Marijuana Legalization: States Lead, the Center Follows, and Obama Stops Giggling?

Jacob Sullum at Reason.com looks at the marijuana legalization initiatives under way in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, and notes that there might be parallels with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, where the lead was taken by state initiatives:

By the time the 21st Amendment ended national alcohol prohibition in December 1933, more than a dozen states had already opted out. Maryland never passed its own version of the Volstead Act, while New York repealed its alcohol prohibition law in 1923. Eleven other states eliminated their statutes by referendum in November 1932.

We could see the beginning of a similar rebellion against marijuana prohibition this year as voters in three states—Washington, Colorado, and Oregon—decide whether to legalize the drug’s production and sale for recreational use. If any of these ballot initiatives pass, it might be the most consequential election result this fall, forcing both major parties to confront an unjust, irrational policy that Americans increasingly oppose. [link in original]

The figures in Sullum’s article seem to indicate that while Oregon’s voters currently seem disinclined to approve their state’s legalization initiative, those in Colorado and Washington appear far more in favor of finally bringing an end to the catastrophic insanity of the continuing illegality of marijuana.

But if Oregon does not make marijuana legal this year, I suspect its position as a neighboring state to Washington will complicate its position in the years to come.  Perhaps trans-border ‘marijuana tourism’ will pick up, infuriating Oregon’s law-enforcement officers and creating more headaches for them. This could lead to pressure on Washington, from Oregon, to increase the regulation on sales of marijuana (much as coffee-shops in the Netherlands sometimes do, to make sure that Belgian and German kids aren’t jumping on a train heading across the border to pick up a stash.) Conversely, the loss of such revenue to a neighboring state could perhaps aid the drive to legalization in Oregon. (‘Why lose all that cash to Washington?’)

The most significant effect of such state legalization initiatives will be the empirical data they will provide for national designers of drug policy: What are its effects on patterns of drug usage, on the so-called ‘gateway effect’, on crime statistics? Perhaps the presence of such data will indicate to other states that their worst fears about legalization are not being realized in states bold enough to just say ‘no’ to the war on drugs. And perhaps it will induce some seriousness into our president whose ‘leadership’ in drug policy thus far has consisted of a passable imitation of an ostrich. (One that snickers; see below.)

Sullum goes on to note:

As The Seattle Times observed in a recent editorial endorsing Initiative 502, “The question for voters is not whether marijuana is good. It is whether prohibition is good.” The voices rejecting prohibition in Washington and Colorado include city council members, state legislators, former U.S. attorneys, clergymen, retired cops, and two national police organizations—a hard group to dismiss as a bunch of silly potheads, which is President Obama’s usual approach to the issue. [links in original]

Do chase down the link to the video of Obama, and his faithfully acolytic audience, giggling–like a bunch of silly potheads–at the mere raising of the question. I had never imagined that an expensive, racist, deadly policy could be so funny.

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