Special to the News
Rocky Mountain News
November 14, 2005
The Rocky Mountain News editorializes that the city of Denver must enforce the state pot law in the wake of the repeal of the city ordinance by voters, as if some profound prinicple were at stake here ("City must enforce state pot law," Nov. 7). In fact, the marijuana laws of Colorado and the United States are a profound negation of American principle.
First, the marijuana laws are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court denied Woodrow Wilson's attempt to extend wartime prohibition of alcohol to the post-World War I era, necessitating the 18th Amendment, later wisely repealed.
Where is the constitutional amendment enabling marijuana prohibition?
Next, the laws were founded and steeped in racism against Mexicans and African-Americans. A perusal of the Congressional Record for 1939 is educational in this regard, albeit shocking to modern sensibilities.
Third, the laws make no sense. Although Mayor John Hickenlooper frets about marijuana as a "gateway drug," all reputable research suggests that much more easily obtainable cigarettes and alcohol are the "gateway drugs" of America's youth. Shall we lock up Hickenlooper himself in a cell with the Coors family?
Finally, the entire drug panic in American life is like a national mental illness. The fanatical element of this vice crusade was instituted by two presidents (Nixon and Reagan) in whose adminstrations the CIA undisputably engaged in massive drug smuggling. This crusade has effectively elevated the laws of contraband above the laws of theft and murder; has institutionalized the suborning of perjury in the federal prosecutorial organs; has chipped away at several items of the Bill of Rights such as the Fourth Amendment; has corrupted the intelligence organs of the world with a wash of easy drug money; has erected narcocracies and terror in parts of Latin America and Asia; all without making much of a dent in consumption.
What sort of inhumanity spawns the belief that the vice of a drug habit can be stemmed by draconian law enforcement? Or that such a practice enhances the safety or comity of our civilization? The religious prohibition of alcohol in the Muslim world has been vigorously enforced since the seventh century, yet millions of Muslims still drink: Is that a model for America? Better to take the money and erect Betty Ford clinics for the poor, and to frown on the vice through social disapprobation, as we do with other vices.
Smoking pot is indeed a vice. It can sap the will and damage the lungs. But overall, marijuana is indeed safer than alcohol, as all but the purchased science of the prohibitionists recognizes.
The acrid smell of marijuana smoke pervades modern American culture. Petty vice will always be with us. Pot just ain't worth the fanatical and hopeless effort to extirpate it. It's time to give up the crusade and legalize marijuana.
Jack Woehr has three times been on the ballot for public office in Colorado on a platform of ending the war on drugs.