Kudos to the residents of Breckenridge and Denver, Colorado! Now, in those municipalities, adults over the age of twenty one are legally allowed to possess (and I assume USE) up to an ounce of pot. Good on ya, mates! A small step forward in the fight towards re-creating a rational policy towards marijuana in a seemingly endless battle that will take many, many small steps until we reach sanity.
However, (there's almost always a 'but') the logical argument behind "decriminalization" does not hold water. It may now not be illegal to possess or use marijuana in Breckenridge, but it is still illegal to grow it or sell it. That's right, you can have it, but where did it come from!? Did it just appear out of thin air? Did it get found on the ground, thrown out the window of a passing car? Was it left here by little green men? Herein lies the logical downfall of marijuana 'decriminalization.'
If it's legal to possess but you still have to associate with criminals, or worse yet BE A CRIMINAL to get it, then there's not much gained. We are still left with a policy that cannot tap into the likely huge tax revenues. A policy that cannot control the quality of the product or limit the quantity of consumption. And, in my view, the worst part of either illegality, or decriminalization - a policy that contains inherent illogical fallicy.
This is how we try to show our superior intellect to our children? To our nation? To the rest of the world? We create a policy that replaces some of the old ridiculous myths like "pot will turn you into a raging, devil worshiping, psychopath," or "if you smoke pot you'll use it as a gateway to much harder drugs and become a junkie, loose everything and end up jumping off a bridge," with these brand new absurdities.
Pot users (estimates vary widely, but most put the number in the 96 million range) have always know that the government and corporate propaganda is complete bullshit. So what do we do? Create "decriminalization!" This is where we tell people "you know, pot really isn't that bad. It's no worse (and by every indication FAR BETTER) than alcohol and tobacco, so remember all that stuff we said before, yea, um, we were just kidding. But NOW, okay, you can have some 'cause it's fine if you want to be responsible when you use it, but just don't try to grow it yourself. Or buy it. Or, and this is the worst thing you could do, DON'T YOU DARE SELL IT!!!"
This type of local legislative action will eventually backfire on the marijuana law reform movement. Decriminalization does three things. First: it creates an even larger black market for an already black market commodity. No doubt local decriminalization will create an increased curiosity in young people, and maybe some not-so-young people, that will lead to an increase in demand, that will lead to a need to increase supply even if only for a short time. Enter: the large scale drug dealer (read: Cartel or Gang). Now these organizations have a place where there product is no longer illegal. Where do you think they will concentrate their marketing efforts? If you could only possess Coca-Cola in Richmond, Virginia, or eat Oreo cookies in Cody, Wyoming, where do you think those manufacturers would spend their advertising dollars? This will in every likelyhood lead to an increase in the EXACT things the DEA and 'concerned parents groups' currently warn us about - potentially violent turf wars, an increase in crime due to the presense of more criminals, and gateway drug use because of the increased availability of harder drugs due to the presence or REAL drug dealers. Not that Breckenridge is going to become a war zone, a la Miami and Medellin in the 1980's or Compton and Detroit on the 1990's, but a statistical increase in "undesirable behavior" is on the way. A perfect "I told you so" for the prohibitionists.
Second, decriminalization rather than legalization reinforces the idea that government cannot be trusted to speak the plain truth or utilize factual evidence for the benefit of society. Okay, so now we say "Pot is not as bad as we've lead you to believe. You can and should use it responsibly only as an adult and you're probably not going to have anything bad happen if you do use it responsibly." Let the distrust metastasize! As if there needs to be more resons not to believe our societal leaders - Bank Bailouts; WMD's; What Global warming?; No New Taxes; Just Say 'NO'; Watergate; McCarthyism... you get the idea.
Third, and most important, it leaves money on the table. Decriminalization does not take advantage of the revenue created when pot is leaglaized, regulated, and taxed. Look no further than Oaksterdam, Ca. for your proof. While we still spend billions of dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people (not to mention the windfall mega-profits for the mandated 'rehabilitation' facilities) under a policy of de-criminalization we see all of the social harm of prohibition, but none of the financial benefits of legalization.
Isn't it time we created a more logical, sane, and profitable drug polocy? Isn't it time we admitted that marijuana and hemp are not the 'devil weed' they've been branded? Isn't it time we started turning a profit on 95 million plus pot smokers rather than spending a kings ransom to indoctrinate them into the legal system?
I don't want to have to bail my son out of jail because he smoked pot. I don't want my son to have a criminal record because he smoked pot. I don't want my son to be eliminated from the political process because he's a felon because he smoked pot.
And I don't even smoke pot.