United States: Legalizing Marijuana
By NEILL FRANKLIN, NY Times Op-Ed Contributor
The Obama administration's crackdown on state medical marijuana laws, as Ethan Nadelmann pointed out, does not make "any sense in terms of public safety, health or fiscal policy." Medical marijuana is consistently supported by more than 70 percent of voters. A recent Gallup poll shows that more Americans now want to legalize marijuana altogether than support continued prohibition on adult use.
In an earlier era it may have been a smart move for politicians to act "tough on drugs" and stay far away from legalization. But today, many voters recognize that our prohibition laws don’t do anything to reduce drug use but do create a black market where cartels and gangs use violence to protect their profits.
While some fear that legalization would lead to increased use, those who want to use marijuana are probably already doing so under our ineffective prohibition laws. And when we stop wasting so many resources on locking people up, perhaps we can fund real public education and health efforts of the sort that have led to dramatic reductions in tobacco use over the last few decades — all without having to put handcuffs on anyone.
I have spent my entire adult life fighting the war on drugs as a police officer on the front lines. I have experienced the loss of friends and comrades who fought this war alongside me, and every year tens of thousands of other people are murdered by gangs battling over drug turf in American cities, Canada and Mexico. It is time to reduce violence by taking away a vital funding source from organized crime just as we did by ending alcohol prohibition almost 80 years ago.
The goals of reducing crime, disease, death and addiction have not been met by the “drug war” that was declared by President Nixon 40 years ago and ramped up by each president since.
The public has waked up to the fact that we need to change our marijuana laws. Savvy politicians would do well to catch up.
White Hall, Md., Nov. 8, 2011
The writer is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and worked on narcotics policing for the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department for over 30 years.