On 4/20, Your One-Stop Marijuana Legalization Roundup

One way to mark the day: writing pro-legalization columns

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Potheads of the world, unite! Today is 4/20, the Christmas of the national cannabis subculture. The "holiday" purportedly owes its date to a group of teenagers in San Rafael, CA, who coined the term after repeatedly meeting at 4:20 p.m. to hunt for a marijuana patch in the forest. That time has since evolved into a day marked by (among other things) columns calling for marijuana legalization. (The Atlantic Wire has previously tracked the legalization debate, and California's November ballot initiative to allow recreational use in the state.) Despite the polarized nature of American politics, this subject is one on which liberals and libertarian conservatives can agree, as writers from both camps are rallying around the cause. Most Americans, however, still oppose legalization.

  • The Times, They Are A-Changing At Politics Daily, Andrew Cohen says that on this 4/20 "the end may be near for the much-whined-about era of criminalized marijuana possession and use." With an increasing number of states enacting medical marijuana laws and a renewed focus on the "enormous economic potential" of legalization, it has become difficult "to justify the continued disparate treatment between the two most popular recreational drugs." Cohen concludes that America is on a trajectory towards legalization: "Judicial America is evidently quite indifferent to it. Law and Order America is against it, but candid prosecutors and police will tell you they don't like to waste resources on simple pot possession or use charges. And now Legislative America sees all that taxable revenue just waiting to leave the pockets of otherwise law-abiding consumer-citizens. Blue Collar America seems pretty okay with it, too, according to the polls."
  • What Polls Are You Citing? Greg Risling of the Associated Press notes that the despite the large numbers of Americans believe that marijuana holds medical benefits, a majority still oppose legalization. According to a Associated Press-CNBC poll, the primary concern is concern "that crime would spike if marijuana is decriminalized or that it would lead more people to harder drugs like heroin or cocaine." In the poll, only 33 percent favor legalization while 55 percent oppose it. However, Risling seems to corroborate Cohen's generational analysis: "People under 30 were the only age group favoring legalization (54 percent) and opposition increased with age, topping out at 73 percent of those 65 and older. "
  • 'Put Down That Joint and Pick Up a Pen'  Writing for The Huffington Post, retired Seattle law enforcement agent Norm Stamper encourages readers to throw off their pessimism that "the willful inflexibility of special interests ... is simply too powerful to overcome" and take charge of the legalization battle. "A successful legalization campaign in California could catalyze a larger legal transformation across the country. "Attorney General Eric Holder, with the blessings of President Obama, has promised to honor the will of lawmakers in the individual states, whether those lawmakers be legislators or citizen activists," writes Stamper. "You don't have to be a Californian to strike a blow for freedom and justice ... What happens in the nation's largest state will certainly reverberate throughout the other forty-nine."
  • Think Of State Budgets  Writing at Big Government, Kristen Davis explains her support for legalization, pointing to her cash-strapped home state of New York as an example:
I approach the issue of marijuana legalization as an economic conservative and libertarian. It is an estimated $5 billion underground industry in my home state of New York. I say legalize, regulate and tax it to create new revenues so New York’s more regressive income and property taxes an be cut. .... I know talk of legalization of pot immediately sets off a clamor among the anti-drug crowd, but their rhetoric is generally exaggerated, erroneous or plain wrong. They are misinformed and the unfounded fears surrounding marijuana use has stuffed our prisons full of nonviolent people and saddled our state with outlandish incarceration costs for decades.
  • 'Keep Your Laws Off Our Bodies' A ReasonTV segment written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie outlines three reasons why the United States should legalize. The argument follows Reason's characteristically libertarian view on personal freedom: "we own our bodies and should be free to eat, drink, and smoke what we want. And to take responsibility for our actions, whether we're straight or we're stoned."

  • It's Time For Some Open Conversation  Steve Elliot at News Junkie Post calls for frank dialogue on the issues surrounding marijuana legalization. The biggest obstacle to rational legalization, he writes, is the negative stigma surrounding the drug.
Speaking honestly about cannabis has been to risk not being taken seriously, to invite ridicule and stoner stereotypes, to risk dismissal from our jobs, to take a chance even on losing our families and having our homes taken from us — and to risk legal consequences including arrest and lengthy incarceration. Why are the anti-pot forces so scared of an open discussion? If the facts are on their side, why must anti-marijuana zealots try to shut down the debate? If health is the issue, why aren’t the extensive scientific studies considered relevant? If crime is the issue, then why can’t we at least discuss alternatives to the failed criminal model?
  • Whoa There, Dudes!  Stephan C. Webster at True/Slant gives a voice of dissent. He argues that legalizing marijuana could have a bad consequence for smokers--higher taxes. Although he expects legalization to have support from anti-tax libertarians, he worries that taking the plunge would lead to "insane taxes" on the drug. Webster concludes by saying that legalized marijuana would face the same tough enforcement it does now: "In other words, a legal cannabis market could very well be controlled by the same bunch of hard-ass, lizard-brain flat-tops that have been busting kids for decades."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.