Pot legalization needs to be taken seriously

Freedom New Mexico

Proposition 19, an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, was soundly defeated in the November election after California’s political establishment, Democratic and Republican, came out strongly against it. We had concerns with a provision related to the ability of employers to combat marijuana use at the workplace, but we are glad to see that advocates are planning to take another stab at the issue for the November 2012 election.

It really is time to look at ways to reduce the drug war and all the costs, injustices and assaults on individual liberty that this war entails. A starting point could be marijuana legalization, given its wide use and nonaddictive nature, although the devil always is in the details.

The Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act of 2012 would “repeal all California state laws that prohibit marijuana possession, sales, transportation, production, processing and cultivation by people 21 years of age and older.” It does not repeal laws regarding “driving a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana; using or being under the influence of marijuana in public or in the workplace; smoking marijuana in the presence of, or providing, transferring or selling marijuana to, a person under the age of 21.”

Opponents in the Prop.19 debate mainly argued that marijuana legalization would lead to widespread drug use and spark a crime wave. As advocates for a freer society, we do not believe that government action — legalization or prohibition of substances — is the key to determining how people behave. If government bans produced improved behavior, then alcohol Prohibition would have been a rousing success and all the many efforts by the environmental community to ban things (plastic bags, etc.) would be legislative models for action.

Furthermore, marijuana use essentially is already decriminalized in California, which defangs the idea that legalization will take us into some new and dangerous territory.

Beyond the freedom issue, there are practical reasons for legalizing marijuana, and other drugs for that matter. We don’t condone drug use but, instead, recognize that government bans drive up the cost of these products and thereby create strong incentives for the most brutal crime syndicates to become involved in their production and distribution.

That point was rarely discussed during the Prop. 19 debate. Another missing point, made eloquently by the late conservative writer William F. Buckley, was that the drug war leads to wanton violations of civil rights and procedures — civil forfeiture, for example — typically found in less-free nations. We recall a National Review editorial from editor Buckley’s days : “(I)t is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.”

We’re glad to see the new proposition circulated in the hope that some of the above issues can be seriously debated.