Sunday, November 25, 2012

Timothy Egan: "Give Pot A Chance"

Timothy Egan (left) writes in the New York Times that citizens in Washington state and Colorado will no longer be jailed for recreational marijuana use–unless the Obama administration acts on its past threat to impose an injunction based on federal law. Indeed, it's high time we stopped arresting thousands for supposed marijuana offenses and supporting "a black market that is the source of gangland death and corruption." Egan gives three reasons that the administration ought to "Give Pot a Chance":

Hypocrisy. ...In two years through 2011, more than 2,200 serious illnesses, including 33 fatalities, were reported by consumers of nutritional supplements. Federal officials have received reports of 13 deaths and 92 serious medical events from Five Hour Energy. And how many people died of marijuana ingestion? Of course, just because well-marketed, potentially hazardous potions are legal is no argument to bring pot onto retail shelves. But it’s hard to make a case for fairness when one person’s method of relaxation is cause for arrest while another’s lands him on a Monday night football ad.

Tax and regulate. ...Washington State officials estimate that taxation and regulation of licensed marijuana retail stores will generate $532 million in new revenue every year. Expand that number nationwide, and then also add into the mix all the wasted billions now spent investigating and prosecuting marijuana cases. With pot out of the black market, states can have a serious discussion about use and abuse. The model is the campaign against drunk driving, which has made tremendous strides and saved countless lives ...

Lead. That’s what transformative presidents do. From his years as a community organizer — and a young man whose own recreational drug use could have made him just another number in lockup — Obama knows well that racial minorities are disproportionately jailed for these crimes. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has 25 percent of its prisoners — and about 500,000 of them are behind bars for drug offenses. On cost alone — up to $60,000 a year, to taxpayers, per prisoner — this is unsustainable.

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