Almost everyone agrees that our drug laws don’t work, create more problems than they solve and make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens. Most people also recognize that marijuana prohibition makes as little sense as alcohol prohibition did. They understand that marijuana is nowhere near as harmful as tobacco or alcohol and attempts to prohibit its use have only led to associated street violence and a huge windfall for drug cartels. But Prop 19, the initiative that would legalize marijuana and allow local governments to tax and regulate its use, has come under attack from a variety of critics. Most criticisms are clearly just the same old scare tactics and misinformation put forth by anti-drug zealots or those who stand to profit from marijuana’s continued prohibition (I’m talking about you, Alcohol Lobby and Prison Industrial Complex). These attacks include the usual nonsense about marijuana being addictive or a gateway drug or that legalization “sends the wrong message” to kids.
The truth, of course, is that marijuana has never been shown to be addictive (any more so than chocolate), has never been shown to be a gateway drug, and its legalization in other countries, like Portugal, has led to a reduction in use by teenagers. Furthermore, removing criminal penalties for the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana frees up law enforcement (and the courts) to concentrate on real crimes and real criminals. And the ability to tax the state’s most lucrative crop would put a serious dent in our budget deficit.
So there are lots of reasons to vote Yes on 19. But here’s the most important: If Prop 19 fails, politicians may get the mistaken belief that the majority of the public wants marijuana prohibition and our other onerous drug laws to continue unchanged. They’ll believe that there just isn’t the popular support for reforming our broken drug policies in favor of a more sensible public health approach. If we’re worried about sending the wrong message, this is the message we should be worried about sending. Politicians live and die by popular opinion. And supporting drug law reform can get you labeled as “soft on crime”, something no politician wants, unless it’s his opponent carrying the label. But if Prop 19 passes, even if the Feds block its implementation, politicians might realize that there is popular support for doing away with drug prohibition, especially in the case of marijuana, and moving our country away from the failed drug policies we have been pursuing for decades. That’s the message I want our elected officials to get, and it’s the main reason I’m voting Yes on Prop 19. It’s why you should vote yes, too.
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