Monday, August 18, 2014

The end of civilization as we know it hasn't occurred with the legalization of marijuana

Since the marijuana legalization law in the state of Washington has become “official” a few weeks ago, I suppose some people outside the state are what effect it has had on the orderly running of society and civilization in general. Has there been an increase in “stoned” junkies wandering the streets like zombies? Frankly, I rarely encountered one before (at least not on the street), and I haven’t encountered any lately that I could positively say were “high” on anything other than alcohol or their own self-obsession. 

Are people standing outside workplaces taking “pot” breaks? I suppose it depends on what “business,” but I haven’t made such an observation. How about an increase in driving under the influence of marijuana? Not that I’ve heard. Surely pot smoking has become “acceptable” enough that people feel comfortable taking an occasional toke while waiting at bus stations or standing in line at sporting events? Well, not precisely. How about a “toke” in your own front lawn, daring police to interfere with your rights? Don’t see much of that either. 

While it seems that there is an occasional individual who smokes weed in public just as a political statement, if there is any increase in usage, it is strictly a private affair. The truth of the matter is that marijuana legalization has had little “negative” impact on civilization, which suggests that it was never really the problem prohibition fanatics, law enforcement, the medical establishment and right-wing politicians claimed it was. Oh sure, sometimes you can catch the noxious aroma you would prefer it not to be found (like public transport), or strangers trying to sell you some out on the street as if you’ve gotten into the habit, but it hasn’t been the public menace as some have claimed.
The reality is that pot use hasn’t increased perceptively—those who are smoking it in public likely already did so privately—nor has it led to increases in crime or vehicular accidents. Some may suggest that there is a potential “positive” result of marijuana legalization, as far as persuading people not to use “hard” drugs when a legal one is available, although that has not been proven. 

All this hasn’t stopped some cities and towns to try to skirt the law by making it illegal to sell marijuana, which would seem counterproductive since it would make something a criminal activity when the “target” is legal to use. Naturally, small right-wing communities like Fife and Wenatchee are “fearful” and paranoid of marijuana use when alcohol consumption is far more dangerous to public order. Bigger communities like Kent also want to prevent the establishment of marijuana shops, and one gets the impression that making something legal which previously gave police an excuse to intimidate the population (especially minorities who don’t fit the right-wing political profile) is not a desired result, although the city council apparently is “considering” a zoning ordinance to allow businesses to open, which is being opposed by the Kent's Land Use and Planning Board. 

The law passed by Fife to prevent the retail of marijuana is in court, opposed by several plaintiffs who wish to exercise their right to do so. Meanwhile the Kent Reporter is reporting that "’The city of Kent Law Department will closely monitor these cases as they move forward, but there is nothing about them currently that would cause the department to caution the City Council not to proceed with consideration of zoning options for recreational marijuana as planned,’ said David Galazin, assistant city attorney, in an email last week.” 

I’m not certain exactly what this double-talk means, but Galazin went on to praise State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been rather politically cowardly in the matter. Ferguson claims that since there is no “specific” language in the initiative passed by the people that states that local communities cannot pass ordinances against the manufacture or retail of marijuana, that municipalities can do as they wish to ban it—which is actually an effort to de facto ban its use, if it is not “readily” available. However, common sense would suggest that the initiative’s sponsors and people who voted for it believed that the legalization of the manufacture and sale of marijuana was not to be completely disallowed by local governments; this is certainly a deliberate misreading of the initiative.  

While Ferguson supports the right of localities to “trump” the initiative, he nevertheless opposes efforts to allow federal law to trump state law. "I-502 accomplishes the legalization of marijuana, a regulatory system, and we believe local jurisdictions can opt out on the sale of marijuana but I do not believe federal law preempts the ability of Washington state to create the regulatory system, If a court concludes federal law preempts I-502 that could have the effect of concluding the initiative itself is unconstitutional."

It looks like a bumpy road ahead for the ultimate resolution of marijuana legalization, depending on how federal courts rule on it. The Obama Justice Department doesn’t seem keen on opposing the legalization laws in Washington and Colorado, and one would think that these states should be permitted to be a “testing ground” for what exactly are the effects of legalization. I happen to believe that the “effect” will be minimal, that use will remain largely among those who were likely to use it to begin with, the only change being that they can do so without fear of being arrested in the middle of the night while taking a private toke.

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