jasonbwatson

October 27, 2015

The stupidity of legalizing pot

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “By seeking and blundering we learn.” That is true, of course; some of life’s most painful–and most valuable–lessons come as a result of blundering and failure. Still, it is not necessary to experience everything for ones’ self in order to learn. In other words, it is quite possible to learn from the experiences–and the mistakes, in particular–of others. Being willing to do that is a demonstration of wisdom. There are two other quotes I have heard before in varying forms, and I have not been able to determine the originator of either, that demonstrate this truth. First: “Wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men learn from the mistakes of others.” Second: “A wise man learn from the mistakes of others while fools learn from their own mistakes.” Similarly, according to Forbes contributor Vitaliy Katsenelson, there is a Russian expression that says this: “The wise man learns from someone else’s mistakes, the smart man learns from his own, and the stupid one never learns.” I am afraid we have a lot of stupid people in the United States and next week–apologies to my friends who live there–we are going to find out exactly how many of them live in Ohio.

Next Tuesday, Ohio voters will weigh in on whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. According to some reports I have seen, polls are indicating that as many as 56% of Ohioans are in support of the idea. On September 15, Toledo voted to change its city ordinances to decriminalize marijuana, “abolishing jail terms and penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana” according to the Toledo Blade. The measure passed by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Only 9% of eligible voters turned out to vote on the question, called the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance.” Sensible? Yeah right. Very effective spin by someone, though. It is not as if Toledo specifically, or Ohio in general, have a monopoly on stupidity, though. Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington already allow the recreational use of marijuana. President Obama is on record supporting the idea. The National Organization for Women and the ACLU have been lending their support for legalizing marijuana in the upcoming Ohio vote.

Why am I saying that if projections hold it means the majority of Ohioans are stupid? The Russian expression says the stupid man never learns. Taking even the most cursory look at the impact of legalized marijuana in those states where it is permitted, though, reveals exactly how bad an idea it is. It is surely tempting on many fronts. After all, people have been saying for years that marijuana does not cause the problems that other illegal drugs do. Those places where it has been legalized enjoy tremendous tax revenues as a result of its sale. A recent WORLD article reports that Manitou Springs, Colorado is expected to have $25 million in marijuana sales this year. That translates into $1.2 million in tax revenue for the city. The state of Colorado is projected to take in over $100 million this year in marijuana revenue. In the month of May alone there was more than $11 million in “marijuana-related taxes, licenses, and fees” according to the WORLD piece. And those are just state-level numbers; they do not even include local taxes like the $1.2 million for Manitou Springs. If someone says, “hey, this doesn’t hurt anyone and it will bring in lots of money for the city and state, too?” who wouldn’t be tempted? Only the stupid, though, refuse to look beyond the sales pitch and investigate the darker reality. The financial windfall is legit, but so are the costs that will eventually result. And I do not mean only financial costs, either.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas have all filed lawsuits against Colorado, seeking compensation for the additional costs they have as a result of marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. Sheriffs in Colorado counties that do not allow marijuana sales–and fewer than one-third of the state’s towns and cities do–have sued the state in an effort to get back the additional costs they have as a result of the problems caused by marijuana. What kinds of problems? John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs–which does not allow marijuana–says, “Marijuana has become pervasive in our schools. Most of our suspensions are from marijuana. Legalization has lessened the perception of risk among young people, and when the perception of risk goes down, use goes up.” That quote is from the WORLD article. A September 22 report on RT addressed a 166-page report released after a federal government study. The study revealed “increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions, lab explosions, and pet poisonings.” Furthermore, the report stated “that the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012, with marijuana-related fatalities doubling….” Oh, and as for the suggestion that legalizing marijuana will actually make it safer by eliminating the illegal sale, or black market, for pot? Forget about it. In a February article in Newsweek Ben Smith quoted William Bennett saying, in response to a questioner asking if pot was worse than underage drinking and abuse of prescription drugs, “It’s not worse than alcohol. We know we have a problem, and we have not managed to keep those things from kids. Colorado was supposed to eliminate the marijuana black market, but it did not.” On May 18 Dion Rabouin reported in the International Business Times about the face that legal pot dealers have incredible amounts of oversight and red tape to deal with whereas the illegal dealers do not, creating the problem of “the competing black market dealers who have none of the costs of operating a lawful business and often have access to product of similar quality. Marijuana advocates long suggested that legalization would be the key to wiping out the black market for marijuana, but almost a year and a half into the experiment, that hasn’t been the case.”

There are numerous more reports, articles and studies that could be quoted to support the case against marijuana. None of that gets much attention on the ground, though, when the vote is looming. In the last Republican presidential debate Chris Christie had the courage to say what few others have said, which is that the federal government needs to enforce the law. It was established long ago that when there is a conflict federal law trumps state law. The sale and use of recreational marijuana is still a federal crime. Funny, isn’t it, how the federal government has been happy to allow states to do their own thing on the issue of pot but would not let them make their own laws regarding marriage. Sadly, they have their role exactly reversed. Marriage is not a federal government responsibility, and, per the Tenth Amendment, should be left to the states. Drug use, though, can easily be substantiated as a public security and health risk, making it an appropriate responsibility of the federal government.

I shudder to think of yet another state voting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. My hope is that there are enough people in Ohio who are not stupid that will show up next Tuesday and vote to keep it illegal. And the state then needs to do to Toledo what the federal government needs to do to Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The last thing we need is more stupidity.

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