Eliminating the illegal drug market is an impossible, losing proposition.
It won’t happen in California, but on November 6, three states will vote on whether to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. In Washington State, support of decriminalization has kept steady at 50%.
The proposition’s likely passage there will make that state the first to essentially make pot (or at least the possession of 1 oz. of it for non-medicinal reasons) legal.
In April, federal law enforcement raided Oaksterdam University, a prominent Oakland dispensary running marijuana research and vocational training programs. It made national headlines.
The raid showed the disconnect with state and local stances on one hand, and federal interpretation on the other over marijuana’s legality. But locally, it also highlighted in microcosm the larger failure of a profoundly ineffective U.S. drug policy
Oakland councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, for example, said many concerned constituents who were indifferent to marijuana use had a different point: why, if law enforcement resources can be found to pick on on approved city dispensaries, aren’t they being directed instead toward “fighting guns and fighting violence?”
The damage of a decades-long war on drugs is disheartening.No one argues that the use of narcotics (yes, even marijuana) is a public health problem; whatever damage illegal narcotics does to the body is documented. But so is the sheer waste of punishing the users of them.
In the spectrum of solutions to the issue of drug abuse, the U.S.’s current path toward out and out eradication of the illegal drug market is an impossible, losing proposition.
The arguments for decriminalization are familiar, but need to be restated because the failure of our drug war is so clear.
Legalization and regulation takes the fuel out of a profitable criminal drug trade.
Taxation brings in money to the government for education and healthcare ($1.5 million annually in Oakland’s case).
And the savings, not only monetarily from stopping costly enforcement and prosecution, but in terms of lives not lost and people not disenfranchised from possession convictions are staggering: Think of $20-25 billion that could have been used for something other than drug enforcement in the last decade. Think of the 1, 100 California inmates that did not have to be sentenced to life in prison because a broken “three-strikes” law considers drug possession a serious enough offense to put someone away for life.
Think of the hundreds of thousands, (including many poor minorities) spared from the hurdles to a good job and livelihood because of the unfair stigma of a drug conviction, especially pot possession.
Approving marijuana decriminalization in Washington State this election won’t solve these problems by a long shot, but it’s a start toward reversing the disastrous and unethical ruse of this nation’s drug war.