Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The #1 Issue

Seriously. Prop. 19 in California, the ballot measure to legalize marijuana (well, to a large degree), is the one I have my eye on most closely. And despite what happens in Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, Nevada, and every other state with an important congressional race, Prop. 19 is the one that gives me the most hope for progress, and the one that will crush me if defeated.

I have thought it might make me seem shallow to have my focus on marijuana legalization when so much else is at stake. Thanks to Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors-in-chief of and Reason magazine respectively, for this reminder why the issue is so important.
The 858,000 marijuana-related arrests made each year -- many involving minors, non-violent offenders, and those possessing insignificant amounts -- accounts for more than half of all drug-related arrests and takes a huge toll on the criminal justice system and lower-income communities at every level. No one seriously questions that the drug war disproportionately impacts minorities and that most "drug-related" crime is in fact a result of the black market status of drugs. Mexican drug gangs may be violent but there is no reason to believe that Mexican marijuana merchants would be any more violent than Mexican mango merchants.

And make no mistake: The drug war is effectively a war on marijuana, by far the only illegal drug used by more 1 percent of the adult population on a regular basis.

Think about that. 858,000 marijuana-related arrests each year. And given that we are still living in an era when some major politicians can't even get on board with medical marijuana initiatives, I would gladly trade you a Harry Reid for a Sharron Angle in exchange for a cultural shakeup that would result from the passage of a marijuana legalization measure. Gladly.

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