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Time to legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana

December 7, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
I think it's time for the United States to legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana.

This isn't a personal issue for me since I've never used pot, not even in the sense of our former President who famously "didn't inhale." In college, when we walked by a frat house party where people WERE inhaling, my friend had to tell me what that odd aroma was. I've never liked the idea of losing control of my mental faculties, which is also the reason why I have never used alcohol or tobacco or other drugs.

But that doesn't mean I think other people who use it belong in jail. One of the chief arguments against marijuana legalization is that pot can be a gateway drug that leads to use of harder core drugs and criminality. That may well be an issue for some people, though the pot users I've known are generally using it for medicinal or recreational purposes and are fully functioning members of society with jobs and families.

I'd rather see marijuana legalized, then heavily taxed and the tax dollars invested in high quality drug treatment and prevention programs the way they have with tobacco. Legalization might have the side benefit of freeing up U.S. jail cells for the violent criminals who truly deserve prison time, ending some of the U.S. demand for Mexican pot and curbing some of the terrible violence along the Mexican border.

Washington state and Colorado voters both passed measures legalizing pot last month and other states are reportedly considering ballot measures. It's still illegal at the federal level, putting state laws in conflict with the federal laws. People nationwide seem to have conflicting views on this question. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 50 percent of people nationally say no to decriminalizing marijuana and 48 percent say yes. However, 63 percent of people in the poll said that the federal government shouldn't try to enforce federal laws banning marijuana in states that have legalized it. Thirty-four percent said the feds should enforce federal law. So far the feds seem determined to go after the potheads in states where it is legal, though it isn't entirely clear how they plan to go about what is sure to be an unpopular move.

Personally, I'd rather see the U.S. District Attorney's office make better use of its time and money than going after marijuana users.


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