legalization may be
step in right direction
David Simon, creator of HBO series “The Wire,” has been one of the most outspoken advocates for drug law changes in recent times.
OF ALL THE developments of the new year, the beginning of legal cultivation and sales of marijuana in Colorado may be the most hopeful sign in America.
Notwithstanding contradictory federal law, the new approach (also coming to Washington state this year) may herald a welcome new attitude to substance abuse which, with time, could upend the 40 year-old so-called “war on drugs.”
It would not be a moment too soon.
Prohibition has proven ineffective and disastrous. It has created a permanent underclass of Americans, filled prisons to overflowing with non-violent offenders, and had a corrupting influence on law enforcement at every level.
But, some notable observers have their doubts.
THE NEW YEAR’S day events in Colorado were reported in The Guardian in the UK with an optimistic tone in the story Marijuana shoppers flock to Colorado for first legal recreational sales.
The story in The Guardian about the start of legal sales of pot in Colorado on Jan. 1. Click image to enlarge.
“The debut of the world’s first legal recreational marijuana got off to a smooth and celebratory start with stores across Colorado selling joints, buds and other pot-infused products to customers from across the United States,” the Guardian reported.
“Throngs lined up from before dawn on Wednesday to be among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana at about three-dozen licensed stores, with cheers erupting when doors opened at 8am local time.”
Colorado has become the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize the production, distribution and consumption of marijuana. It won’t be the last.
But before we rejoice, it would be wise to remember the words of one of the most prominent anti-drug war crusaders of modern times, TV producer David Simon, who has been on a mission since his days as a police reporter in Baltimore, Md., and then producer of “The Wire” for HBO.
We first mentioned him May 26 in the post Noted TV producer blasts war on drugs when he appeared at a panel discussion in the UK presented by The Observer.
In a report in that newspaper, Simon is quoted as saying that the so-called United States’ war on drugs is “a holocaust in slow motion.” He states that the war on drugs has always been conducted along racial lines. And he condemns it as one of the worst aspects of American society.
“[The war is waged] not against dangerous substances but against excess Americans,” he said. As he has done in numerous other venues, he accused successive administrations of allowing, through neglect, the development of a permanent underclass of citizens who have no prospect of employment other than the illicit drug trade.
In that same debate, Simon expressed opposition to the Colorado (and Washington) initiatives saying they represented a piecemeal approach.
“I want the thing to fall as one complete edifice. If they manage to let a few white middle-class people off the hook, that’s very dangerous,” Simon said.
The New York Times reported Thursday about the first day of sales of legal marijuana in Colorado. Click image to enlarge.
He may have a point, but a more optimistic tone was expressed Thursday in the page one story in The New York Times headlined Up Early and in Line for a Marijuana Milestone in Colorado.
“To supporters, it was a watershed moment in the country’s tangled relationship with the drug. They said it was akin to the end of Prohibition, albeit with joints being passed instead of Champagne being uncorked,” The Times reported.
Meanwhile, the state law still runs afoul of the absolute federal prohibition on pot, although there is a hopeful new sign coming from Washington, too.
As The Times reported, “Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Justice Department has given tentative approval for Colorado and Washington to move ahead with regulating marijuana.”
Could it be that the pendulum is now swinging in a more positive direction?
Many national initiatives begin at the state and local level (the minimum wage is another current example) and eventually work their way up to become federal law.
If the Colorado experiment proves to be a success, it may lead the way to a more sober view of drug policy first in other states and then, perhaps many years from now, at the federal level.
It’s far to early to speculate on this likelihood, but it is one of the most hopeful signs of the new year.
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