January 28, 2013

Time to Decriminalize Marijuana

Marijuana small
Marijuana small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the FBI, more people in the U.S. were arrested for the possession of marijuana than for violent offenses during 2011. Given that violent offenses are less common than marijuana possession, this information is not terribly surprising. However, I cannot help but think that it reflects a problem with our law enforcement priorities and the manner in which law enforcement resources are being allocated.

The possession of marijuana should not be a criminal offense. Public support for decriminalization has reached record levels, and it has been clear to most of us for some time that our law enforcement resources would be better utilized elsewhere. Our nation has far more pressing problems with which to contend than marijuana.

I have heard some opponents of decriminalization say that it would send the wrong message to our children. Although I understand their point, I'm not sure how losing a "war on drugs" and harming countless people in the process sends a better one. How much longer are we willing to be a repressive regime that puts people in prison for using parts of a plant they can easily grow themselves? That sounds like the sort of thing the repressive regimes we are fond of pointing to might do, but surely not us! We aren't one of those regimes, are we?

I have also heard opponents say that marijuana and other drugs are harmful because they prevent people from dealing with reality. Perhaps there is some truth to this. It is not hard to imagine someone using marijuana to temporarily escape reality. But is that really so bad, as long as it is temporary? And couldn't the same point be made about religion but in a much less temporary way? It seems to me that faith has marijuana beat when it comes to the denial of reality. At least the effects of marijuana are relatively short-lived, which is more than I can say for the effects of faith.

The merits of decriminalizing marijuana as a first step toward full legalization shouldn't be that hard to understand. Even Pat Robertson seems to get it. In fact, he's already willing to go a step beyond decriminalization and support the legalization of marijuana. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to say this before, but "Bravo, Pat!"