Marijuana Policy Reform crossroads.(LETTERS)(FORUM)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

Marijuana Policy Reform crossroads.(LETTERS)(FORUM)


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In news reports across the country, drug czar John Walters and other prohibitionists have been verbally high-fiving each other, declaring the defeat of my organization's ballot initiative in Nevada to be the death knell for efforts to reform our nation's marijuana policies.

Actually, the Nov. 5 results were more ambiguous - and encouraging - than the prohibitionists would have us believe.

Our Nevada initiative was the boldest marijuana policy measure ever proposed. It would have:

(1) Removed the threat of arrest for adults who use and possess up to three ounces of marijuana.

(2) Required the state government to bring marijuana out of the criminal market and regulate it.

(3) Maintained criminal penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, distributing or selling marijuana to minors, and smoking marijuana in public.

This dramatic break from marijuana prohibition received 39 percent of the vote - only 11 percentage points away from setting up a system that would have allowed police to focus on violent crime and terrorism rather than chasing down tens of thousands of nonviolent marijuana users.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of San Francisco voters passed an initiative directing their city government to grow and distribute medical marijuana in defiance of federal law. And voters in all 19 legislative districts in Massachusetts passed marijuana "decriminalization" initiatives, directing their legislators to enact a statewide law that would impose fines rather than jail time for marijuana possession.

In politics, you win some and you lose some: Overall, we have won seven out of seven state medical marijuana initiatives since 1996. In 1998 alone, voters passed our initiatives in Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Yet you didn't hear the drug warriors declaring their war on drugs to be doomed.

And we didn't declare absolute victory in 1998 either, because we know that undoing our government's destructive marijuana policies is a long-term, difficult struggle.

Make no mistake: The "noble experiment" of marijuana prohibition that was enacted in 1937 has been an abysmal failure. The goal of marijuana prohibition was to prevent people from using marijuana. …

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