Next week, marijuana may go mainstream, said J. Patrick Coolican in the Las Vegas Sun. On Election Day, residents of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state will vote on whether to legalize the sale, production, and use of pot for all adults, in defiance of a continuing federal ban on the drug. Should one or two of those initiatives pass, legalization will undoubtedly spread to other states, marking “the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition.” It’s time to end the drug war’s most pointless battle, said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. Marijuana prohibition means arresting some 750,000 people every year for possession of a drug no more dangerous than alcohol, and spending an estimated $7.7 billion on enforcement. With nearly one in three Americans admitting to having used the drug, it’s clear “the whole effort has been a complete failure.”

The consequences of legalization could be even worse, said Tony Dokoupil in While marijuana enthusiasts claim that weed is safer than alcohol, no drug is truly safe. Some 375,000 people end up in the emergency room every year with “averse reactions” to marijuana. Medical studies have also shown that regular use of marijuana “elevates the risk of schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms.” And despite the myth that marijuana isn’t addictive, studies show that from 9 to 15 percent of weed users become dependent on the drug, smoking it several times every day. Making weed as legal as beer would only encourage more people to get stoned regularly, said in an editorial. Experts predict that the number of serious stoners with a destructive dependence on marijuana would double or triple, to 12 million. How is that in society’s interest?

In the end, this debate may be moot, said USA Today. Even if some states legalize cannabis, it will still be illegal under federal law, and there’s no sign that the nation’s “drug enforcers would wink at full-blown legalization.” Over the past two years, the Justice Department has busted dozens of weed dispensaries in many of the 17 states that now allow marijuana for alleged medical use. Pro-pot campaigners hope that a similar showdown over the new state initiatives will result in a change in federal law. “But a more likely scenario is that states will end up in costly litigation while pot users are left in legal limbo.”