Marijuana possession shouldn't be a crime

February 23, 2013

In response to Deborah Daniels’ [Feb. 4] column regarding legalization of marijuana, everyone can agree that we should protect children from harm—there is no debate there.

The question is how best to do this, and the current method of criminalizing marijuana is clearly not accomplishing the task.

By keeping marijuana illegal there are absolutely no controls and teens routinely have greater access to marijuana than alcohol or tobacco.

It may be instructive to consider this debate in two parts:

1. How we feel about marijuana—good, bad, or indifferent.

2. What should the consequences (if any) be for those who use it?

The first item is not the issue. The pros and cons of marijuana can be debated at length, including some of the unfounded claims in the column, but the real item is No. 2. What should be done with people who use marijuana?

As we have seen in places that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, there have been no disastrous consequences to society. There have been no increases in crime; there have simply been fewer arrests for possession, and there has actually been a decrease in teen usage.

In addition, substantial tax revenue could be generated. Michigan collected $10 million dollars from registration fees alone from medical marijuana dispensaries last year.

There are several ways to discourage behavior we may not favor. The campaign to lower tobacco usage is a prime example. We don’t arrest people for smoking cigarettes but still have managed to decrease their use and the attendant problems.

By legalizing marijuana the message we are sending is that while we may not support its use, we will be smart about how we manage this substance by controlling its production and distribution.

A recent Howey/DePauw poll indicated 54 percent of Hoosiers favored reform of marijuana laws.

It is time to stop wasting scarce law enforcement resources prosecuting otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose to use marijuana. We spend $150 million a year arresting and prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana offenders. In addition, Indiana has 1,300 marijuana offenders in state prisons costing an average of $60,000 each. This doesn’t make sense.

Alcohol Prohibition was a failure that created far more problems than it solved, and the current “war on drugs” is having even more disastrous results.

The personal use of marijuana by adults should simply not be a criminal matter.•


Neal Smith, chairman
Indiana chapter, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

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