Here's a way to end the federal government's war on marijuana

Let's end 40 years of failed drug policies

Most marijuana users never use any other illicit drug. America has spent at least $1 trillion on the drug war. More than one out of every 100 American adults is behind bars. Learn more about our failed drug policies at
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.

Every morning, the Google gnomes search the World Wide Web and bring me news about marijuana. My morning begins with reading stories about the latest federal action closing California dispensaries, the ecological damage created by marijuana cultivation, the violence of the Mexican drug cartel, the overcrowding of prisons, the medical benefits of cannabis, the danger of marijuana use and many other fascinating topics.

The one story that Google does not have, and the one I would be very interested to read, is: “What is the Obama administration going to do about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington?” And, even more important to me, how will that ruling impact its California crackdown on medical marijuana?

Obviously, I am interested in this subject matter because SN&R had a healthy marijuana-advertising section until the U.S. attorneys reversed their position and started cracking down on California dispensaries. Since then, they have successfully shut down—and in some cases, prosecuted—small-time dispensary owners who were operating legally under state law.

Meanwhile, they have been unable or unwilling to arrest banking executives who clearly violated both federal and state law. Justice is blind, so it probably didn’t notice the financial organizations’ large campaign donations, their obscene lobbying budgets and their gigantic legal force.

But I digress.

Something needs to be done to end the marijuana madness. The war on drugs is not working. We’ve had 40 years of failure. This failed policy comes at a high cost. We will continue to have high drug use. We will continue to ruin lives by sending family members and neighbors to prison. We will continue to destroy communities, especially minority communities, whose members are far more likely to be sent to prison for drugs. African-Americans comprise only 13 percent of drug users, but make up 59 percent of those convicted of drug-law violations. Forcing drug use and drug sales underground only increases risks of addiction and related crimes. Marijuana sales are the major financial support for the violent Mexican drug cartels. It is time to rethink our country’s drug policy.

But how to create an effective drug policy that also works politically? The Democrats and Republicans have been able to agree on a disastrous drug policy. But what about a new policy based on the serenity prayer?

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Here’s my proposed Serenity Drug Policy: We will not be able to stop people from using drugs. But we can help people who are abusing drugs. We can allow sick people to get the medical marijuana they need. And, in our wisdom, we can tax marijuana to support our government infrastructure.

I would love to start my day with a Google search that brings up a serenity drug policy, rather than just another day of reading about our failed war on drugs.