Legalization is the answer

Decriminalizing pot will put an end to cultivation as a criminal enterprise

Another effort to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana is now underway in California (see “Marijuana flashback,” by Tom Gascoyne, Newslines, page 14). Organizers are getting a game plan together to gather about 500,000 signatures to qualify an initiative—the so-called California Cannabis Hemp Initiative—for the November 2014 ballot. They have until February to do so.

Considering how expensive and ultimately destructive the war on pot has been in the Golden State, particularly to the lives of those who’ve been busted for using, growing or selling the drug, this legalization effort is commendable.

Prohibitions on marijuana have never worked. From the days of Reefer Madness to today, whether kids or adults, people will find a way to get their hands on pot. If there’s one thing criminalization has succeeded in doing well, it has been to keep the profit motive in place. Case in point: Many growers are against legalization. They don’t want their product—the No. 1 cash crop in the state—devalued. That’s telling.

Keeping pot illegal has led to a huge industry of pot profiteers growing under the guise of the state’s medical-marijuana law, the so-called Compassionate Use Act. Growers often plant much more marijuana than necessary by cultivating indoors or in remote locations.

In Butte County, this has led to grotesque environmental violations in the foothill regions, where whole hillsides have been graded and clear-cut to accommodate pot farms. There, the threat of chemical fertilizers seeping into the nearby watersheds, including the Feather River and Lake Oroville, is very real.

As it stands, marijuana cultivation is largely a criminal enterprise. Let’s not forget that people are still murdered over this herb. The only sensible answer to putting an end to the harmful costs society has been paying for decades is to legalize marijuana and allow adults to legally purchase it from safe sources in the daylight as they do other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.