SODOM & GOMORRAH: The initiative has already passed in some states like California. Tomorrow, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado will all have a chance to legalize marijuana use. A think tank claims that among the reasons to legalize marijuana, the change will cut into drug cartel profits, but it overlooks the obvious implication for American citizens.
The arguments and reasons to legalize marijuana are numerous and easy to find: there is a potential for tax revenue, there is a possibility at redirecting prosecutorial resources to serious criminal threats, there are various libertarian reasons that center on the freedom of personal choice, and so on. But quite recently the Mexican Competitiveness Institute (IMCO) has argued that one of the strongest reasons to legalize marijuana has to be the impact that the policy change would have on drug cartels.
The IMCO went further to say that the three referendums could pose the biggest challenge the Mexican drug cartels in decades, saying that the legalization of the drug for recreational use by the states would severely curb cartel profits. The IMCO feels that if marijuana was not underground, there would be a severe drop in price and the cartels would lose a fortune.
The IMCO is probably right. In fact, Mexico has already decriminalized drug use in the country, saying that the efforts of law enforcement should be geared toward fighting the producers of traffickers of the drugs. The cartels continue to subsist because of a large underground, illegal drug market in the United States.
However, the IMCO and other policy advocates almost completely overlook the legal oddity of legalizing marijuana. What is often left out of the discussion of reasons to legalize marijuana, or is at least relegated to an afterthought, is that marijuana use remains illegal in the United States. Regardless of what individual states decide to do, the federal government still prohibits possession, production, transportation, or sale of the drug.
When states like California decide to legalize the drug and provide medical cards for those permitted to use it, or when these three states decide that people can use marijuana for whatever purpose they want, they are giving citizens a false sense of security.
Possession of the drug is a misdemeanor in the United States and is punishable by up to one year in jail. Should the defendent possess a “large amount” of the substance, such as more than one kilogram, prosecutors can decide that the marijuana was being held for a sale. Drug sales are a felony offense and there can often be very strong penalties in federal court. Possession of such a quantity carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. If you live close to a school zone or in another designated “drug-free” zone, the penalties can double. If you possess a firearm, even if it was not used or its possession is not related to your possession of marijuana, you will receive a higher prison term and will be classified as a violent offender, meaning that you are generally held in higher security facilities alongside hardened career criminals.
But rest assured, the federal government has said that they won’t crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. Right.