This Week's CounterPunch Topic: Legalizing marijuana: -- Ed.
Crane's Punch: An estimated $14 billion per year is spent on marijuana in California. Ending its prohibition would put that revenue in the hands of legitimate businesses instead of violent drug cartels, and its taxation would yield sorely needed revenues.
Most important, our current system -- in which marijuana is widely available illegally, does not protect young people from the dangers of substance abuse. Studies have found that kids consistently report it easier to buy marijuana than alcohol or cigarettes. Strict, sensible regulation of lawful business owners will better limit access than the current deterrence of arresting 750,000 each year Americans for simple possession.
Wide room for debate exists for how a tax-and-regulate system should be implemented. However, with growing evidence that our current approach is wasteful and ineffective, it's clear: The time to re-evaluate marijuana prohibition has arrived.
Lund's Punch: After looking at the text of the new marijuana proposition, I am deeply concerned by the wording with regard to federal and state criminal law. Currently in California, Proposition 215 allows certain individuals to use marijuana to treat certain diseases. What we miss in this is that federal law prohibits the use and sale of marijuana. Counties like San Diego are caught between a rock and a hard place where federal and state law conflict. Until recently, the county of San Diego would not accept medical marijuana applications.
This proposed proposition completely contradicts federal law and would allows individuals convicted of marijuana-related crimes to be released and their records to be expunged. Other than the obvious legal problems, I believe that this proposition’s “major tax revenues” were conjured up by a couple of guys on 4/20.
Crane's Counterpunch: Nothing in the Constitution or federal law requires a state to criminalize specific conduct. We absolutely have the authority to tax and regulate marijuana. While the federal government could still enforce its marijuana laws against California residents, it does not have the resources nor the will to do so. Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court refused our county's case claiming that federal law prohibited complying with California's medical marijuana law.
Lund's Counterpunch: This initiative’s total disregard for federal law makes it irrelevant. Furthermore, the initiative eliminates marijuana from employer-based drug testing and prohibits the state of California from helping federal law enforcement officials enforce the law!
Also, how would the state regulate marijuana distributors in this instance? Are head shops the only places where you could buy it or would it be available at 7-Eleven, too?
Bryan Crane, who is the president of the San Diego County Young Democrats, earned his PhD at MIT in 2005, works at San Diego biotech Illumina and admits to being unable to run in flip-flops.
Andrew Lund is the current President of the San Diego Young Republicans.