Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Time to Legalize Marijuana in Maryland

My second column at Center Maryland is up: Cut Waste, Increase Revenue, Legalize Marijuana.  While still early, I think I am starting to hit my stride with this one.  I like the Hogan piece, didn't love it.  I love this piece.

I love it because it is important.  Every time I read about the legalization of marijuana, it seemed there was a compulsion to make light of the subject.  "Rocky Mountain High", "munchies", jokes about fog.  Because these are white middle aged males writing about marijuana.  They've never seen a friend go to jail over the substance.  They've never been strip searched for drugs.  The business end of the war on drugs was pointing in the opposite direction.

And no, a not-just-yet-middle-aged white guy doesn't have a much superior perspective on things, but I've worked extensively with people who are trying to have criminal records expunged or have otherwise had their lives ruined by "substance-abuse crimes".

Here's the thing about legalization - we need to stop talking about it in terms of the end user.  I am one of the strongest proponents you will meet for full legalization, but I have absolutely no intention of ever smoking marijuana after it is legal.  None.  But if you ask me whether I want to fund the enforcement of drug laws and the imprisonment of those who breach its code, my answer is "no".

So while you may be tempted to respond to this post by saying "I really don't like the smell of marijuana and don't want my neighbor using it" - I would remind you that this is not the question at issue.  The question is whether you are willing to fund a system that makes it illegal, fosters a black market, and puts people in jail.

Any politician worth his or her salt will spend dedicated effort to decrease the number of people we put in jail.  Many believe our collective "future us" will be ashamed of how we handled gay marriage or global warming, but I think a just as likely source of disappointment (and horror) will be the mass incarceration of our poverty class.  As much as I prepare for my grandchildren asking me why we let the world burn, I plan for them to ask why we put so many people in cement boxes.

Legalizing marijuana barely registers on this count.  It is already decriminalized in Maryland and drug crimes are beginning to represent a smaller proportion of our prison population overall.  But we need to start here, if nothing else as an example of how hollow the justification for prohibition really is.

And if you like this column, please share it on Facebook.  I normally don't make this pitch, but I am taking a hiatus from the Big Blue Monster and would appreciate anyone helping to get the word out.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!