Prosecuting Pot is a Waste of Time and Money

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Prosecuting Pot is a Waste of Time and Money

Post#1 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 11:32 am

I have to agree with this author, none of the measures being discussed truly addresses the real issue in this so-called war. What I put into my body should be my choice and I will endure the consequences. Government should not be a factor unless and until I harm another person. hangman

USA -- This is historic. Barney Frank and I agree on something.
Actually, I probably agree with at least 10 percent of what the now-veteran, hard-left Massachusetts congressman says and does. It's just that there are few places where the views of the liberal and the libertarian converge so perfectly. And this place would be the insane, unaffordable War on Drugs — specifically as it pertains to marijuana.

Frank said on national television last week that he intends to file a bill to get the feds out of the business of busting pot smokers. No longer would it be a federal crime to possess "small amounts" of the intoxicating weed. He didn't define "small," but I'm willing to bet he means what most people mean — the amount somebody would have for personal use, instead of running a dealership.

He points out the obvious — that most crimes aren't federal crimes, including mugging, which is far more of a threat to others than lighting up a joint.

And such a bill, if it gained any traction, would dovetail nicely with the effort now underway in Massachusetts to put a question on the ballot this fall that would make simple possession of marijuana a civil, rather than a criminal, offense. Instead of facing criminal penalties, including jail time, an offender would pay a $100 civil fine, like a traffic ticket.

It's about time. My only objection is that none of this goes far enough — pot ought to be legal for anybody older than 21. Either that, or let's punish possession of alcohol by a $100 fine as well. I mean, they're both drugs, both intoxicants. This is massive hypocrisy. Let's at least be consistent.

And it is worth noting that plenty of people have died of alcohol poisoning. Nobody has died from overdosing on pot.

The congressman pitches his initiative with the same talking points used by most marijuana advocates. And they're all good points. It would save millions, if not billions at the federal level, in law enforcement time and effort. It would free up federal agents to go after real threats to public safety, instead of spending their time prosecuting people for giving themselves no more of a buzz than a couple of glasses of wine.

In Massachusetts alone, the estimate is that the change could save almost $30 million a year. That's not much of a dent in a budget of more than $30 billion, but it would also let the cops concentrate on things that are more important.

And it would spare harmless and productive citizens from carrying criminal records for the rest of their lives.

It's just that none of this goes far enough, and doesn't confront the absurdity of the way we treat different drugs. If alcohol is legal, there is no good reason that marijuana shouldn't be legal. If gambling is legal, not to mention heavily promoted by the state, there is no reason pot should be banned for adults.

If you haven't done so already, read the Forum essay by state Sen. Steve Baddour, D-Methuen, on casino gambling that appeared in last Sunday's Eagle-Tribune. He argues that only 3 percent of the population falls victim to problem gambling, compared to 10 percent who are problem drinkers and 18 percent addicted to tobacco.

He talks about the benefits of jobs, of tax revenue, and of money set aside to address the inevitable social costs of people pouring their "hard-earned" money into the glittering, but black hole of gambling palaces.

And if you substituted "pot" for "gaming," you could make most of the same arguments. Think of the tax revenue, think of the jobs for cannabis farmers, distributors and retailers, think of the "entertainment" for adults getting a nice buzz instead of staring, half catatonic, at a video poker machine.

Even the pot advocates aren't pushing for that much, of course. While the public supports, by an overwhelming margin, the decriminalization of marijuana, it is less receptive to giving it the same status as alcohol.

But, at some point it should. It is indefensible not to do otherwise.

I've got no personal stake in any of this. I don't gamble and I don't smoke pot. I wouldn't smoke it even if it were legal. But whatever happened to giving emancipated adults freedom of choice?

Here we are in liberal, government-has-no-business-in-your-private-life Massachusetts, where I can't count the number of politicians who have told me they are firmly pro-choice — that they believe absolutely that a woman has a right to choose what to do with her own body. What a load of effluent. The only thing they think a woman should be allowed to choose is to abort a baby. No choice about inhaling the smoke from burning a plant.

If none of that is persuasive, consider this fact: The War on Drugs doesn't work. It never has. It never will. But it would have a better chance if pot was taken off the enemies list.

Taylor Armerding is associate editorial page editor of The Eagle-Tribune.

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