Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Like most people, I had pooh-poohed the prediction that the world is going to end on Dec. 12, 2012 — that is, until I heard the Rev. Pat Robertson say he is in favor of legalizing pot. If the famous TV evangelist, known for his extreme right-wing opinions, is suddenly advocating that pot be regulated and treated like alcohol, perhaps I need to rethink all this end of the world business. Maybe it’s a lot closer than I thought.
Uncharacteristically, Robertson’s opinion was based not on religious views, but rather upon practical considerations. The minister made national headlines when he stated that the government’s war on drugs is a multi-billion dollar failure. He added that the cost to the country was more than just taxpayer dollars, that the nation’s incarceration rate was taking a toll on society at large.
I absolutely believe marijuana should be available by prescription for medical purposes. But I remain on the fence when it comes to legalizing any drugs for recreational use, even pot. Pot is probably no more dangerous than alcohol, but it is far from harmless. Outside of its medicinal value, there is little to recommend it. But it should be decriminalized. It is not like we have a shortage of people already in prison. When your incarceration rates are higher than those of Russia, you can’t really say, “Well you know, I just don’t think we are putting enough people in jail.” Prison should be for those who pose a significant danger to society — those who steal, maim and kill. I don’t lock my door at night for fear of some stoner stumbling into my house in search of a giant-size bag of Doritos to satisfy his munchies.
On the economic side, legalized and regulated marijuana would be a huge windfall tax-wise to cash-strapped states and the federal government. Some of the dollars that now disappear into the underground economy would at least come back to governments in the form of tax dollars that could be used for schools, infrastructure repairs and other worthy projects. To those who would object on the basis of moral grounds, we do not turn down tax dollars generated through the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, each of which kills many more people annually than pot. As distasteful as it might be to have our state governments partially funded by pot taxes, much of those revenues now go to finance criminal activities of gangs and the mafia. While I know these criminals won’t just disappear if we legalize pot, I would rather see a new school built with that money than see it go into the pocket of a mobster.
I wish I had the answer. This is a complicated problem, with strong arguments on both sides. However, I think most people would agree that the current policy is not working.
I do not know if Pat Robertson is right or not. But maybe one good thing to come out of all this would be a national debate on the issue that will take us in a positive direction.