Follow the sheriff’s lead

Muriel Strand is a fifth-generation Californian in favor of common sense

Sheriff Lou Blanas’ recently reported support for the initiative to legalize and tax expanded gambling is a stroke of political genius. Not only would it decrease the need for deputies by decreasing market demand for illegal gambling, but he also would get some of the new taxes to shore up his budget. Is this double or nothing?

So, let’s expand this budgetary windfall. We know our taxes pay for the arrest and imprisonment of many nonviolent “offenders” for various moralistic crimes like gambling and possession of recreational drugs. We all could win big—just like the sheriff—if we let consenting adults make their own personal decisions and taxed some of the more popular entertainment choices. It’s certainly worked well with cigarettes and alcohol.

That money could fill some of the budget potholes that are more important than law enforcement, such as La Leche League and Head Start. Real investment in future workers is indispensable if we’re to have real social security.

We ended Prohibition in 1933 because it wasn’t working; we also should end our unwinnable “war on drugs.” We know prohibition just strengthens organized crime, so the best way to arrest bad habits is through social checks and balances rather than more cops-and-robbers games. We need to stop pretending that this market sector can—or should—be illegal. Punishment doesn’t reduce crime; it just feeds violence and corruption.

Self-medication goes back to prehistory and is now fairly constant across races and classes. We also know that denial dates that far back and now contaminates the “science” found in most drug “education.” If youth believe this propaganda is good science, the technological innovation that is supposed to power our economic growth is in big trouble.

Legalization with regulation also is the best way to decrease gun violence, because illegitimate businessmen will use guns for protection unless we make sure their market plays by legitimate rules. And without the artificial scarcity of illegality, prices will plummet, and those market sectors won’t really be worth fighting for anyway.

Now that all levels of government have their backs to the wall, the fiscal leverage available with Sheriff Blanas’ sensible approach should not be overlooked by anyone. Another initiative may be in order.