The highly controversial issue of legalizing marijuana will be on the ballot this November, potentially giving Washington state citizens the right to smoke pot at their leisure; but is this piece of legislation really all it’s cracked up to be?
Debatable health and psychological dangers aside, we as college students know that those who want to use marijuana will do it, legal or not; legalization seems like a reasonable course of action. The real issue here is what effect I-502 will actually have on the issue of pot, and whether it will solve any real problems.
Popular views magnify the millions of dollars the state will save in law enforcement, compounded by the amount it will gain in tax revenue from marijuana’s regulated sale. The general consensus is that users will now have protection from arrest, saving the government millions of dollars. What is less considered is the fact that, under federal law, marijuana users and distributors will still be criminals.
Currently, as reported October 7 by the New York Times, federal law enforcement is cracking down on Los Angeles’ medical marijuana businesses, which are in compliance with state law, but are lawless in the eyes of national government. Hundreds of dispensaries are being shut down, and while some are attempting to fight the closures, it seems unlikely that they have a leg to stand on.
Not only are dispensaries in danger of felony convictions, but any individual possessor of cannabis will be in violation of the Controlled Substance Act, and can be prosecuted accordingly. More people will be buying marijuana under I-502 because it will be “legal”, but this will leave them vulnerable to federal prosecution and criminal charges.
One key point supporters of the initiative often cite is how drastically it would diminish demand for illegal drugs, making obsolete their supply and all of the horrors that come with it, however unless marijuana is federally approved, or all fifty states legalize it, Washington’s lack of participation would not be sufficient to sink the market
These are only a few issues that are causing some, including both of our own gubernatorial candidates, to oppose I-502. While yes, the legalization of marijuana would save, as well as raise, money for the state, and take power from the many violent cartels currently controlling the marijuana market, this legislation must be implemented on a federal level in order to truly be effective.