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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  The Denver Post supports marijuana legalization — before opposing it
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Thursday, October 18,2012

The Denver Post supports marijuana legalization — before opposing it

By Paul Danish

The Denver Post ran an odd editorial on Oct. 15 in which it averred its support for marijuana legalization, but opposed the passage of Amendment 64, which would legalize marijuana in Colorado.

Legalization should be done by the feds, not the states, the paper argues.

In a perfect world, the proper way to end the war on marijuana would be for Congress to end it. But this isn’t a perfect world, and it is especially imperfect insofar as the war on marijuana is concerned.

“It’s long past time for the federal government — both Congress and the executive branch — to move toward a less punitive and more realistic approach toward marijuana,” the Post asserted.

True enough — and the paper should have started its analysis by asking the obvious question that follows from that assertion: Why haven’t they?

Most members of Congress have known for decades that the war on marijuana was a multi-billion-dollar-a-year failure, that it was doing enormous violence to Americans’ civil liberties and to the respect for law generally, that it was infusing the twin poisons of tyranny and distrust throughout our national life, that it was fueling criminal enterprises as large as anything prohibition produced. They have also known that smoking pot is no more harmful than drinking beer, and that arresting nearly a million Americans a year on marijuana offenses was and is a monstrous injustice.

As for the executive branch, President Obama smoked pot like a chimney as a teenager, and it obviously didn’t keep him from succeeding later in life, either by killing his ambition or making him stupid. He knows from first-hand experience that the most dangerous aspect of marijuana use is the risk of getting caught.

So why haven’t the feds acted? No mystery there. When voting for president or members of Congress, most Americans don’t take a candidate’s views on marijuana into consideration. To most voters, the issue isn’t as important as national security, or jobs and the economy, or taxes and spending, or health care, or education, or the environment, or a host of other issues.

So most candidates for federal office duck the issue and go with the status quo ante; they take another snort of prohibitionist moonshine and ignore the ugly realities of pot prohibition behind the curtain.

When it comes to marijuana reform, both the president and most members of Congress are like alcoholics in denial, and they will continue to be until the American people do an intervention.

Which is one of the things that passage of Amendment 64 will do. Legalizing marijuana on the state level will send a brusque message to Congress that the time has come for it to act. More important, it would tacitly give Congress permission to act.

The Post seems to find this disconcerting, but state and local action before federal action is hardly unprecedented on social issues. And state action ahead of Congressional action is particularly appropriate in the case of marijuana law, since the states do most of the enforcing (about two-thirds) and pay most of the cost of enforcement.

The feds — both the executive branch and Congress — have made it abundantly clear that they won’t lead on marijuana reform, a point the Post essentially concedes. There is no reason for the states to defer to them. To do so would be like waiting for Godot (spoiler alert: he was a no show).

The Post also frets that if Colorado “becomes an island with legal marijuana” by passing Amendment 64, it would attract marijuana tourism from other states. Well yes, but this would not necessarily be a bad thing — either for Colorado or the tourists. For many years the state of Nevada was a gambling island. It did wonders for the state’s economy and provided millions of Americans from other states with safe, honest places to gamble.

The Post claims that there would be no way to stop out-of-staters from coming to Colorado to stock up on pot to take home with them. Perhaps not, but why stop them? If they were buying legal marijuana from licensed distributors in Colorado, they wouldn’t be buying marijuana from drug cartels like the Zetas. That’s a big plus for everyone except the Zetas.

Moreover, chances are that if Coloradans pass Amendment 64, Colorado will not remain a marijuana island for long. Polling shows American public opinion is shifting in favor of marijuana legalization, and it’s widely assumed that if Colorado (or Washington or Oregon, which also have legalization measures on the ballot this year) votes to legalize, others will swiftly follow.

The Post also objects to the fact that Amendment 64 is an amendment to the state constitution instead of an initiated law that the legislature could modify and perfect. The reason for that, of course, is that the Colorado legislature has more than once gutted citizen-passed laws in the name of perfecting them. That’s why there is a lot of stuff in the Colorado Constitution that in a perfect world wouldn’t be there.

The Post thinks fears that the legislature would do such a thing with Amendment 64 are unfounded, and that the sponsors of the Amendment are being overly paranoid.

That’s an astonishing assertion on the Post’s part, considering that not 30 days ago the Legislative Council, a standing committee of the legislature, censored the pro-Amendment 64 section of the voter guide that the state sends out to two million Colorado households by removing three of the supporters’ strongest arguments.

Putting Amendment 64 in the Constitution instead of enabling hostile politicians to mess with it isn’t being paranoid. It’s being prudent.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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"smoking pot is no more harmful than drinking beer"

Yeah, and a game of tiddlywinks is no more harmful than a game of Russian roulette. There is absolutely no comparison between cannabis and booze.  Cannabis is MUCH, MUCH safer than alcohol and by EVERY objective measure. Alcohol is toxic. Drink too much and you die. Cannabis is non-toxic. It's literally impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis. Alcohol abuse is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. (It turns out drinking poison isn't good for you.) Cannabis use is not associated with increased mortality. Alcohol is addictive. In fact, you can be so addicted to alcohol that you can literally die FROM WITHDRAWAL. (Got that? Drinking booze can kill you. And if you become addicted, NOT drinking booze can also kill you.) Cannabis is not physically addictive. If you want to talk about "psychological addiction," be my guest (of course, that's also possible with alcohol...or sex, or shopping, or video games, or a thousand other things that humans find pleasurable), but let's all at least acknowledge that there's no cannabis equivalent to delirium tremens. Alcohol, as a disinhibitor, is a MASSIVE contributor to violence. It's involved in something like HALF of all violent crimes and 70% of domestic abuse cases. (Stop and think about those numbers for a second.) Cannabis has never been linked to violence. If anything, it DECREASES the risk of violence by pacifying the user. While they can be overstated, there's a reason we have the stereotypes of the "belligerent drunk" versus the "mellow stoner." I know which one I prefer to be around. And yet we live in a society in which deadly, addictive, and violence-promoting booze is not only legal, it's culturally celebrated.  Meanwhile, we arrest and incarcerate people who attempt to make a safer choice. 

 

Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke. One major research study reported that a single cannabis joint could cause as much damage to the lungs as up to five regular cigarettes smoked one after another. Long-time joint smokers often suffer from bronchitis, an inflammation of the respiratory tract.

 

Marijuana is dangerous and it kills: it is a leading cause of injury crashes. Sure, marijuana may have never killed anyone as proponents often claim – just as a bottle of whiskey has never killed anyone. What kills people is when someone smokes the marijuana, drinks that bottle, or both at the same time, putting their own and the lives of many innocent people in critical danger. Here’s some examples of people killing and maiming others when under the influence of marijuana with or without combining with alcohol: 16 year old Teen Dies after Rolling Car off Cliff – Marijuana in System Woman Kills Self and 7 others While High on Marijuana On August 29, 2009 Diane Schuler, while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana drove the wrong way on a freeway killing herself and 7 others including her 2 year old daughter, 3 nieces and 3 men in the SUV she hit head on. She smoked pot one hour before driving. Man Attacks Flight Crew after Eating Marijuana Cookies Man “screamed, dropped his pants and attacked crew members on a cross-country flight, forcing its diversion to Pittsburgh, the FBI said”. Kinman Chan later claimed he had eaten marijuana cookies before his flight. Source ‘Psychotic Pothead’ Shoots Pentagon Police “…John Patrick Bedell liked it (marijuana) too; in fact, he was a marijuana addict. But he inflicted a lot of pain on other people, including the two guards he shot at the Pentagon.” Young Man Kills 9 and injures 5 while another Kills 2 Wounds 13 – Both avid marijuana users “…The pain has also been evident in other cases, such as admitted pot lover 16-year-old Jeff Weise, who murdered nine people and injured five others in Red Lake, Minnesota and Charles “Andy” Williams, a regular marijuana user who smoked the drug just before killing two schoolmates and wounding 13 others in a San Diego suburban school…” The August 2009 La Brea raging fire in Santa Barbara County was touched off by a “cooking fire in a marijuana drug trafficking operation … believed to be run by a Mexican national drug organization.” Man Kills 4 Children on Freeway – Nickname is “Smokey” “…four children and the driver of a van died when the van hit a concrete bridge abutment after veering off the freeway. Investigators reported that the children nicknamed the driver “Smokey” because he regularly smoked marijuana. The driver was found at the crash scene with marijuana in his pocket. (COMMERCIAL) Woman Hits Man, Leaves Lodged in Windshield in Her Garage Two Days Until He Dies “…after a night of smoking marijuana, drinking and drugs, a former nurse’s aid hit a homeless man with her car. “Jurors saw pictures of the twisted, bruised and bloody body of a homeless man today as a former nurse’s aide went on trial on charges that she hit him with her car, drove home with his body lodged in the windshield and left him to die in her garage.” (NY TIMES) Man Kills Two in Head-On Collision George Lynard was convicted of driving with marijuana in his bloodstream, causing a head-on collision that killed a 73 year-old man and a 69 year-old woman. Lynard appealed this conviction because he allegedly had a “valid prescription” for marijuana. Lynard appealed this conviction because he allegedly had a “valid recommendation” for marijuana. A Nevada judge agreed with Lynard and granted him a new trial. The case has been appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. (DEA) Mother’s Day Bus Crash Kills 22 People “Frank Bedell should never have been behind the wheel of a bus on Mother’s Day… He was high on marijuana and dizzy from Benadryl. The Mother’s Day bus crash near City Park that killed 22 passengers is being blamed on driver Frank Bedell, who police say was seriously ill and under the influence of drugs when he got behind the wheel of the motor coach that morning. Safety experts say stricter federal rules governing the inspection of buses and the screening of drivers might have prevented the accident.” (NOLA). Teenagers Judge Calls “Hyenas” Murder Father of Three They are not hard to find. Every few days brings a fresh tale of feral youths meting out random acts of violence with unfathomable intensity. Apart from the shocking brutality, the speed with which a seemingly trivial argument or confrontation can assume murderous proportions, the stories have a common theme: the perpetrators of the violence, often in their very young teens, were high on ’skunk’ at the time.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

The Denver Post is so utterly devoid of principle and integrity that it often talks out of both sides of its mouth simultaneously, as in its mealy-mouthed claim to support the legalization of cannabis (just not the very modest reform on the ballot):


"We believe possession and use of marijuana [sic] should be legal ... we think the risks are not worth the potential benefits ... we're not prepared to welcome such a step by Colorado ..."


Miserable, contemptible, ignorant, lying, incoherent idiots!  The truth is so alien to the DP that one could almost invert its blitherings and have a sensible and coherent political program.

 

Tom
The Denver Post obviously realized it had to do a Mitt Romney and flip flop so as not to lose any subscribers. Now it can ride the fence - it favors but does not favor legalization. Pathetic!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

MYTH:  Marijuana is harmless.

 

FACT:  According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 2010 there were over 572,000 marijuana-involved admissions to hospital emergency rooms. The same report inddicated that during the same timeframe, an estimated 11,406 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product, sometimes referred to as "synthetic marijuana" and commonly known by street names such as "Spice" or "K2".

 

 
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