The Guardian: “Legalising marijuana: most Americans get it, so when will our politicians?”October 8, 2012Posted in Blog, News
From The Guardian
By Gov. Gary Johnson
Prohibition in the US was a huge, miserable failure. During its 13-year run, beginning in 1920, Prohibition caused a massive rise in organized crime and actually increased alcohol consumption instead of curtail it.
After Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, kids didn’t start drinking in record numbers. Society didn’t collapse. Today, bathtub gin dealers don’t run amok on playgrounds; microbreweries don’t protect their turf with automatic weapons. Instead, a safe environment to drink was created when the government began regulating and taxing alcohol.
And yet, here we are in 2012, giving Prohibition another shot. For lack of a better word, that’s just stupid.
Today, instead of alcohol prohibition, we’ve got the government’s harmful attempt to prohibit marijuana use. With record federal deficits and states teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, why do we insist on dumping billions of tax dollars into another failed prohibition that is accomplishing nothing other than making criminals out of millions of regular citizens and fueling drug cartels that threaten our security?
Last year, 800,000 people were arrested in the United States for crimes associated with marijuana – and marijuana alone. It’s insane to arrest people for choosing to use a natural substance that is, by any objective standard, less harmful than alcohol, a drug that is advertised at every major sporting event. Think of the strain and costs to our law enforcement, court system and prisons. And for what? Is marijuana use decreasing? No. Are cartels any less powerful and violent? I’m afraid not. Is pot difficult for minors to obtain? Nope. In fact, when polled, kids say it’s easier to get marijuana than it is to get alcohol. Why? It’s simple. Black market dealers don’t ID.
And yet we go around and around … trying the same methods and always getting the same terrible results. Isn’t it time to try something different?
In 1999, when I was governor of New Mexico, I began advocating for marijuana legalization. At the time, there were precious few high-ranking elected officials willing to stick out their necks for this issue. It was considered political suicide.
Today, polls in the US show that at least 50% of Americans are now open to the idea or fully supportive of legalizing marijuana. My experience is that, the more people look at the drug issue, the more they recognize that the “war on drugs” is a dismal and expensive failure. It’s costing more than an absurd sum of money; it’s costing people their future.
In the US, 100 million people have themselves violated our drug laws at some time or another. In fact, President Obama has readily admitted his own youthful drug use. Had he been caught and arrested, would he be president today? How many promising young people’s lives and ambitions are being derailed by senseless drug laws?
This November, voters in several states will have the opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization and medical marijuana laws. I hope the citizens of these states will carefully consider these initiatives. Once they do, I’m confident they’ll give them their full support. They just make too much sense. And as more states begin to align their laws with common sense and reality, it is inevitable that the federal government will eventually follow.
I strongly believe the tide is turning on this issue, and it’s because of education and thoughtful discussion. The more we learn about marijuana and our federal government’s futile and ill-advised attempt to prohibit it, the more the solution becomes clear. America will be better-off when marijuana is managed like alcohol and tobacco. Our border with Mexico will be safer, and addiction will at last be treated as the health concern it is, rather than as a criminal justice issue.
It’s truly unfortunate that President Obama doesn’t see what’s coming. Not only does he refuse to acknowledge the support this issue is gaining, more shockingly, he has blatantly gone back on his promise to allow states to administer their own marijuana laws. The Obama administration has shut down hundreds of state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries and is currently threatening to shut down many more.
It’s odd: when it comes to marriage rights, President Obama is quick to cede the federal government’s power to the states. But when it comes to states deciding for themselves how best to tackle the marijuana issue, Obama steps right in and insists that the federal government knows best.
I am confident American voters this November will send a signal that the time is long past that we stop putting people behind bars and forever labeling them as criminals for behavior that is personal, private, and no more “criminal” than drinking alcohol or taking legal pain medicine.
When that signal is sent, perhaps we can put an end to modern-day Prohibition, just as we did nearly 80 years ago.