No on prohibition

In their recent effort to shut down dispensaries in the state, the U.S. attorneys in California seem to want to drive the marijuana industry back underground. In choosing to assert the primacy of federal law, they ignore the fact that the voters of California approved Proposition 215 and deny the state the right to determine its own destiny. They also willfully ignore the fact that prohibition simply does not work.

Let’s state this clearly: The people who would benefit most from reinstating prohibition are, of course, the Mexican cartel bosses whose laborers grow huge illicit gardens in the forests.

So now what? We seem to be at a tipping point. Either we go backward to prohibition, with its reliance on police and prisons and its corrupting black market, or we move forward toward a better system of distributing marijuana.

A few weeks ago, the trustees of the California Medical Association, which represents 35,000 physicians, called for the nationwide legalization of marijuana. The organization proposed that marijuana be regulated along the lines of alcohol and tobacco. As Dr. Donald Lyman, the physician who wrote the new policy, told the Los Angeles Times, current laws have “proven to be a failed public health policy.”

Then, on Monday, the Gallup Co. released a poll showing that 50 percent of Americans think it’s time that marijuana become legal in the United States—up from 46 percent last year, and just 12 percent in 1969.

The ball is now in the Legislature’s court. It can try to create clear, consistent and fair regulations and oversight, or it can simply legalize marijuana. Arguments can be made for both. Neither would eliminate the conflict between federal and state law unless marijuana was legalized nationwide.

Pot is now California’s No. 1 cash crop, estimated to bring in $15 billion annually. Lawmakers should be looking for ways to regulate and tax the herb—thereby creating jobs and generating revenues—not drive its production and distribution underground.