Will Seattle take the high road?

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The Seattle Times has come out strongly in favour of the legalization of cannabis, saying, “Marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington.”

Quite right too. It is hard to think of many policies that have failed so abjectly as drug prohibition. Anyone looking for an example of the law of unintended consequences need look know further. As the Seattle Times points out:

It might work in North Korea. But in America, prohibition is the pursuit of the impossible. It does impose huge costs. There has been:

• A cost to the people arrested and stigmatized as criminals, particularly to students who lose university scholarships because of a single conviction;

• A cost in wasted police time, wasted court time and wasted public resources in the building of jails and prisons;

• A cost in disrespect for the law and, in some U.S. cities, the corruption of police departments;

• A cost in lost civil liberties and lost privacy by such measures as the tapping of private telephones and invasion of private homes;

• A cost in the encouragement of criminal lifestyle among youth, and the consequent rise in theft, assault, intimidation, injury and murder, including multinational criminal gangs; and

• A cost in tax revenues lost by federal, state and local governments — revenues that for this state might be on the order of $300 million a year.

Then there’s the fact that both No.10 Downing Street and the White House are currently occupied by people who admit to having used illegal drugs in their youth. Do they believe they should have been prosecuted? I very much doubt it.

Frankly, the case for ending our disastrous experiment with drug prohibition is virtually unanswerable – just as it was for alcohol in America seventy-eight years ago. Let’s hope that Washington State has the courage to set the ball rolling.