In the upcoming California referendum on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske have something in common. Both are missing the forest for the weed.
According to recent polls, Californians are on the verge of approving the legalization of marijuana and overthrowing nearly a century of failed American drug prohibition. Hail to the Golden State.
In the four decades since President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” the toll of prohibition includes at least $1 trillion in taxes spent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Worse are the millions of lives damaged by prison time and street violence. In 2007, for example, about 500,000 people were in jail on drug charges.
Yet, while drug preferences go in and out of style, total use by Americans of all stripes remains virtually unchanged.
We parents understandably worry that legalization might encourage drug use by our children, but that’s a management issue, as with alcohol. The drugs are readily available anyway. Instead of hurting children, what legalization really does is undercut the gangs, keep our young people out of jail and reduce the violence.
Edward Schumacher-Matos is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.