Thursday, April 24, 2014 3:22 AM
Published on: Thursday, February 27, 2014
By Brian J. Karem
In a series of heated debates this week in Annapolis, members of the state legislature are considering the ramifications of legalizing marijuana.
The arguments sound much like the arguments to legalize alcohol several generations ago and make it quite clear the old adage of how those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Let’s start with those opposed to legalization of marijuana. Wicomico County Sheriff Michael Lewis testified should marijuana be legalized it will “certainly open the doors to these drug traffickers to bring in large shipments, much larger than are being brought in today.”
Those opposed to legalization also have concerns about the “message” legalization or decriminalization of pot would send to kids. There’s also concern about an increase in “drug” driving and a spike in first time users of the drug.
Proponents for the legalization of marijuana sound more like Harvard business graduates as they discuss the potential millions in annual income taxing the weed would bring to state coffers.
Montgomery County’s own Jamie Raskin, who is sponsoring one of the bills to legalize marijuana, had this to say about the debate. “We’ve really turned [the war on marijuana] into a war against our own people,” said Raskin. “We have criminalized and demonized tens of thousands of our fellow Marylanders, we have ruined many of their prospects for success in the labor market and the job force, we have been spending more than $100 million a year on criminal arrest prosecution and supervision of people for marijuana related offenses, and yet we didn’t put a dent into the demand for the drug, and so indirectly we have been supporting the drug gangs and the international drug cartel.”
In 2010 Maryland had the fourth-highest arrest rate for marijuana possession among all of the states in the union and African American arrests far outnumbered the arrests of any other ethnic group.
Let us try to look at this debate logically.
Marijuana’s history in this country is spotty, filled with emotion and in many cases a great deal of misunderstanding. Propaganda films of the 1920s and 20s, including the infamous “Reefer Madness” claimed marijuana was more dangerous than opiates and cocaine. It was referred to as a “deadly menace” in which could lurk “Murder! Insanity! Death!, ” according to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Often marijuana and cocaine were given pernicious racist connotations.
The government has waged a war on drugs, with the results being more and more arrests, but Raskin is correct. It has done little else for society.
The War on Drugs, in short has been a huge failure. There is no shortage of marijuana, a huge cash crop in many states. I’ve had trouble getting propane this winter, but I haven’t heard of any drug shortage.
Many former law enforcement officials have come forward to say violence in the inner city of Baltimore and elsewhere is stoked by the illegal drug trade. Making drugs illegal also makes them more expensive and more attractive to the criminal element. Al Capone anyone?
There is little doubt money could be made and saved should the state legalize marijuana.
The specious arguments against its legalization simply do not hold up to objective scrutiny. “Drug Driving” is already a problem. People who wish to try marijuana certainly have no problem finding it. Sheriff Lewis’ dire warning about a sudden influx of marijuana from outside of the country just doesn’t make sense. It’s not only cost prohibitive for someone to ship huge supplies of marijuana to this country, but since most of the drug is now grown domestically, as tobacco is, there is little credence to the assertion foreign suppliers will flood the market with illegal marijuana.
What is left is social inertia – that and the lingering feeling from decades of prosecution that legalizing marijuana is just wrong.
The old arguments are just that – old, particularly tired and without much standing in today’s world. The exceedingly racial tones in the original push to make recreational drugs illegal taints all that comes afterward. Realistically there remains little real value or reason to keep marijuana illegal.
Reasonable men can disagree on issues, but rational discussion should be included in the debate.
Unfortunately when it comes to marijuana, those who favor legalization look at their opponents as Dean Wermer from Animal House, while those across the aisle look and see Cheech and Chong.
Posted By: pwhassler On: 2/28/2014
Title: Against legalization
Anyone who has ever taught High School has seen first hand the destructive aspects of continual marijuana use. Students who were at one time energetic and inquisitive were seemingly less interested in learning and acquiring the needed abilities to succeed. (Not all, but many). Doctors and psychiatrists have been examining the effects of the use for years, yet have no definitive outcome based conclusions. Brian Karem seems to want to sweep the concerns of many of us under a rug with clichés and innuendos reminiscent of drug users. The use of the $100 million of tax money on criminal arrests will no doubt be a drop in the bucket as to the costs of rehabilitation and cleaning up the kids we teach. These are unintended consequences of a problem yet to be realized to the masses but experienced by many a parent with their kids and drug use. It's not going to be for me to decide nor vote on, but care should be taken to make the right choice and not one based on inadequate information.
Posted By: Ed Werner On: 2/27/2014
Title: I agree
Well written. The big change in people's attitudes is going to come when Washington and Colorado publish annual revenues from legal marijuana.
Posted By: Storm Crow On: 2/27/2014
Title: Educate Yourself!
Why should YOU support legalization? “Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer's” (WebMD- read this, if nothing else!), “Pot compound seen as tool against cancer” (SFGate) , “An ultra-low dose of tetrahydrocannabinol provides cardioprotection” (PubMed), “Smoked Cannabis Reduces Some Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis” (UCSD), “Marijuana Compound May Help Stop Diabetic Retinopathy” (ScienceDaily), “Marijuana may be Helpful in Lowering Blood Pressure” (BioMedicine), “Families migrate to Colorado for marijuana miracle” (DenverPost) and “Cannabis for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease treatment” (NewsMedicalNet). Learn more by running a search for “Granny Storm Crow’s List”. Once the medical facts become known, the need for legalization becomes obvious!