Time to weed out pot laws? | VailDaily.com

Time to weed out pot laws?

Vail Daily Editorial Board

Why this country allows its citizens to consume alcohol, but not marijuana, is a bit of a mystery.

Both substances have mind-altering capabilities. Both substances, if abused, can destroy the lives of the user and anyone who crosses the user’s path.

But both substances can be used responsibly and moderately, according to Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

And perhaps most importantly, our government spends an inordinate amount of time and money arresting and prosecuting pot users ” about 12 million citizens have been arrested on a marijuana-related charge since 1965, according to NORML, an organization that wants marijuana use to be legalized.

Frank announced this week that he would introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of less than a quarter-pound of marijuana. Advocates argue that because alcohol is a legal substance, marijuana should be, too. Instead, marijuana should be regulated in the same way as alcohol, and the threat of arrest should be limited for only those whose use affects someone else, such as in the case of driving while intoxicated by the drug.

Frank’s proposal seems to have merit, particularly when applied to medicinal marijuana users. Even in states that have passed laws allowing medicinal marijuana use, patients who use prescribed pot still are running afoul of federal laws.

While marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the U.S., it seem highly unlikely Frank’s proposal will become law. Being “soft on crime” ” and drug use is a crime ” is a cardinal sin in American politics. When former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders dared to suggest that the legalization of drugs should be studied, she was publicly ridiculed.

But the success of the “War on Drugs” is debatable; there are reports that cocaine use is down, but the number of incarcerations for drug-related convictions has risen. The U.S. government reports it has spent $30 billion incarcerating those who break drug laws.

Additionally, a report from the United Kingdom’s government revealed that a tough stance on drug use has fueled price hikes for most drugs, which simply helps increase the profitability of businesses the war on drugs aims to destroy.

And despite comparisons between pot and alcohol ” a drug many a Congress member has been known to use ” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration still considers pot to be a gateway drug to harder, more addictive and more damaging substances. Nevermind the fact that alcohol is a factor in a large number of local arrests, and that in 2006, 13,470 died in the U.S. in crashes involving a drunken driver.

It would be nice if Frank’s proposal sparked an honest debate about the effectiveness of the war on pot, especially in a nation grappling with the war on terror, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and facing the largest deficit in its history.

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