Marijuana legalization is a victory for the war on drugs - Purdue Exponent: Columnists

Marijuana legalization is a victory for the war on drugs

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Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 10:00 am | Updated: 5:58 pm, Mon Nov 19, 2012.

Please stop arresting people who smoke the “wrong” things and become high.

It’s morally wrong. It costs too much. It causes real wars. It’s just out of place, like most incriminating drug laws have been until the enlightened citizens of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana on Election Day, perhaps the greatest victory of this election cycle. The problem with drugs is not their effects after usage, but the consequences resulting from them being illegal.

Criminalizing those who smoke marijuana is morally wrong because it only hurts the user. If you believe you have the liberty to live your life while not infringing upon the rights of others, then the drug laws are contrary to your values. Drug users aren’t out of line, the law is. Incriminating those who use marijuana is like babysitting.

Our babysitting efforts cost too much because we’ve been criminalizing the innocent since President Nixon’s declaration of the war on drugs in 1971. Since then, more than half of the federal prison population consists of drug convicts, four of five of which are arrested for possession.

In addition to Mexico’s $10 billion drug war expense, which is likely understated, the Federal government has provided $1.9 billion in aid for the drug war only. These amounts are dwarfed when compared to cartel profits from American consumers, estimated to be nearly $50 billion per year.

Making marijuana illegal doesn’t eliminate it. Rather, it only reduces its supply. When supply is reduced, demand is not met as it would in a free market. The resulting increase in the price of marijuana increases the incentive to continue producing and selling it, despite any legal ramifications.

Though most of us have no desire to stand up for imprisoned junkies or worry about access to expensive drugs, we should care about the war we inflame in Mexico and along our southern border due to our laws and policies. Since the early ‘90s, the drug war has successfully decentralized major drug lords into scattered cartels.

The dreaded border spillover is now a largely unreported reality in southern Arizona. Are the media too embarrassed to notify us that when driving along Interstate 8, you will find signs reading, “Travel not recommended … Visitors may encounter armed criminals and smuggling vehicles driving at high rates of speed?”

Drug cartels are now the new sheriff in some parts of Arizona, according to Paul Babeu, Arizona’s Pinal County sheriff. Babeu has said “Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona” and that President Obama’s legislation to send 1,200 new troops to the border is far too weak to regain control of this part of our country. One issue is that Pinal County is not a border county, but is situated between Tucson and Phoenix.

“We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don’t have the resources here locally to fight this,” Babeu said.

Ceding parts of Arizona and additional debt burdens undermine the human toll of enforcing drug laws. Depending on your definition of drug-related violence, rough estimates show anywhere from 35,000 to 67,000 Mexicans have been killed, 10,000 are missing and 1.6 million have been displaced since 2006 by the Mexican drug war. The price tag to babysit those who want to get high cannot be justified.

Advocating the legalization of marijuana doesn’t pretend that it’s safe to use or defend the atrocities drug cartels have committed. The only point being advocated is using common sense. Like most of us, I don’t ever plan on using marijuana and don’t encourage its use. We should continue to wear our “pugs not drugs” shirts and keep saying “no.”

Reggae superstar Bob Marley, whose music resonated with messages of peace and love, was a receiver of the Jamaican Order of Merit, the nation’s fourth-highest honor. Marley was Rastafarian, a movement that embraces the spiritual use of marijuana, which is incriminating by our laws. If we can learn anything from Marley, it’s that smoking marijuana doesn’t make a criminal. We can start listening to his eternal message of peace and love, not abusive criminalization, incarceration and war.

We must lighten up and reconsider enforcing unnatural laws. Bob Marley, on behalf of Marcus Garvey, left us with words of personal liberty: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Jeff Bart is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and can be reached at opinions@purdueexponent.org.

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