As many Americans go to the polls next week to vote for a President, an interesting issue will be on ballots in three states: the legalization of marijuana. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are attempting to challenge the federal government and to end pot prohibition altogether. Washington’s 502 Initiative, Colorado’s Amendment 64, and Oregon’s Tax Initiative, Measure 80, are all in favor of legalizing the possession of marijuana.
Washington’s initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of pot. Alison Holcomb, the spokeswoman for Yes on I-502 said in a statement, “It’s not about getting high. This is about laws that work better for our community.”
Legalizing pot would free up law enforcement and the judicial system to focus on more serious crimes. It would also prevent otherwise law-abiding citizens to avoid being tagged with criminal records which often have lifelong consequences.
The measure is very popular with local law enforcement in Seattle, Washington. Pete Holmes, the current city attorney sponsored the legislation Initiative and dozens of judges and lawmakers have endorsed it.
In Colorado, Possessing even one joint of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1000 fine. A second possession conviction carries a mandatory sentence of 15 days. This year, Colorado came out with a study that found 210,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession since 1986. Half of the arrests happened in the past 10 years. 86 percent were people 34 years of age and younger. One-third of the arrests were of Latino and African American minorities. The study was based on FBI-UCR crime data.
“Marijuana possession arrests create permanent criminal records easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks,” said Loren Siegel, Esq., co-director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and one of the report’s authors. “A criminal record for the ‘drug crime’ of marijuana possession creates barriers to employment and education for anyone, including whites and the middle class.”
I have written before about the need to reform marijuana laws here in Louisiana. I have even suggested that legalizing marijuana would be the best and most effective way to end the nightmare of synthetic drugs that has caused law enforcement such a headache over the last couple of years.
While we have made some strides in our approach to marijuana prosecution in New Orleans specifically, the overall approach to marijuana statewide is still stuck int the dark ages. Whatever the reason, and whatever the potential benefit, it is time to take a look at reforming marijuana laws in Louisiana.