Celebrations as Pot Becomes Legal in Washington State

As someone who does not use marijuana (I’ve tried it, I seriously don’t like it, stopped playing with it years ago, it makes me depressed and paranoid) I was thrilled recently when multiple states injected sanity into their marijuana laws, some at least legalizing it for medicinal use and some legalizing recreational use outright. There were celebrations as this new law went into effect at midnight today in Washington state.

There is reason for some pessimism over this; in the past, going back as far as the 1970s, the Federal government has exerted enormous pressure on states that decriminalized minor amounts of pot possession. But I think there’s something in the wind: I suspect the Feds will not this time attempt a massive crackdown on states that decriminalize. The tide appears to have turned, and most sensible people, including a large number of self-described “conservatives” and Republicans, nowadays concede, at least in private, that energy on marijuana interdiction is mostly wasted. Although President Obama is quite a hypocrite, having publicly admitted to smoking pot and “maybe some blow” (i.e. cocaine) but continuing to run a Drug Warrior administration, perhaps in his second term he will feel less political pressure to continue being a Drug Warrior, since the tide is turning in multiple states and he has no need to fear losing an election over this issue now.

Let’s hope that’s what the administration does anyway. Having known any number of potheads, I’ve found some to be rather stupid airheaded people who aren’t very productive citizens, while others are extremely functional and get along in the world just great, including even successful managers and corporate officers at some fairly profitable companies who hide their pot use only to avoid getting in trouble, even while hypocritically supporting drug testing rules for floor-level workers. That’s a trend not likely to change immediately either. But in any case, having known any number of alcoholics (and being a recovering alcoholic myself) it’s long been obvious to me which drug causes people to be the most physically and psychologically destructive and to destroy the most lives, and it isn’t pot.

The energy and money and lives wasted in our futile war against pot is a national disgrace. Indeed the entire War On Drugs is a fiasco and a farce, and I say that as someone who has family in law enforcement dedicated to fighting drug trafficking. The real solution to the drug problem is strict regulation and treatment programs for people who commit criminal offenses while using drugs, any drugs including alcohol. It’s cheaper, it’s more effective, and would result in a much lower number of men in prison. (The War On Drugs is mostly a War On Poor Men, as it happens, as well over 90% of our prison population is male despite there being no evidence that men are more likely to be criminals than women are; women just get a discount in arrest, prosecution, and sentencing as part of the Female Privilege that is so pervasive in our society.)

Here’s hoping the 2nd Obama administration takes a brave stand. They don’t have to come out in favor of pot legalization, but they can announce that Federal resources will no longer be wasted on harassing marijuana producers and users, and embrace the States’ Rights position on this state: if it’s legal in California, or Washington, or Michigan, or Colorado, or wherever, it should be none of the Federal government’s business. That would be an easy position for the Obama administration to take. Here’s hoping they will.

  • Scott

    I suspect the Feds will not this time attempt a massive crackdown on states that decriminalize

    Well, considering that the Obama Administration has cracked down on state-legalized medical marijuana dispensaries I think you’re being overly-optimistic.

    this President’s record on pot legalization (while being a serious pot head in HS and college) is atrocious.

  • Dishman

    Right now, the blame for DoJ’s conduct is mostly blamed on Republicans. As long as that persists, I expect him to continue his policies.

  • Scott

    Dishman,

    Everything’s the Republicans fault, everything.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    I’m a believer in what I think of as the counterintuitive view of American politics: Democrats are more likely to be hawkish and tough on crime because their reputation says otherwise (notice Obama didn’t just follow the Bush plan on Iraq, he tried to extend it, and we’re still in Afghanistan, as we should be).

    Republicans are deficit hawks and against expanding social programs but frequently run up the biggest deficits and sign into law major expansions of social programs. “Only Nixon could go to China” and all that.

    Obama’s record as a Drug Warrior is indeed atrocious, however, given his rhetoric and the fact that he is not facing re-election, and that the tide is turning on pot at least, there is reason to think he may soften his stance. That is my hope.

  • http://madisonforum.net/ Sandi

    Decades ago I tried it, but once was enough. I had no use or liking for it.

    It matters not to me whether pot is legalized: it is the reasons that don’t set well with me. Lets be honest here, the reasons are not, and never have been medical use. While it undoubtedly has medical qualities, using the extracts from marijuana would be much more effective. It’s the high ( which is also fine ) that is the real reason, and rubs me wrong as it is a false pretense for legalizing it.

    As I said, I have no problems with legalizing pot, or any other drugs. For that matter I don’t think there should be controls on drugs. Period.

    I very good friend of mine is from Cuba. When he lived there you went to a drug store for whatever you needed. For pain, depression or any other need, you you just bought it. No prescription needed.

    That is the way it should be. I don’t mind the FDA screening drugs for their usability for their intended purpose, or to keep poisons off drugstore shelves. Beyond that, codeine, morphine, antidepressants, or any other drug should be available over the counter.

    The reasons for categorizing drugs as “prescription needed” have more to do with money than safety. Otherwise cigarettes, beer and booze would be by prescription.

    Legalize all drugs period.

  • Scott

    Looks increasingly like I was right and you were being overly-optimistic, Dean. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/radley-balko/in-which-harold-kumar-go-_b_2255029.html

    Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

    Read the whole thing. Balko’s a good journalist who attempts the rare in American journalism: being objective. Either way if the Drug War is your top issue you miscast your vote voting for Obama, he’s far worse than Bush on this issue (and on Civil Liberties, Deficit Spending, etc.)