Guy W. Farmer: After marijuana legalization, what's next?

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Voters in Colorado and Washington on Nov. 6 approved ballot initiatives that would permit the "recreational" use of marijuana, but pot is still categorized as an illegal drug by the federal government. So what happens next?

As a longtime opponent of drug legalization, I looked into this question and didn't find a definitive answer. "In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen," said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed that state's ballot measure. "If (marijuana) is still illegal under federal law, I can't imagine that 7/11 is ever going to sell it. . . . Don't break out the Cheetos or the Goldfish too quickly," he added. Good thinking, governor.

Elizabeth MacDonald of the Fox Business Network believes that the Colorado and Washington ballot measures create a "regulatory nightmare" for the states because they "cannot lend or handle payroll for any company in the (marijuana) business because that would be a violation of federal money-laundering laws."

However, marijuana advocates are pressuring the federal government to legalize pot, a movement that began when California legalized so-called "medical marijuana" in 1996. Nevada and 16 other states followed suit in subsequent years. Although medical marijuana isn't a serious political issue in Nevada, it has created multiple problems in California, where the Justice Department has closed 600 medical pot shops since the fall of 2011 for violating the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which says that marijuana is addictive and has zero medical value.

Since medical marijuana was legalized in California, Los Angeles has experienced a tripling of robberies around pot shops along with a 57 percent increase in aggravated assaults and a 131 percent jump in car robberies.

The federal crackdown on medical marijuana is ironic because President Obama and his "Choom Gang" buddies were enthusiastic pot smokers when he was a high school student in Hawaii. Nevertheless, the president and his very liberal attorney general, Eric Holder, don't seem to think that marijuana smoke is "medicine," and neither do I. Nor do I believe that potheads are "patients." Please!

I'm pleased to note that Nevada voters have twice defeated ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana, both times by decisive 60-40 margins. At the same time I'd like to thank the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project for spending millions of dollars on their failed project in the Silver State.

Although marijuana advocates in Colorado and Washington argue that legalization and "weed tourism" will raise millions of dollars for their state treasuries, many law enforcement officials are convinced that additional tax revenue from legal marijuana would be outweighed by an increase in criminal activity.

According to Fox Business, law enforcement-related studies have shown that pot dealing is connected to crimes ranging "from petty thefts to burglary to assault and murder, as well as money-laundering and smuggling." And a Rand Corp. study found that a high percentage of criminals are regular pot smokers.

In summary, drugs aren't dangerous because they're illegal; they're illegal because they're dangerous. Think about it.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, was a foot soldier in the War on Drugs in seven countries.


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