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"We're beyond a tipping point culturally," said Roger Goodman, a Democrat representing Kirkland, Wash., and other Seattle suburbs in the Washington legislature who co-authored the legalization bill, known as HB 2401. "Now we're at a point where we're figuring out the safest way to end prohibition."

I used to do the news for between 2002 and late 2004. I would search for marijuana-related news stories, format them, and often add little notes drawing the reader's attention to certain things in the reporting.

I focused heavily on de-constructing marijuana propaganda that has been the mainstay of cannabis prohibition: the MSM, the Traditional media - call them what you will - have given the government a free ride with the propaganda campaign for generations. The WSJ has a couple quotes from law enforcement I will highlight in a little bit.

While people have worked on reforming cannabis laws since at least the 1960s they have been thwarted PRIMARILY by the government propaganda relentlessly repeated throughout the available media: tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

2008 was a big year for the progress of cannabis reform, in my estimation, because there was considerable attention on it in the media.

In the WSJ article, which I am obviously recommending you at least skim over, it is clear the idea of reforming cannabis laws - revising possession laws and regulating the availability like tobacco and alcohol - receives considerable favorable coverage.

The efforts are part of a national marijuana-legalization movement that has lately been emboldened by several factors, including laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes. The recession may be another reason. With many states suffering big budget deficits, for instance, legalization advocates say the states could benefit from new taxes on the sale of marijuana. In addition, the Obama administration appears to have taken a more-mellow attitude on medical marijuana as societal views about the drug evolve. In a poll last week of 500 adults in Washington state by SurveyUSA, 56% of respondents said legalizing marijuana is a good idea.

Again, I am recommending reading this brief piece.

While the WSJ article is primarily focused on the popular acceptance of cannabis reform, I want to focus on the remaining obstacle to cannabis reform": law enforcement and the substance abuse treatment community. Their objections are based on propaganda talking points with no real basis in fact and they are not exactly being honest about their motivations.

Still, there is deep opposition to legalizing marijuana in Washington state from law-enforcement groups and chemical-dependency organizations, many of which argue it would make the drug even more accessible to teenagers  than it is currently. Also many argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug," meaning it will lead those using it to moveon to other drugs.

These organizations are made of people who are free to believe as they choose. In this piece their objections are spelled out as is bolded above.

"It will be more available to teens if the law is changed".
This is most likely quite untrue. In it's current unregulated state it is quite available to teens, probably much easier than it is for a person my age.

Another issue to add to allaying this concern is that in a proper, regulated system, cannabis would have all the charm and appeal of beer and wine. While it's illegal, it's attractive to some folks partly due to the 'mystique" and the sense of being able to "beat the system". Prohibition needlessly glamorizes marijuana. Make it normal and make it boring.

And we can make sure drug education is realistic and honest. As young people find that cannabis isn't the evll thing they were ledto believe, they experiment with other drugs, which, thanks to unregulated black markets, are easily available.

"The gateway myth".
This has been debunked countless times but has the resiliency of Bigfoot. This is a fine example of one talking point the media has allowed the government to regurgitate endlessly without question for generations. Here's the latest debunking: Jan 14 2010.

So law enforcement and substance abuse organizations main complaint is "what about the children?" and "the gateway myth".

California is quite possibly have a legalization issue one the 2010 election. The article desribes a bit of that and I wrote about it here

Continuing w/the WSJ article:

An April survey by the Field Poll found that 56% of California voters support legalizing pot and taxing its proceeds as a way of mitigating the state's financial crisis.

The California measure's opponents include various law-enforcement groups represented by lobbyist John Lovell. He says the California Peace Officers' Association, California Narcotic Officers Association and California Police Chiefs' Association are concerned that legalizing pot will lead more impaired drivers and embolden illegal-drug cartels to gain control over a legal industry. "The bottom line for all three we already have significant criminal and societal problems with alcohol abuse," said Mr. Lovell.

The beauty of propaganda is that a number of complex lies can be packed into a small paragraph and disseminated through traditional media, there's no mechanism to ask questions or  get clarification or to challenge specious arguments.

The internets changed that.

More impaired drivers
Possibly. Can't hardly argue with that....except to suggest that most people who want to consume cannabis likely do and legalization will not result in a tsunami of people getting stoned.

There are already 10's of millions of people who smoke sometime during a year and if there was a significant, observable trend in cannabis-intoxication-related accidents, the government would have the media blaring them loudly. It happens, to be sure, but marijuana does not 'intoxicate" people like alcohol does and this leads to far fewer incidents of accidents being due to actual impairment. Again, if this was remotely evidenced we'd be deaf from hearing about it.

The Field Sobriety Test is the accepted standard for determining 'sobriety" and if a person can pass it, a person can pass it. If they can't, they can't. We already have a mountain of laws for dealing with DUI.

"Embolden illegal-drug cartels to gain control over a legal industry"
I have to admit: that's a new one for me. I don't know quite what to say.

It has the ring of truthiness, for sure.

Was this an issue with ending alcohol prohibition? I honestly don't know.

And what "legal industry" do they mean? If cannabis is regulated and these cartels have to apply for licenses and submit to laws and inspections and so forth, and they comply, is this not legitimate? And if they are found to be funneling money to criminal organizations, we already have law enforcement agencies to shut them down.

Just as prohibition nurtures a criminal black market, regulation will aid and support a legit market. (And Wall Street is like the Vatican, right?)

"We already have significant criminal and societal problems with alcohol abuse"
Why, yes we do.

However, except in name, cannabis intoxication is not like alcohol intoxication.

Alcohol causes predictable motor and judgment impairment. It's chiseled in stone, so to speak. Speaking just for me, I'd not smoke marijuana if it acted like alcohol. I don't like impaired motor skills or judgment. I despise being "drunk". Marijuana is very different and incomparably superior.

Alcohol, as everybody knows, was banned like marijuana is, once upon a time. It was characterized by violent criminal organizations and rampant alcoholism. The ending of alcohol prohibition ended the violent criminal organizations and alcohol abuse receded.

Benefits of cannabis regulation
With regulation of cannabis we can expect a decreased glamorization of "pot smoking", of criminal cartels being financially deprived, some tax benefits, and savings in law enforcement expenditures.

We can expect SOME tax revenue from regulation. However, I don't believe it will be THAT substantial. Actually, marijuana is already taxed: you have to have a stamp from the government to possess it but they won't sell you a stamp. If they regulate it and try to tax it too highly, the black markets will continue. Simple as that.

There will be vast savings in terms of law enforcement expenditures: cops arrest around 750000-800000 Americans a year, more people than are arrested for all violent crimes combined. That's a monumental waste of money and law enforcement resources.

And given this fact, why are law enforcement organization really so against reform? I think that cannabis prohibition has translated into huge budgets and lots of toys (helicopters, assault weapons, spy gadgets, fancy military clothes).

Combine this with the fact that MOST pot smokers are not violent people and you have a lucrative cash cow to milk endlessly. Easy arrests and lots of people to arrest. And let's not forget forfeiture: There's a lot of money for law enforcement as long as pot is illegal. I think that MOSTLY explains their opposition to reform.

Cannabis available here will be the death of Mexican Cartel profits from illegal smuggling. Their market will dry up. People will opt to buy a regulated product with predictable quality over mystery weed from some dude in the street.

Thus, I suggest there is no salient reason to not regulate cannabis like tobacco, alcohol, and firearms.

Not one.

Never was.

Cannabis reform is inevitable.

I want to direct your attention to

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?.

The book is a very up-to-date look at how disastrous cannabis prohibition has been, with a focus on policy.

Originally posted to Toking Points Memo on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 09:15 AM PST.

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