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OUR VIEW: Laws cannot stop marijuana use

By: WAYNE LAUGESEN
November 21, 2012
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Colorado voters legalized marijuana by a significant margin. The constitutional amendment passed even in El Paso County — a jurisdiction known for conservative, Christian values. This means the desire to stop using cops and courts to fight a common weed has come mainstream. It means legalization isn’t favored only by hippies and addicts.

Legalization passed by 10 votes in El Paso County, and we can say with near certainty that analysis of precincts within Colorado Springs will show relatively strong support.

Conservatives have a long history of supporting legalization, starting with the late William F. Buckley, Jr., the most notable founder of the modern conservative movement that put Ronald Reagan in the White House. In Colorado, marijuana legalization was championed by arch-conservative Tom Tancredo, a former member of Congress and former president of Colorado’s free-market Independence Institute. The list of conservative pundits and politicians who have promoted legalization is long and distinguished.

The Gazette urges readers to avoid recreational use of marijuana and other drugs, prescription or otherwise. A life of nonmedicinal drug use is substandard. We hope parents will do everything reasonable to keep children free of drugs.

Without taking sides in the legalization debate, we re-emphasize that marijuana prohibition has not worked. The drug is grown in closets, basements and flower pots. It thrives in ditches. It is sold cheaply on the streets. It is everywhere. Anyone who wants it can get it with almost no effort and at nominal expense.

We believe most voters in El Paso County oppose marijuana. We believe they also oppose wasting resources on a law enforcement battle that cannot be won.

Amendment 64, the law that ends prohibition, allows counties and municipalities to establish their own anti-marijuana laws. We’ve been through this before, with legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Everyone knows that medical marijuana has become a ruse for legalization. Anyone in Colorado has for years been able to get a physician’s note to buy marijuana even before full-fledged legalization. City officials pondered local prohibition of medical marijuana but decided against it.

City and county politicians may only waste the public’s time and money by passing laws to counter legalization. The drug is here, and it’s not going anywhere. It is a good bet that local sanctions would do nothing more than deprive local governments of sales tax revenues while enriching petty criminals who would buy the drug legally in nearby jurisdictions in order to sell it illegally at a markup. Criminal drug dealers want local prohibition. Local prohibition would do criminals an enormous favor, salvaging at least some of an easy old black market trade they enjoyed without the burden of regulation, fees or taxes.

More than ever, this is a time for schools, parents, grandparents and all community leaders to dissuade children from using the drug. It is a time to stop taking false security in prohibition laws that never made a dent in the marijuana trade. If individuals take responsibility for curbing drug abuse, they will have a far greater effect than any law politicians may pass at the state, county or local level.

That's our view, so what's yours? Please begin or contribute to a Facebook discussion below this article.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

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