30 October 2010

Why George Soros Supports Legalizing Marijuana

Why I Support Legal Marijuana | George Soros
The Wall Street Journal | October 26, 2010
Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good. The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences.

Law enforcement agencies today spend many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition. The roughly 750,000 arrests they make each year for possession of small amounts of marijuana represent more than 40% of all drug arrests.

Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest. Police could focus on serious crime instead.

The racial inequities that are part and parcel of marijuana enforcement policies cannot be ignored. African-Americans are no more likely than other Americans to use marijuana but they are three, five or even 10 times more likely—depending on the city—to be arrested for possessing marijuana. I agree with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, when she says that being caught up in the criminal justice system does more harm to young people than marijuana itself. Giving millions of young Americans a permanent drug arrest record that may follow them for life serves no one's interests.

Racial prejudice also helps explain the origins of marijuana prohibition. When California and other U.S. states first decided (between 1915 and 1933) to criminalize marijuana, the principal motivations were not grounded in science or public health but rather in prejudice and discrimination against immigrants from Mexico who reputedly smoked the "killer weed."

Who most benefits from keeping marijuana illegal? The greatest beneficiaries are the major criminal organizations in Mexico and elsewhere that earn billions of dollars annually from this illicit trade—and who would rapidly lose their competitive advantage if marijuana were a legal commodity. Some claim that they would only move into other illicit enterprises, but they are more likely to be weakened by being deprived of the easy profits they can earn with marijuana.

This was just one reason the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy—chaired by three distinguished former presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, C├ęsar Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico—included marijuana decriminalization among their recommendations for reforming drug policies in the Americas.

Like many parents and grandparents, I am worried about young people getting into trouble with marijuana and other drugs. The best solution, however, is honest and effective drug education. One survey after another indicates that teenagers have better access than most adults to marijuana—and often other drugs as well—and find it easier to buy marijuana than alcohol. Legalizing marijuana may make it easier for adults to buy marijuana, but it can hardly make it any more accessible to young people. I'd much rather invest in effective education than ineffective arrest and incarceration.

California's Proposition 19, which would legalize the recreational use and small-scale cultivation of marijuana, wouldn't solve all the problems connected with the drug. But it would represent a major step forward, and its deficiencies can be corrected on the basis of experience. Just as the process of repealing national alcohol prohibition began with individual states repealing their own prohibition laws, so individual states must now take the initiative with respect to repealing marijuana prohibition laws. And just as California provided national leadership in 1996 by becoming the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, so it has an opportunity once again to lead the nation.

In many respects, of course, Proposition 19 already is a winner no matter what happens on Election Day. The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined a year ago.

These are the reasons I have decided to support Proposition 19 and invite others to do so.



Source: The Wall Street Journal

18 August 2010

Common Sense Economics and Social Policy

one high-quality "dank" nugget of ma...Image via Wikipedia

Opinion: Critics of Prop. 19 on marijuana rely on fear, not facts

Special to the Mercury News
Unlike alcohol and tobacco -- two legal but deadly products -- marijuana's estimated social costs are minimal.
According to a 2009 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers than they are for those who use cannabis and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers. It states, "In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user."
A previous analysis commissioned by the World Health Organization agreed, stating, "On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies."
So then why are we so worried about adults consuming it in the privacy of their own home?
California lawmakers criminalized the possession and use of marijuana in 1913 -- a full 24 years before the federal government enacted prohibition. Yet right now in California, the federal government reports that one out of 10 people annually use marijuana and together consume about 1.2 million pounds of it. Self-evidently, cannabis is here to stay. Let's address this reality and stop ceding control of this market to unregulated, untaxed criminal enterprises and put it in the hands of licensed businesses. Proposition 19 is a first step in this direction.
According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, the immediate effect of the measure would be to allow adults age 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana in the privacy of their own home. The agency estimates that halting the prosecution of these minor marijuana offenses would save state and local governments "several tens of millions of dollars annually," and enable law enforcement to reprioritize resources toward other criminal activities.
The longer-term impact of Proposition 19 would be to enable "local governments to adopt ordinances and regulations regarding commercial marijuana-related activities." These activities would include taxing and licensing establishments to produce and dispense marijuana to persons 21 and older. By doing so, "state and local governments could eventually collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenues," the office estimates.

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14 August 2010

U.S. District Court Decision: Perry v. Schwarzenegger

  The freedom to marry is recognized as a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clause. See, for example, Turner v  Safely, 482 US 78, 95 (1987) ("[T]he decision to marry is a fundamental right" and marriage is an "expression[ ] of emotional support and public commitment."); Zablocki, 434 US at 384 (1978) ("The right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals."); Cleveland Board of Education v LaFleur, 414 US 632, 639-40 (1974) ("This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."); Loving v Virginia, 388 US 1, 12 (1967) (The "freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.")
http://documents.nytimes.com/us-district-court-decision-perry-v-schwarzenegger?ref=us#text/p112