Feature

Marijuana: Now fully legal in Colorado

Will legalization of marijuana prove to be a mistake?

Back in the 1970s, I smoked the occasional joint, said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. So call me a hypocrite, but I’m not one of the millions of marijuana enthusiasts celebrating Colorado’s full legalization of weed on Jan. 1. Soon Washington state will follow suit; voters in Alaska, Oregon, and California will consider fully legalizing pot this year. Advocates for legal weed argue that alcohol causes far more social problems, but the fact remains that the American Medical Association recently deemed cannabis “a dangerous drug,” citing research that weed often leads to abuse of other recreational drugs, and permanently lowers IQ in teens who smoke it regularly. We’ve all known stoners who’ve lost their drive and self-control, said David Brooks in The New York Times. So why give marijuana the official stamp of government approval? In “healthy societies,” government discourages “lesser pleasures, like being stoned.”

“‘Healthy societies’ don’t throw millions of people in human meat lockers to satisfy the moral urges of social engineers,” said Matt Welch in Reason.com. There are about 750,000 marijuana arrests every year—nearly half of all drug arrests. The costs to society of trying to police marijuana use, and to individuals who get jailed for it, are both wildly out of proportion. Then there’s the racial-discrimination issue, said Jamelle Bouie in TheDailyBeast.com.Blacks in the U.S. use and sell cannabis at the same rate as whites, but are four times more likely to be arrested for it. For middle-class white teenagers, like Ruth Marcus and David Brooks once were, smoking pot was a rite of passage with little risk. “You can’t say the same for black teenagers.” When cops search them on the street and find marijuana, they are deemed criminals, and their entire lives can be changed for the worse.

My recreational drugs of choice are alcohol and caffeine, not marijuana, said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com, but Colorado’s citizens have every right to legalize weed. Over time, legalization may prove to be a mistake—or it may not. Either way, “it’s an experiment worth conducting.” But that doesn’t mean every state has an obligation to legalize marijuana—or any other individual liberty—over citizens’ objections. The beauty of our system is, or should be, that every state can adopt standards the majority of its citizens want. “If Colorado wants to legalize weed, fine. If Alabama doesn’t, that’s fine too.”

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