I voted to legalize marijuana, but then I got high…

Attention potheads around the U.S.: You may soon be able to roll all the joints and smoke all the marijuana you want without having to spend over a thousand dollars for a trip to Amsterdam. Where is this new weed-friendly neighbor? Well, just keep in mind you may have to use your lighter for heat.

Montana and Oregon both have referenda on their state ballots this year regarding the legalization and expansion of medicinal marijuana. Alaskans, however, are going a step further, placing a statewide referendum asking voters to decriminalize the drug completely. The referendum would place the same type of regulations on the growth, sale and use of marijuana now placed on alcohol and tobacco, such as an age limit and bans on public use. Though in Oregon the measure is lacking wide support, those in Montana and Alaska look like they will pass. How did the U.S. fall behind so quickly in its homeland struggle against drugs? For one thing, it probably never believed the democratic process would be its worst enemy.

Pro-marijuana activists say the drug’s decriminalization will help ease the overpopulation of prisons and lead to safer marijuana through regulation. Anti-marijuana proponents argue that the negative effect of smoking one joint is equal to smoking ten cigarettes at one time. Many also use U.S. Drug Czar John Walters’ argument against medical marijuana, saying, “People’s suffering is being used for legalizing drug use beginning with marijuana and moving forward.” I’m not a fervent supporter for either side, but if this issue were on the Florida ballot, I would probably vote for decriminalization.

Mr. Walter’s argument isn’t too strong. For one thing, you don’t see any national effort to legalize cocaine or heroin, and I do not believe that will change with the decriminalization of marijuana. Also, regulation would be beneficial to those who do smoke it because it would guarantee that their joint will not be full of extra toxic chemicals, meaning the joint would be safer. Government revenue would also increase with taxes like those on cigarettes. This is an important point because those taxes could be used to help pay for any extra public health costs incurred because marijuana use. Personally, I have not and do not plan to smoke marijuana, but I have had friends that have and it’s not my choice whether or not they do it. It’s better that it be regulated than made in some back alley.

Pierre Gaunaurd can be contacted at p.gaunaurd@umiami.edu.