Feature

Marijuana: Tip-toeing toward legalization

Last week Gov. Schwarzenegger of California called for a debate on whether it might be time to legalize, and tax, the sale of marijuana.

Lest there were any lingering doubt on the matter, said Bill Steigerwald in Townhall.com, Arnold Schwarzenegger last week proved conclusively that “he’s not a girly-man.” With the state of California now essentially bankrupt, the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor last week did “what most politicians are too chicken to ever do”: call for a debate on whether it might finally be time to legalize, and tax, the sale of marijuana. Since legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, said Wyatt Buchanan in the San Francisco Chronicle, California has seen an explosion of marijuana “dispensaries,” which currently contribute some $18 million a year in taxes. With full legalization, say some experts, the state might get $1.3 billion in taxes—explaining why the far-fetched stoner fantasy of legalized pot has shifted “from the fringe to the forefront.”

It’s an idea that’s taking hold across the nation, said Michael Farrell in The Christian Science Monitor. A new poll shows that 52 percent of American voters would support “legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana use.” But that doesn’t mean it’s about to happen. Legalizing drugs is still a hot-button issue, and few politicians are willing to champion the right to smoke pot. Besides, the social impact of legalizing marijuana is hard to predict, said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. Advocates like to say pot is “no worse than alcohol,” but millions of people’s lives are already ravaged by alcohol abuse. What if pot stores on every corner lead to even more widespread use of the drug, especially among teens, and we wind up with a state full of stoners? Legalization may have its merits, but for now, “count us among the skeptics.”

“Gov. Schwarzenegger is right,” said The Sacramento Bee. “And he’s wrong.” With a recent poll showing 56 percent of Californians now in favor of legalizing marijuana, it’s only proper that he show some leadership on the issue. But he’s wrong to present it as a simple matter of budget economics. The real debate is about “the demonstrable failure of the nation’s drug laws,” and whether it makes sense to legalize and regulate drugs, rather than trying—and failing—to ban them. Actually, the real issue is freedom, said Ethan Nadelman, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, in CBSnews.com. Millions of people like me smoke marijuana, which doesn’t make us violent and is “addictive” only in the loosest use of that term. Why is the government spending billions of dollars to stop us? “Enough is enough.”

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