This week, the California State legislature is taking a hard look at legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. The time has come to do so--for the sake of our children, our communities, our law enforcement agencies, the environment, and the well being of the entire state.
The myth that marijuana is individually harmful enough to be prohibited has been fully exposed. Marijuana is much safer than alcohol. It cannot even begin to compare to tobacco in toxicity. It is used by hundreds of thousands of Californians safely as medicine.
The supposed social harms of marijuana are caused by prohibition. Marijuana prohibition creates the underground market with exorbitant illicit profits that then spawns organized crime, violence, international instability, casual murder on our borders and in our cities. Creating legal markets for marijuana will end all that. Taxing and regulating will bring marijuana under control. It will end crime. It will reduce violence. It will ensure that marijuana is produced safely inside the state's borders. It will end a great deal of unnecessary tragedy and suffering.
Marijuana prohibition was never possible or feasible anyway--all it did was build an enormous underground economy of $14 billion a year. By surfacing that economy, California can reduce its law enforcement and prison costs. And it can create a tax revenue stream from what is now completely untaxed. The current legislation will produce over a billion dollars in state revenue.
Even if the state legislature doesn't pass this legislation, California's voters may legalize marijuana anyway. This November, they will vote on an initiative to do just that: Tax And Regulate Cannabis 2010.
The harms of prohibition are abundantly clear: crime, violence, contempt for law enforcement, the corruption of our social fabric, and a continuation of our sad history of ever-accelerating racist over-incarceration. The solution is equally clear: control and regulate on a substance-by-substance basis, beginning with taxing and regulating marijuana in California.
By James Anthonyu
Special to CBSNews.com