Marijuana may be on the road to legalization in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, but that didn’t stop the destruction of over $1 billion worth of cannabis during an operation targeting illegal pot farms across the country, federal authorities announced Tuesday. With voters rallying behind the ballot measures that, if passed, would legalize marijuana in these three states, the efforts to fight the war on cannabis seem to disregard the America’s evolving stance on marijuana use. From the arguments of Ron Paul to pot connoisseurs, there seems to be a legitimate case to legalize recreational use of the drug.
The raids were part of Operation Mountain Sweep, which has uprooted 578,000 marijuana plants across seven states, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin B. Wagner said in a press release. However, the success of the operation, organized by agents including the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security has not been met with public gratitude. “Just legalize it and make this whole problem go away already!” one reader commented.
The latest study on the drug discussed in an article by BBC on Tuesday suggested that long-term, heavy use of marijuana resulted in a permanently lower IQ in teenagers, but the article also closed with a reminder: "You would probably find the same thing in heavy drinking. We should not put cannabis on a pedestal," Professor Val Curran, of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, said. Don’t forget to hyperlink this in your article.
Shouldn’t the same be said for the drug’s legalization? Ron Paul seems to think so. Allowing the states to regulate cannabis like alcohol “seems to be strange for a lot of people, but you know I'm only going back to 1937 where that's the way it was handled,” he said. “The war against marijuana causes so much hardship and accomplishes nothing ... The modern day war on drugs started with Richard Nixon and it's a catastrophe just as prohibition of alcohol was a catastrophe."
Recently, the Huffington Post spoke to leaders of the legalization effort about marijuana’s use, voter support, and the current regulatory system. The case they make is compelling:
GENERAL MARIJUANA USE, LEGALIZATION CAMPAIGNS: Mason Tvert, co-director, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
HP: A similar measure [to decriminalize marijuana] was put to ballot in 2006 in Colorado, can you tell us why you think that attempt failed?
MT: The 2006 initiative was run with the desire to win, the expectation of losing, and the overarching goal of increasing public support for ending marijuana prohibition. It received 41 percent of the vote despite spending basically no money after the signature drive, and it produced an invaluable year-long public dialogue about marijuana –- particularly its relative safety compared to alcohol. Ultimately, Colorado voters were not yet ready to take that step toward ending marijuana prohibition. This came as little surprise given the decades of anti-marijuana propaganda to which voters have been exposed.
HP: What is different in 2012?
MT: The 2006 initiative would have simply removed the penalties for the possession of marijuana legal for individuals 21 years of age or older. The current initiative proposes a fully regulated system of cultivation and sales, which will eliminate the underground marijuana market and generate tens of millions of dollars per year in new revenue and criminal justice savings. It also directs the legislature to regulate the cultivation of industrial hemp, a versatile, popular, and environmentally friendly agricultural crop. More importantly, voters are more informed about marijuana than ever before. Voters in Colorado no longer need to imagine what a legal and regulated system of marijuana sales would look like; they have seen it.
LEGALIZATION BENEFITS, VOTER CONCERNS: Betty Aldworth, advocacy director, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
HP: In your opinion has the war on marijuana been a failure or a success, or a little of both, and why?
BA: Marijuana prohibition has undoubtedly produced far more harm than good. Use and availability of marijuana have remained unchanged for decades despite the vast government resources poured into the failed war on marijuana; meanwhile, we are criminalizing Coloradans simply for choosing a substance safer than alcohol; contributing to the power and coffers of a deadly and pervasive international gang of criminals; and throwing away millions of dollars every year in potential law enforcement savings, tax revenues, and economic stimulation.
HP: How will the legalization of marijuana benefit the people of Colorado and why should a voter who is not a marijuana user come out and vote in support of this measure?
BA: Immediately following passage of Amendment 64, law enforcement savings are estimated to be $12 million annually, allowing law enforcement to redirect resources to more serious crime. By 2017, the tax revenue and cost savings of Amendment 64 could top $100 million each year, and the potential for economic stimulation through job creation, construction, and the regular expenditures of small businesses is significant. By placing marijuana in a regulated market and removing it from the underground, criminal market we will no longer be empowering gangs and cartels but rather growing Colorado's economy. And, regulating marijuana like alcohol will take it off the streets and make it more difficult for youth to access. You don't have to be a marijuana user to understand that marijuana prohibition is far more dangerous than marijuana itself.
For the complete interview, visit the Huffington Post.