Hilbert Morales  EL OBSERVADOR

Hilbert Morales

Marijuana, both recreational and medicinal, must be legalized at the national (federal) level. What has not been included in discussions of ‘legalizing marijuana, due to the current practices of law enforcement, is that our jails are full of youth who were convicted of having small amounts of marijuana in their possession at the time of being arrested. With the “Three Strikes’ laws on the books, too many youth’s lives were disrupted or damaged. California’s prison census exceeds its capacity. In response to Federal court orders, its realignment is transferring selected inmates back to local jails. The Santa Clara County Jails are receiving 1,400 inmates per year.

The U.S. Congress needs to legalize marijuana (pot) so as to create national standards for the entire nation. The current ‘bipolar’ schizophrenic approach to the recreational and medicinal use of pot creates too many disparities. What is being assessed is pot as the next large source of tax revenues. Bottom line considerations seem to trump human issues without assessed inclusion of social costs.

What is also not being considered is the very high cost to low-income communities especially communities of color. When their youth get ‘busted’, they are marked for the duration of their school years and life as an outcome of having ‘a record’. Many get redirected while serving jail sentences towards a life of crime. In addition, punitive jail sentencing needs to include behavior modification and counseling, i.e., rehabilitation. Today more is known about psychedelic drugs and the mitigation of damage done. Recently, the Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Clara, CA, endorsed the establishment of the Department of Behavioral Health which integrate the former Department of Health ($325 million budget) and Drug and Alcohol Dependency Services (DADS-$50 million budget).

The San Jose City Council recently passed an ordinance crafted to limit marijuana sales by limiting the locales where outlets may be operated. Generally, pot dispensaries cannot be near any school, day care center, etc. The tax and license fee revenues generated are already in the millions.

The real issue is that the sale of marijuana is still against federal law, which is the law of the land, and which takes precedence over local ordinances and state laws. The sale of pot, regardless of being ‘medicinal’ or ‘recreational’, is a federal offense. It is time that, as a nation, we admit that the ‘War on Drugs’ is ineffective. In fact, the transport of marijuana, whatever its source, is a very big business which permits cartels to conduct business without payment of any taxes. What that means is that their business gets subsidized by the rest of us who pay for roads, bridges, communications systems, transportation services, etc…i.e. the infrastructure which is needed and used by business. That is simply not right!

Washington, Colorado, and California are amongst those states where ‘medicinal pot’ may be sold. The sale of ‘recreational pot’ is now competing with the illegal criminal sale of ‘recreational pot’ which has been going on for decades. Today, 23 states have authorized the sale of recreational marijuana or medicinal marijuana. So this nation is like the two-faced mythical Janus with its state laws and federal laws that are not reconciled and are contradictory.

According to ‘All In’ by Chris Hayes, (MSNBC, July 8, 2014) 58% of Americans favor legalization of pot (at the national level). But several lobbies in Washington, D.C. are keeping the sale of marijuana illegal. The ‘opiate drug’ manufacturers are funding lobbyists to help the U.S. Congress keep the current national marijuana policy right where it is now: ILLEGAL at the federal level. The national legalization of marijuana is viewed as the biggest threat to the profits of those pharmaceutical firms which make, and sell, opiates and other psychedelic ‘brain drugs’. These ‘Big Pharma firms’ reap significant profits today. They are not willing to let legalized pot enter the market place at a lower more reasonable cost. Legalized pot may be easier and cheaper for those who want to use it to mitigate their pain or to get to a ‘high’ rather cheaply. Legalized Pot may be a cheaper and safer product than the legal prescription drugs on the market today. Two other opponents to legalized pot are the privately operated for-profit prison services and, believe it or not, law enforcement unions. Will the U.S. Congress ever ignore these lobbyists in order to legalize pot? Let’s legalize marijuana at the national level and thereby act in the interest of ‘We, The People’.


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