The question isn’t whether people should smoke marijuana, or whether we want people to smoke marijuana. The question is how many people we want to put in jail for it, and how many prison cells and police officers we want to dedicate to it.
And sometime during the last fifty years of the War on Drugs, lots of Oregonians decided on a new answer to that question.
This fall, Oregon voters will face an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, and like the voters of Washington and Colorado, they’re likely to pass it. They’ll pass it not because they’re all stoners – although that is a certain Oregon voting bloc – or even because they’re dreaming of hefty tax revenues.
They’re for it because they know our current system has failed. It’s ruined people’s lives, filled our prisons, and done very little to discourage marijuana use.
If we tried legalizing marijuana, we could regulate it, we could still discourage kids from using it, we could give people honest information instead of telling them things they don’t believe. There will still be problems, but probably fewer than there are with alcohol – which we already gave up prohibiting.
We don’t know exactly how this will work. But we know that what we’re doing now doesn’t.
NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, July 5, 2014.