Dec 30 2009

Repotting

Published by at 9:56 am under Washington

mis

Marijuana is Safer book

A possible trend in the decade to come: Moves toward legalizing and regulating pot. That’s not a flat prediction. But if the legalization ballot measures on the California ballot next year pass – and there’s some reason to think they will – that could constitute a tipping point.

Not least because it would suggest to politicians, those who write and pass and enforce the laws, that an approach different from the currently dominant lock-em-up approach might actually be more popular than many of them now think.

There’s already some move in that direction. A Washington legislative proposal by Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seatte, in Washington would legalize marijuana and allow it to be sold in state liquor stores, to customers 21 and over, and subject to taxes.

Her immediate stated goals were fairly modest: She “wanted to start a strong conversation about the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.” And for this session, that may be as much as it does. But if California passes the ballot issues? The session in 2011 could look a little different.

All brings to mind a recently-read book, Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert, with the Northwest connection of a foreword by former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. The book’s point is not simply pro-pot; it argues that alcohol is substantially the more dangerous of the two, and that migrating some of the alcohol crowd over to pot would result in improved public safety. Their argument is compelling.

As are some of the anecdotal points. Stamper tells about the meetings he’s had with cops asking them how recently they got into a fight with someone drunk on alcohol – typically within hours or days at most – as opposed to stoned on pot, which is not at all. And this: The percentage of people in the Netherlands, where marijuana is legal, who have tried pot is about half of what it is in the United States. And much else.

From a politics point of view, a couple of chapters near the end of the book are especially noteworthy. The approach they take, comparing the problems associated with alcohol and pot and suggesting diminishment of them overall if pot were legalized, worked in Colorado and may be replicated in California. (The strategic model is worth study by anyone in politics.)

A recommended read, as we approach possible policy changes in this new decade.

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