Ann Ross: Legalize it
July 23, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Marijuana recreational use is growing and is hiding under the disguise of medical marijuana. It and many drugs aid health conditions. Alcohol and other drugs are misused for recreation. Estimates show that as much as 10 percent of the population is addicted.
Legalize marijuana. Tax it and use the revenues to treat minor and major abusers. The Global Commission on Drug Policy states that trillions of dollars spent during the past 40 years have failed to win the war on drugs. Criminalization and repressive measures failed with devastating results for individuals and society and increased the power of organized crime. Prohibition did not decrease alcohol use, but it did increase crime.
Drug lords and anti-democracy groups are using our money from street drugs sales to defeat us. Corruption and consumption has expanded. Dealers in N.J. are outpacing law enforcement due in part to rogue Internet technology and crooked doctors. In Albuquerque, N.M., it is estimated that $300,000 changes hands daily in the illegal drug trade. Denver law enforcement claims there are too many so-called "caregivers" for medical marijuana use. Now 77 pages of rules govern sales, videotaping, background checks and trash to purchase medical "chrome candy." Which government agency has the funds and personnel to enforce those regulations? The industry thinks those requirements can cause a return to underground buying sources.
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 is a U.S. House bill, co-sponsored by a Boulder representative, attempting to address the issue. Genetics, chemical imbalance, family history, lifestyle and depression are causes of addiction, misuse of alcohol and other drugs. The money spent yearly to enforce laws does not correct or give treatment for a disease.
Our county commissioners have slated a fall election on the marijuana issue. Abuse is a health and economic problem, not a criminal justice problem. Studies show many will seek help if the fear of being jailed is eliminated. Replace nonproductive expensive jail time with treatment time. Moralists and lawmakers have believed, with consequences, addicted abusive people will change. Criminal and repressive measures have not worked.
Many argue that legalization will increase problems. What it will do is stop street drug buying; reduce HIV needle sharing, prostitution and enticing minors; and decrease crime, gang wars and methamphetamine production, which in turn reduces health and enforcement costs. With legalization, we can trace buying and selling. Not all disease or misuse is curable, but correct treatment benefits everyone. Prohibition does not solve drug misuse. Legalization of drugs will defeat the power, influence and control of the drug dealer.