Noted comedian, pundit and provocateur Bill Maher wrote a review in the New York Times on Doug Fine’s book “Too High to Fail,” which addresses the marijuana economy. The matter is gaining considerable public momentum. Several states permit so-called “medical marijuana” and have passed or have proposed referendum and laws to lower sanctions or decriminalize possession. The failure of drug laws as public policy are legion and a growing number of American’s, perhaps the majority, are not interested in pursuing further failed policies, and instead seek rational approaches to marijuana. The days of the drug being viewed as a gateway to narcotics and a life in society’s shadows are long past. If the ability to prosecute or judge offenders required prosecutors and judges who have themselves used marijuana to recuse themselves from the proceedings, many would be disqualified.
The U.S. has the highest percentage of individuals incarcerated in the world as this map shows. Among the reasons for incarceration, drug related offenses are a significant portion of these.
There is a disconnect between the significant criminal sanctions for marijuana use, possession, sale and growing and the actual risks and danger of the substance. While nothing in excess is without risk, any healthcare professional can easily recount the dangers of alcohol on the body, on violence rates, accidents, crime, trauma and social disruption. Tobacco and firearms, both decidedly legal, cause untold deaths.
Medical marijuana is a back-door entry and access point to something that may have medicinal impact for some, but is clearly being used by many as a legal way to get high. The indications for medical marijuana prescriptions are so varied and non-specific in practice as to put the lie to those who would claim it has limited application to cancer-related nausea, glaucoma and the like. Medical marijuana has become a cottage industry where legal, diverting attention from the big picture of whether it warrants continued criminal treatment. Local governments are in conflict with states and the Feds. Medical data supporting the severe sanctions and disparate treatment is lacking. Many in society, including law enforcement experts are questioning the status quo and attempting to seek rational, realistic, and economical solutions.