Washington looks like it could be the first state to legalize marijuana. A general consensus among state and local polls appears to show momentum on the affirmative side of proposition I-502. Public Policy Polling , Komo 4 and the Seattle Times latest polls all show the initiative leading with 53 to 55 percent of those most likely to vote supporting the measures adoption (Martin). This is a very significant Initiative with numerous Local, State and National legal and political ramifications. An examination of I-502 would seem to be in order. Marijuana, or Hemp was legal and it’s production was actively encouraged very early on in the colonies of what would become America. Following the American civil war marijuana was used in numerous medical products that were sold over the counter- with no restrictions whatsoever. The Marijuana tax act of 1937 was the first real law that made marijuana a restricted substance (NPR). The laws have fluctuated somewhat, but for the most part have continued towards less tolerance or zero tolerance models. Democrats removed minimum sentencing laws in 1970. Meanwhile, President Nixon was beginning his all out “War on Drugs” going so far as to call them “public enemy number one”(NPR). Reagan reinitiated mandatory sentencing making them the toughest to date in the mid 1980’s- 100 marijuana plants was now the illegal equivalent of 100 grams of Heroin (NIDA). Nearly one in eight persons in prison in America today are there because of marijuana laws- Thanks in no small measure to the war on drugs. America would go on to be the worlds leading incarcerator of its own citizens- 760 per 100,000 caught up within the American prison industrial complex. how do other countries fare- Britain is the next highest with 142 per 100,000 and everyone else is below 100 per 100,000 (PBS 1). That’s right, the war on drugs has brought us ten times the incarceration rate of the rest of the industrialized democratized world. States have begun to fight back however, as the bulk of the cost of incarceration falls to them: Many states now spend more money per prisoner for incarceration than they spend per child on education. Not to mention the social costs of broken homes, mothers and fathers in prison, law enforcement stretched beyond its means and unable to focus on more specific state and local needs. Indeed some seventeen states have passed exemptions to existing drug laws for medical marijuana. And several states have measures on the ballot for the 2012 election cycle that would legalize and or decriminalize marijuana to varying degrees (Campbell). Among these states is the state of Washington and ballot initiative I-502. I-502 states that“ The people intend to stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime and try a new approach” (Holcomb). Furthermore, three additional general goals are stated including allowing law enforcement to focus on local community priorities, removing the profit from the criminal element and to use it as a significant revenue source for the state at large. And finally, the measure seeds authority to the state liquor control board with respects to marijuana- regulation, taxation. There are a number of persons and groups on both sides of this issue. Police officers, Judges, Lawyers, Doctors, Religious and Civic organizations as well and even current medical marijuana providers (Johnson). They sit on both sides of the fence and make for unusual political alliances. Marijuana is a gateway drug say the no’s, everyone will be high if it is legalized, crime will go through the roof and society will collapse- many of the same familiar arguments that have driven the war on drugs all these years (Gaznier). Studies where marijuana laws are lax or nonexistent point to no difference in the number of people in society who choose to use marijuana; furthermore, per capita use of harder drugs is actually lower in these places-...
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