Voting for a Rocky Mountain high
Colorado and the state of Washington made history this past Tuesday when voters in both states passed ballot measures which removed all civil and criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana. While a majority of voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, these new state measures, on their face, contradict federal law. The question some local authorities and legal scholars are starting to ask is: will the Obama administration enforce existing federal statutes or turn the other cheek as they did with the Defense of Marriage Act when courts ruled parts of it unconstitutional?
The Controlled Substances Act, a federal law, prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana, going so far as to classify it as a Schedule 1 drug, placing it alongside cocaine, LSD and heroin.
If implemented, the Colorado law will allow those 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at regulated retail stores, making possession legal. Residents still cannot use the drug in public and adults will be able to grow up to six plants at home.
The Washington proposal, Initiative 502, will legalize production, distribution and possession of marijuana for residents 21 and older. There will be a 25 percent tax when the grower sells the pot to the processor, and when it is sold in turn to the retailer and finally to the customer. Both states now must set up a regulatory system to sell and tax the drug.
A large percentage of all arrests in the United States are drug-related. Approximately 45 percent of all drug possession arrests last year involved marijuana. In Colorado, that comes to about 10,000 people and in Washington, around 13,000. Supporters of the law argue that this new law will free up tremendous resources for the state to apply to other parts of the state budgets.
With the election now behind him, President Obama has led some to believe that he would treat marijuana laws similarly to the administration’s approach to the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. If the White House signals to the Department of Justice that the president may not want to enforce laws governing the use of casual marijuana use, residents of Colorado and Washington would no longer have to fear the federal government enforcing a federal law that trumps the new, lenient pro-marijuana state laws. There is, however, existing U.S. case law recognizing that the authority of the federal government, “to criminally sanction possession, use and distribution of marijuana, even if grown, distributed and used in a single state, was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice have the option of filing suit to block the laws from going into effect, just as it did after Arizona passed laws designed to crack down on immigration in August 2010. Nine former Federal Drug Czars have sent the Attorney General a letter urging him to enforce existing federal law, which would deny the citizens of Colorado and Washington the right to fire up their doobies.
Frontier has direct flights from Dayton to Denver
Smoke. Relax. Sleep.
Actually, that’s not it. Properly, it should be smoke weed, sleep, get up, take the kids to school, go to work and functionally carry on with life like every other person on the planet because it’s not a big deal.
The biggest problem I have heard regarding weed in Colorado, as far as the federal government is concerned, is how it might get here since Colorado doesn’t share a border with Mexico. My response to that is that you’re a racist because Mexico isn’t responsible for everything bad that goes on in this country. Besides, nobody in Colorado wants to buy weed from Mexico or anywhere else anyway. Colorado already has the best weed on Earth. Like, amazing-Disney-Land-Poppy-Forest-Wizard-of-Oz-Oompa-Loompa weed. And as it turns out, it has a name.
It’s called “Medicinal Marijuana,” and what that means is that growing weed is now a professional specialty. People who grew weed under whatever circumstances they could rig up with a bunch of mirrors in their garage were now sitting around in white lab coats developing weed with so much THC in it that it was hard to believe the cellular structure of the plant could even hold together. Seriously, you know how croissants are basically butter suspended in a delicate, minimalist matrix of minute flour particles to deliver the maximum amount of milk fat possible with the least extraneous filler? It’s like that, except instead of butter it’s magic fairy dust and the pure happiness of a little child at Christmas.
And do you know why Colorado legalized medicinal marijuana? Because this was this situation:
1. Everybody was already smoking weed.
2. Everyone wanted to continue smoking weed, and they were tired of getting variable quality, because then you experience the worst side-effect of smoking weed: Being pissed off and bummed because you got bad weed and now your evening is lame and annoying and you’re out $20 you could have spent on pizza.
3. Politicians didn’t want to piss off the idiot turbo-Christians in Colorado Springs who experience the identical effects of weed by going to mega churches and writhing around to light and sound shows re-tooled from old Dave Matthews concerts, spending the rest of the day laying around because it’s the Sabbath, and then somehow managing to go to go to sleep, get up, take the kids to school, go to work and functionally carry on with life like every other person on the planet. Except it also makes them want to persecute gays. Weed doesn’t do that.
Now this was great, except it left us in the idiotic position of trying to figure out where, when and how weed should be sold. Frankly, it would have almost been easier just to forget it and leave things the way they were where the cops just take your weed, send you home and then get baked when they are off duty.
So they legalize medical marijuana, and all of a sudden the state is inundated with questions like “is it like booze and you can’t put a store near a school?” and “should it only be sold in Walgreens because it’s a pharmaceutical?” and all kinds of extra stuff they never intended.
It was a shame, really, because they were just trying to help us all out by “legalizing” marijuana without having to sacrifice political capital, but this is what happens when your citizens want to do something but are too pathetic to just say it out loud for fear of admitting they are breaking the current law.
Oh, and getting a medical marijuana card? Total joke.
Dude: Hey doc. Um, so, my back’s been sore lately.
Doctor: OK, how long has this been going on?
Dude: Well, ever since the governor signed that bill, it’s just been killing me.
Doctor: Yeah, you definitely need weed. Let me get you a scrip.
And this is when the most important thing happens: you pay the state a few hundred bucks, get your medical marijuana card and go back to doing what you were doing anyway.
Nooooow you get it. Everyone in Colorado figured out that we may as well legalize it, save the cash on jails, the police time, etc., skip the small-time licensing cash, and go right to goldmine of taxing the living crap out of it. It’s win win win win win win win win.
For everyone in Colorado.
And just to remove any extant issues rattling around in your brain about larger government vs. smaller government, consider that Nederland had legalized weed for years and it was still illegal in Colorado. And you know what happened? Nothing. Because smoking weed in Nederland is not a legal question in Colorado. It’s just geography, and frankly, pretty redundant at that.
At this point, considering our current financial situation, my advice to the rest of the country is simple: Do what we did here, legalize weed, tax it, save your money on the ATF and stuff and pay off the national debt.
Benjamin Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Federal government has compelling interest in marijuana law
The simple answer of whether marijuana should be legalized in Ohio or the rest of the nation is “no.” The federal government does have a compelling interest in making marijuana illegal in the United States, superseding state laws.
Marijuana is addictive and is a gateway drug. Medical science has shown numerous times that the drug significantly impairs bodily and mental functions, and statistically its use is related to increased violence. Marijuana affects all segments of society and any area from urban to suburban to rural areas.
The recent passage of the citizens’ initiative in Colorado legalizing marijuana in that state does not change that issue or subsequent issues with the drug. Additionally, the drug is deemed illegal under federal law and most likely always will be.
The legalization of marijuana should and must be a federal issue for a number of reasons. First, large quantities of drugs are imported into the United States. The federal government is charged with border protection. Second, drugs like marijuana are commonly laced with “hard” drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Meaning, there are additional higher-level offenses committed within just marijuana usage. Third, one of the federal government’s sole jobs is the protection of its citizens. Fourth, the states must have common laws regarding this issue and the United States should not have particular states that engage in “drug trade.” Fifth, commonly the drugs purchased on the black market support some of the worst crime bosses in the nation including terrorists making it a national security concern. Last, drug usage is a national issue that has destroyed families, communities and lives.
Regardless, proponents of legalizing the drug deny the documented dark side of marijuana trafficking and use. Advocates promise many benefits from raising additional tax revenues to reducing crime to decreasing prison population.
Some marijuana advocates believe that marijuana is a “soft” drug, like alcohol or caffeine, and different from “hard” drugs such as cocaine, heroin and meth. To compare marijuana to having a glass of wine with dinner is apples and oranges.
Wine has been shown scientifically to improve heart health, where marijuana is similar to a cigarette with no known health benefits.
Marijuana usage has shown under clinical studies that long-term, moderate consumption of the drug impairs short-term memory, slows reaction time, increases the risk of heart attack and can result in birth defects, strokes, and damage to the respiratory system and brain.
What about addiction? Legalization advocates claim that alcohol and tobacco are addictive, yet still remain legal in the United States. Correctly stated, however, studies have shown that marijuana is more than 30 percent more addictive. The study concluded that adults during the course of a year had withdrawal symptoms, became dependent on the drug, and had compulsive behavior.
The decrease in crime due to the legalization of marijuana is a myth. Any reputable manufacturer and retailer would not sell the drug due to current federal laws outlawing marijuana. Additionally, there would be major tort liability for the marijuana product making it nearly impossible for someone reputable to sell the drug. Regarding marijuana usage, the National Research Council has concluded that the “long-term use of marijuana may alter the nervous system in ways that do promote violence.” No place serves as a better example than California where the areas around cannabis clubs have experienced exponential increases in crime rates.
Marijuana advocates offer tax revenue arguments on behalf of their cause. The prime argument is the tax revenues collected from marijuana sales will outweigh the social costs of legalization.
In California, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) predicted a billion-dollar windfall for the state in tax revenues and enforcement savings. However, a RAND Corporation study found those projections provided unfounded assumptions. Currently, there is not a single analysis that has shown the possibility of increased tax revenue versus the costs of regulation.
The answer to the United States’ national drug problem is not to legalize a drug. That is the equivalent of giving up and sticking our heads in the sand.
The true answer is what President Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s, declaring a war on drugs that resulted in a 50 percent drug usage drop among young adults. The war included cooperation with other nations, increased law enforcement, treatment, education and research.
In order to combat the nation’s drug problem, states must have a unified approach to preventing illegal drug use and trafficking.
For a state to legalize marijuana, whether by citizens’ initiative or legislatively, would serve only to worsen the drug problem in their state and in the nation. Though many of the issues in our nation should be reserved for the states, the legalization of marijuana is clearly not one of them.