Opinion

Marijuana legalization bill not likely to see light of day | Torrens Talk

While this legislative session may be the short one, it is one that is proving to be lively and not just because of budget woes.

One of the first bills that has gotten some press is the one on legalizing marijuana. This has the support of one of the 23rd District’s legislators, Representative Sherry Appleton. She, along with those who support the bill, has many good reasons to do this. Frankly, this is an idea that is worth serious consideration.

By legalizing marijuana, the government has the ability to regulate it. And, it is this regulatory aspect that actually provides far more control and oversight over use than the current criminal situation.

The best analogy is the failed prohibition on liquor. While the issues that drove prohibition were worthy and needed attention – spousal abuse and destructive health issues – they are now handled through other regulatory means.

All that prohibition did was drive the making of liquor, its distribution and its consumption underground. Prohibition never stopped alcohol use. Much money and law enforcement efforts were spent on a losing proposition. Finally, the misdirected constitutional amendment was overturned.

The same scenario has been playing out with marijuana. At first, this country allowed marijuana and all the useful products the plant produced: clothing, rope, etc. Then, just as alcohol became demonized, so did marijuana. Unlike alcohol, marijuana continues to be demonized today.

Marijuana is toted, by those opposed to its legalization, as a gateway drug to harder ones such as heroin and cocaine. This is a fiction treated as fact. All studies in this area have consistently shown that marijuana users do not look to use more devastating drugs.

Prolonged use can cause health problems and impact families. The same is true for alcohol. But, since it is not illegal to drink, people are able to seek help without fear of being thrown into jail. And, many people have health plans that cover such eventualities. In fact, for those for whom drinking causes criminal behavior such as driving under the influence, the legal system can use its ability to order such people to undergo treatment in lieu of jail.

Why can’t that approach be used for those smoking marijuana? Right now, there is no legal way for a person to get help should they need it, let alone having a health plan to help pay for the costs involved.

Another positive outcome for decriminalizing marijuana is the legal oversight that becomes much easier to enforce. Instead of hunting for criminals and crops in the remote forest regions of the state, the local growers can be found out in the open along with others raising crops.

Another source of tax revenue becomes available. Just as liquor is taxed from all that is involved in making it to its distribution and sales, so, too, can the process for growing and using marijuana be taxed. Instead of spending millions to root out a behavior that is not going away, like alcohol consumption, it can become a revenue stream where all aspects can be controlled through regulation.

This legislation has already died in the House. It may get somewhere in the Senate. And, it may never become a bill this session. But, as Rep. Appleton has said, it is important to get the discussion on the table. It took awhile to overturn prohibition. It would be good if the same happened with marijuana.

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