug laws.

Nor are the Seattle’s City Council and its city attorney, Pete Holmes, whose attitudes reflect a marijuana-friendly city. Taking their cues from the top, the Seattle Police Department has announced it has no plans to issue the citations for the open-air consumption that is explicitly forbidden under I-502.

Seattle may be OK with public pot parties, but blowing smoke at the TV cameras does no favors to I-502 statewide.
Read more »

Nov.
27th

I-502: How much legality in legalized marijuana?

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Legal marijuana succeeded big in Washington Nov. 6 – and failed big in Oregon.

One reason: The stoners behind Oregon’s Measure 80 had no interest in restricting the drug. Their initiative specified no limit for possession, no limit on growing, and left regulation in the hands of a commission to be controlled by the marijuana industry.

It jabbered about the wonders and harmlessness of cannabis.

Washington’s Initiative 502, in contrast, specified serious restrictions.

It forbade the public consumption or display of marijuana, required tight licensing of growers and retailers, and – unlike Measure 80 – established a blood-level limit for people caught driving under the influence of marijuana.

In other words, it was written by grown-ups. It’s reasonable to conclude that a measure as lax as Oregon’s would have failed here as it did there.

In a year or so, we’ll find out if Washingtonians enacted I-502 on paper – but got Measure 80 instead.

The campaign for I-502 insisted that the initiative wasn’t about expanding drug use and trafficking. The argument was that the use and trafficking were already happening – and the state should legalize and impose rules on what is now an unregulated black market.
Read more »

Nov.
7th

State voters were generous – if there wasn’t a price

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Tuesday’s election returns suggest that Washington is becoming a libertarian paradise – a place where gays can marry, marijuana is legal and parents might even be given the choice of independent schools for their children.

But oh, by the way – not a penny more for public education or other state programs.

A telltale piece of evidence lies deep in the down-ballot election returns, in the tally on two advisory votes that have no legal effect whatsoever.

The 2012 Legislature voted to end a tax break for big banks and maintain a soon-to-expire tax on petroleum inventories.

Both moves got broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. When candidates talk about “loopholes,” they’re talking about items like the banks’ deduction for home-loan interest and tax breaks for the petroleum industry.

What did the voters think? Apparently, if it can be construed as a tax increase – even for a coddled industry – they don’t like it. On election day, the big banks got a 58 percent thumbs-up from the electorate.

Meanwhile, voters overwhelmingly enacted Initiative 1185, which reaffirmed the existing requirement that new taxes need a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. Even with two-thirds, the lawmakers in that supermajority must be publicly shamed through the advisory vote process, which involves publishing their names in the voters’ pamphlet.

Referendum 74’s narrow victory was a breakthrough for marriage equality. But it was no money out of pocket for Washingtonians. One wonders how it might have fared had it actually required some minimal financial sacrifice to enact it. It’s a fortunate thing that civil rights don’t come with a price tag attached.
Read more »

Sep.
15th

Juvenile marijuana use: The fatal flaw of Initiative 502

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has the virtue of acknowledging a reality: The state is already rife with marijuana, and criminalizing it hasn’t made it go away.

Give its authors credit for honesty. Unlike the charades and subterfuges of “medical cannabis,” I-502 is a straightforward attempt to get pot out of the black market and into state-licensed retail stores.

Give them credit, too, for a good faith effort to keep the drug within bounds. The measure contains serious restrictions on would-be sellers, store locations and driving-while-stoned. Something like I-502 would be a reasonable way to deal with adult use of marijuana ­– though this is ultimately a federal and not a state issue.

But adult use is not the chief issue with marijuana. People who get past high school before they try it are unlikely to become compulsive users. For juveniles, the odds are much worse.

Any psychoactive drug – including alcohol – tends to have a much greater long-term impact on adolescents than on adults.

It’s a matter of brain development. Kids who get in the habit of smoking dope at, say, 15 often become heavy users because their brains get wired to crave it.

Compulsive marijuana use is damaging. It can derail educations, jobs, relationships, emotional maturity – life in general.

There are other threats. Considerable research has linked adolescent marijuana use to early-onset schizophrenia. A newly released study, which followed more than 1,000 New Zealanders 38 years from youth through adulthood, found significant IQ impairment among heavy users who started smoking pot at an early age.

I-502 again deserves credit for recognizing the problem. It prohibits anyone under 21 from possessing cannabis (not that that’s been a great success so far). It would earmark marijuana taxes for research and public education designed to discourage juvenile use.

But recognizing a problem isn’t the same as solving it. Legalization would likely produce a surge of dope smoking among teenagers who now avoid it simply because it is stigmatized as illegal.

Kids notice what adults consider acceptable, and not all of them are hell-bent on rebellion. Federal data suggest that most adolescents either avoid alcohol and drugs, or only experiment with them.

Of those who’ve gotten in deep, roughly twice as many drink as smoke marijuana (or drink and smoke marijuana). Marijuana is easier to conceal, easier on the body and probably as easy to come by.
Read more »

Sep.
5th

So where’s that campaign against legalizing marijuana?

Prediction for November: Washington’s going to legalize marijuana.

As far as I can tell, there’s little credible opposition to Initiative 502. (I’m not counting the “medical marijuana” people – who have a mercenary stake in its defeat – as credible.)

Last Wednesday, we were supposed to do a joint television interview of the initiative’s opponents and supporters. For something like this, we normally call the campaigns, and they eagerly supply the speakers.

The sponsors of I-502 responded immediately. But it proved hard even to find opponents willing and able to make their case in front of TVW’s cameras.

We started

Read more »

Aug.
22nd

For pot stores evading taxes, any rationale will do

Marijuana plant

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

As if the world of medical marijuana weren’t confusing enough, now comes news that some dispensaries are faithfully paying sales taxes while others consider it strictly optional.

The ones that don’t pay offer a variety of reasons – none convincing and all self-serving.

They portray themselves as legitimate businesses yet argue that their product shouldn’t be taxed – because it’s illegal. Try to parse that logic.

One pretext is that marijuana is exempted from taxation because it’s a prescription drug. But under state law, marijuana is explicitly not a prescription drug. As medical marijuana people usually take pains to point out, the “green card” authorizations that some naturopaths, nurse-practitioners and doctors hand out like confetti are not prescriptions. Read more »