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October 28, 2010

Nicholas Kristof urging that we "End the War on Pot"

One of the many (beneficial?) consequences of Proposition 19 being on the ballot in California is that it has enabled and seemingly encouraged major commentators to urge in major papers that we consider a whole new approach to marijuana laws and policies.  Earlier this week, we had George Soros calling for pot legalization in the pages of the Wall Street Journal (noted here), and today we get this New York Times piece by Nicholas Kristof, which is headlined "End the War on Pot."  Here are excerpts:

Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach.  Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot.  But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.

First, it squanders billions of dollars that might be better used for education. California now spends more money on prisons than on higher education. It spends about $216,000 per year on each juvenile detainee, and just $8,000 on each child in the troubled Oakland public school system.  Each year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana.  Is that really the optimal use of our police force?...

The second big problem with the drug war is that it has exacerbated poverty and devastated the family structure of African-Americans.  Partly that’s because drug laws are enforced inequitably.  Black and Latino men are much more likely than whites to be stopped and searched and, when drugs are found, prosecuted....

The third problem with our drug policy is that it creates crime and empowers gangs. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market,” a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.

I have no illusions about drugs.  One of my childhood friends in Yamhill, Ore., pretty much squandered his life by dabbling with marijuana in ninth grade and then moving on to stronger stuff.  And yes, there’s some risk that legalization would make such dabbling more common.  But that hasn’t been a significant problem in Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001....

One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level.  I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana.

October 28, 2010 at 09:11 AM | Permalink


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I work in communications for a public interest firm in DC. Thanks for highlighting those key passages from Kristof's article. We should all take note of how things are working in Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001 and has since seen a decrease in both overdoses and HIV cases.

Posted by: Avi | Oct 28, 2010 11:38:07 AM

Yeah Avi, because people are always overdosing on MJ, and yeah sure - MJ use has correlations with contacting HIV.

Its not about decriminalising "Drugs" is about decrim'' Pot. Pot is so far removed from other 'drugs' - but the everyday man doesnt understand that obviously.

MJ use does not lead to harder drug use in anyway - those that say it does are painfully deluded imho. The only way it may - is through ridiculous convictions of MJ possession

Posted by: lol | Oct 28, 2010 7:36:03 PM

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