June 23, 2009
Posted: 09:26 AM ET
NEW YORK–All last week my colleague, Anderson Cooper, fanned the flames of an already heated debate in this country: Whether to legalize marijuana. Anderson and his producers don't pretend to have the answer to the question, any more than to the multibillion dollar illegal drug problem in America. But the first step toward finding the answer begins with pot.
The War on Drugs has been an utter failure; we need to shift the paradigm from war to public-health, starting with nonviolent, first-time drug offenders.
Nearly 800,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana-related crimes (90 per cent of them for possession), with approximately 60,000 to 85,000 of them doing some time on those charges.
To impose felony convictions on people for possession of pot - sending them to prison, for an advanced degree in the criminal enterprise - is short sighted, expensive, counterproductive, and just doesn't make sense.
If nothing else, there's economics: Legalized marijuana would generate between $10 and $14 billion in savings and taxes every year. The government can regulate it and tax it.
But admittedly, it is not an easy question for a kid, like me, from the projects and a community ravaged by drug use.
Smoking pot is not lighthearted recreation. It is a drug, like heroin and meth.
And that is why President Obama will probably disappoint reformers. He is not likely to push for legalization; but he is also not likely to continue on a blind path of prohibition.
Given the passion and good policy arguments on both sides, perhaps the President should do something that hasn't been done since the 1970s - convene a blue ribbon panel of experts on drug policy. A Presidential Cannabis Commission, if you will. The commission can look at the issue, and send up some smoke signals on how best to proceed on the important issue of whether to finally legalize pot, or not.
–Jami Floyd, In Session anchor
Filed under: Uncategorized
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