Two Is Enough D. C. has formed to fight off marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia this fall. Although it has taken years to reduce the smell and litter of cigarettes, the public health benefit could be erased and replaced with the widespread infiltration of marijuana smoke.
Polls show that DC voters favor legalization, but they need to look at what has happened in Colorado and Washington state. One wonders how, after seeing what alcohol and tobacco do to health, voters can want a third vice. The answer appears to be the huge amount of money backing full legalization.
The Money Behind Marijuana
The change of public opinion has gone hand-in-hand with the large influx of money to fund marijuana legalization. Since the early 1990s, money-fund manager George Soros has been providing financial backing to groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project. Together Soros and the late Peter Lewis donated approximately 100 million dollars to legalization and medical marijuana campaigns. The well-organized marijuana lobby has gained some backers in Congress: Dana Rohrabacher of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Stephen Cohen of Tennessee.
Laws revolving around marijuana have gradually changed. Support is especially strong in the western states, where politics involves personal freedom and individual rights. A movie released in 2011, Guns and Weed, reflects the views of many who have advocated for this freedom. Unfortunately, the freedom issue has become stronger than protecting children. Legalization legitimizes a vice and promotes the greed of both dealers and governments, at the expense of future generations.
The normal course for changing marijuana laws has been decriminalization, followed by introducing medical marijuana and finally allowing voters to tax and regulate. About a year ago, medical marijuana was implemented in the district. This spring the city council voted to decriminalize pot, with a $25 fine.
Only one city council member in Washington, DC, Yvette Alexander, stood firm against the measure. The fine for kids smoking marijuana in public is now less than the fine for smoking cigarettes. It is likely that the marijuana lobbyists, such as NORML and Drug Policy Action Committee, have worked long and hard to gain the support of politicians in Washington, DC.
Typically voters don’t even notice what is happening because these lobbying groups talk only from the side people going to jail or the inefficiency of drug wars and suggest that drug money could go to governments instead of criminals. The first medical marijuana initiative passed in California back in 1996. California voters rejected full legalization in 2010, despite being outspent 10 to 1.
How Congress Can Respond
One member of Congress, Andy Harris of Maryland, a physician, has tried to stall the implementation of decriminalized marijuana in Washington, citing the negative effects it has on children. The marijuana lobby waged an expensive, negative advertising campaign against Harris and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who has also stood firm against the pot lobby.
Congress has the ability to slow legislation in the district. A House budget bill passed last month included a provision to block not only a legalization effort but the decriminalization bill that is now in effect. Rep. Harris argued that the law has no drug-treatment component, even for minors, and that the fine for a young teen who is caught with a joint would be half that of the city’s $50 ticket for underage smoking of a cigarette.
A three-member D.C. Board of Elections voted unanimously today to approve the ballot initiative. Malik Burnett, leader of the D.C. Cannabis Coalition, turned in more than 57,000 signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot. However, he was not sure how Congress would ultimately react to this legalization effort, but he said that the vote “will send a message that D.C. is serious about reforming its marijuana laws.”