County commissioners dealt Tuesday, again, with the question of medical marijuana dispensaries, voting to continue with the status quo (a moratorium on operation of any new dispensaries and the continued operation of a sole business).
The situation highlights issues, each of which reveals the absurdity and unworkability of current drug laws and policies — at all levels of American government.
The first issue concerns the variability of laws dealing with possession, sale and use of marijuana. In some states, and many municipalities, medical marijuana dispensaries operate with relative freedom, but they do so contrary to federal law. Any time a state, county or municipality decides it will allow for sale and use of medical marijuana, the chance looms that the federal government will bring the hammer down.
The hammer does not work.
It has never worked and never will, but it remains at the ready and advocates are funded to an extraordinary extent. The federal government’s longstanding “War on Drugs” has been a failure and campaigns waged at state and local levels have failed, no matter what those whose efforts and agencies have profited from the profligate spending might claim. The “War” has cost the American people a staggering amount of money, created enormous bureaucracies and pushed waves of funds to law enforcement at all levels; it has put millions behind bars for minor offenses related to marijuana; it has encouraged the creation of violent criminal efforts, and has clearly failed to stem the use of marijuana in the U.S.
The “War” has, by making marijuana use by adults illegal, paradoxically made it easier for underage users to procure the substance and has denied government coffers of much-needed tax revenues. This “War” has its roots in law first enacted in the 1930s, promoted by industries eager to maximize their profits and extinguish competition. That is the sole thing that has worked in the “War.” Alcohol is sold to adults. Tobacco is sold to adults. Prescription drugs are sold — in ever-increasing volume —while the “war” continues blindly on.
Second: In a case such as here in Archuleta County (the town imposed a moratorium allowing no dispensaries within its borders) the moratorium permits one business to dispense medical marijuana but denies others the opportunity. This puts the county in the position of supporting a monopoly — something government should not do. The market is taken out of the equation. This is dicey terrain, at best.
Perhaps the solution to the medical marijuana problem is, on the surface, simple: legalize the sale and use of marijuana for adults. Recognize reality: there are medical uses for the substance and, as is the case with alcohol, there are recreational uses as well.
There is a growing number of Americans, from all points on the political spectrum (many, like Pat Robertson, from a sector that has traditionally thought otherwise), calling for decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. The libertarian point of view is gaining ground and, if one checks Americans age 40 and under, the future is clear.
Allow adults to determine what they will do with their bodies. As is the case with alcohol, make tangential crimes the target — DUI, providing the substance to minors, etc. Require substance abuse programs for offenders. Save more punitive action for repeat offenders. Tax the sale of the product and use funds for rehabilitation and education programs. Dismantle a significant portion of an increasingly costly prison industry, turn the funds back to the taxpayer or use them in more productive ways.
It’s time Americans grow up. Let adults be adults, so long as they act like adults, and get on to more important things.