Writing last week in Time.com, Joe Klein became the latest in a steady stream of media pundits to call for the legalization of marijuana (”Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense”). That’s right, ‘legalization’ — with an “L.”
While the notion of regulating the sale and consumption of cannabis for adults might still induce reflexive giggles from the Oval Office, the issue is no longer a laughing matter among the public.
Lawmakers in two states — California and Massachusetts– are debating the merits of taxing pot like alcohol, and a pair of recent polls indicate that Western voters endorse this proposal by a solid majority. According to statistician Nate Silver, national support for legalization could reach “supermajority” status in just over a decade!
Why this momentum now? Klein sums up three primary reasons.
1) Americans are spending billions in judicial resources arresting and prosecuting minor marijuana offenders; these monies could be better redirected elsewhere.
2) America is in the midst of an economic recession; taxing marijuana could decrease criminal justice costs, raise tax revenue, and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the involvement of drug cartels in the illicit marijuana trade.
3) The use of marijuana by adults is objectively less dangerous — both to the user and to society as a whole — than the consumption of alcohol. (Case in point: Drinking alcohol, even low to moderate amounts, was recently associated with elevated incidences of cancer, particularly among women. By contrast, a study published last week shows that cannabis kills malignant cancer cells.) It is illogical to endorse a public policy that arbitrarily prohibits the former while embracing the latter.
Of course, Klein is hardly the only mainstream pundit as of late to jump on the marijuana ‘legalization’ bandwagon.
In the past days, leading commentators like David Sirota, Kathleen Parker, Paul Jacob, Hendrik Hertzberg, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald , Debra Saunders (San Francisco Chronicle), Leonard Pitts (Miami Herald), John Richardson (Esquire), and Margery Eagan (Boston Herald), have all opined in favor of regulating cannabis. In fact, Americans’ sudden support for legalization is even beginning to draw attention from those outside the United States.
As well it should be.
American’s support for marijuana law reform is fast approaching a tipping point — a scenario made all that more remarkable when one considers that the federal government has spent nearly seven decades propagandizing against it. Mainstream America is coming to terms with marijuana, and growing more and more dissatisfied with our nation’s failing pot policies. Writes Klein: “Obviously, marijuana can be abused. But the costs of criminalization have proved to be enormous, perhaps unsustainable. Would legalization be any worse?”
He’s no longer the only one asking.
By Paul Armentano
April 8th, 2009
The Hill's Congress Blog