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It's A Gray Area: Legalizing pot would solve many ills

October 18, 2013|By James P. Gray

At the end of my Sept. 7 column, I asked you to respond to me about any area of importance to you, and I would show to your satisfaction how it was made worse by marijuana prohibition. So many of you took me up on my offer that I want to share my answers. So here goes:

Under our curent system, marijuana is the largest cash crop in California — No. 2 is grapes. But when a product like marijuana is made illegal, it is pushed underground. So these are some of the obvious and not so obvious results:

•There is no licensing, so we have no idea who is raising, packaging or selling what.

•The time and place of sales are left to illegal dealers.

•There is no quality control. So today many sellers lace their product with methamphetamines, so that they can make more money from their soon-to-be addicted customers. That does not happen with cigarettes.

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•There are no age restrictions. As a result, it is easier for young people to buy marijuana than alcohol. Ask them yourself.

•The sellers of even legal medical marijuana are often prohibited from having bank accounts. So having large amounts of cash on the premises makes them prime candidates for robberies. This results in them arming themselves for their own protection, which results in more gun violence.

•The tougher we get on marijuana offenses, literally the softer we get on all other prosecutions. For example, today we have hundreds of thousands of arrests nationwide each year for marijuana violations, of which about 85% are for possession. This leaves fewer resources for the prosecution of offenses like robbery, rape and murder.

•Possessing or using marijuana puts many people on parole or probation back in jail or prison.

•Large illegal growers almost always raise their marijuana in our national forests, so their land cannot be confiscated by the government if they are caught. And because the growers have no concerns about environmental laws, they divert streams and otherwise pollute the land.

•The work ethic of our young people is being corrupted. Imagine a party of high school students on a summer evening. A well-known teenage marijuana seller is talking with another student who has a summer job. So how much money did you make this week flipping hamburgers or working at the car wash? $150? Boy are you a sucker, I can earn four times that much in an afternoon selling marijuana. And everyone there knows he is right.

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