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It's A Gray Area: Drug policy easing is victory for liberty

September 06, 2013|By James P. Gray

With the recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. that the federal government will not prosecute people for marijuana offenses as long as they are acting within the laws of their states, it is simply a question of time before the entire "war on drugs" is over.

In fact, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

This is not really a victory for those who want to use marijuana as much as it is a victory for liberty. The government should hold people responsible for their actions, but not for what they, as adults, put into their bodies.

As a practical matter, this is also a victory for the concept of federalism, upon which our great country was founded. In my presentations on this subject, I often ask members of my audience how many of them believe the federal government has all of the answers. All I get in response is snickers.

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So why not allow the states to determine how best to protect the safety and welfare of its residents regarding marijuana?

While on the campaign trail for the 2012 presidential election, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said often that this approach would result in some spectacular successes, which could be copied, as well as some significant failures, which could be avoided.

And besides, we really couldn't be in any worse shape regarding marijuana than we are now, so why not allow our 50 "crucibles of democracy" to come up with and implement their own workable plans?

By the way, when we finally came to our senses and repealed alcohol prohibition, we did not say that each state must now serve alcohol. No, we simply restricted the role of the federal government to assisting each state in enforcing its chosen laws.

So, for example, if a particular state remained dry and someone smuggled alcohol into that state in violation of its laws, the federal government would step in. And that approach continues to work quite well even today.

So why does this new development mean the end of drug prohibition is in sight? Because most estimates show that of all of the people in our country who use an illicit substance, 80% to 85% use only marijuana. And soon everyone will recognize that the relatively small number of people who use all other drugs combined will not justify the enormous bureaucracy that is required to support the current enforcement system.

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