Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gerald Ensley: Legalizing marijuana is just a matter of time

Time magazine recently published an interesting statistic: 5.1 percent
of Americans aged 55 to 59 smoke marijuana regularly — a major jump
from 2002, when 1.6 percent of Americans aged 55 to 59 admitted to
smoking pot regularly.

The magazine attributed the rise to the aging of the baby boom
generation. And you can look at the stat four ways:

One, it shows marijuana use is not just for the young and wild. We can
only assume the age bracket — where AARP membership and senior
discounts begin — was considered significant because it says old
people are smoking.

Two, it's a tsk-tsk about how baby boomers just won't stop their silly

Three, it shows a decline in marijuana usage: Back when boomers were
young, half of us were smoking pot. So if just 5 percent of us are still
smoking, usage has dropped dramatically.

Or fourth: The handwriting on the wall is getting bigger. We need to
make pot legal. You don't want Grandma and Grandpa doing hard time, do

We get closer to legalizing pot all the time.

A national poll in October found that 44 percent of Americans support
legalization — up from 36 percent in 2005. Fourteen states have made
marijuana legal for medical purposes since California became the first
in 1996. Fourteen other states are now considering changes in their laws
against marijuana, ranging from allowing medical marijuana to

Florida is not among those 28 states, though polls have shown that a
majority of Florida voters support medical marijuana. A group is trying
to get medical marijuana on the Florida ballot this fall. Here's hoping
they succeed.

This is what some of us always believed would happen with marijuana
laws: People would realize the folly of keeping marijuana illegal and
change the laws. I think we imagined it would happen sooner than it did
and in more sweeping federal fashion, rather than the slow trickle of

But as you get older — say 55 to 59 — you realize that's how
things work. Look at health care reform. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt,
there have been efforts to institute some form of national health
insurance. Now, 60 years later, President Obama finally succeeded.
Sometimes, it takes decades for the steady plodding of logic and
determined supporters to get the right thing done.

Ending the prohibition on marijuana is about taking it out of the dark
of criminal activity and profit and bringing it into the light of the
nation's daily commerce. It's just so logical.

If we tax marijuana, government will have much more revenue — for
things such as health care. If we regulate marijuana, it will reduce its
availability to children — who can get it illegally from friends and
acquaintances. If we eliminate the penalties for possession, we can stop
the unfair and costly jailing of people — whose only crime is
preferring marijuana to alcohol when they relax.

If we legalize marijuana, we can make marijuana available nationwide to
those who need it medically — and eliminate such farces as Wal-Mart
firing a Michigan employee who failed a drug test after using marijuana
prescribed by his doctor.

And if we legalize, we can help stop the drug cartel violence, which is
ripping apart Mexico and spreading into the U.S. According to the
Marijuana Policy Project, the largest marijuana reform organization in
the U.S., more than 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico by drug
violence since 2006. The U.S. Justice Department reports that cartels do
business in 230 American cities. Annually, 60 percent to 70 percent of
marijuana sold by cartels is sold in the U.S. It's an annual $8 billion
to $10 billion industry for the cartels, whose violence will continue as
long as they are making money.

We will never eradicate the human affection for intoxication, as was
proved by the failed efforts of alcohol prohibition in the early 20th
century. But we can stop the violence and costs associated with
marijuana prohibition by taking its distribution out of the hands of
criminals — and stop criminalizing those who use it.

It's the right thing to do. If only to save Grandma and Grandpa from

No comments: