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Prop. 19 a chance to help end failed drug war

Our Recommendation:

Vote yes on Proposition 19.

It’s not often we get a chance to actually vote to end a war.

We’re exaggerating a bit (well, maybe a lot), but Proposition 19 contributes to an effort to end a failed war that has consumed thousands of lives -- and entire lifetimes.

Proposition 19 decriminalizes possession and use of small, personal amounts of marijuana, legalizes growing small amounts for personal use, and allows governments to regulate and tax the drug.

America’s “drug war” was launched under President Richard Nixon 40 years ago and has been part of our federal, state and municipal culture ever since. This war has not succeeded by any measure. It has created a black market for drugs so dangerous and violent it makes the dark underbelly of America’s alcohol prohibition in the 1920s seem tame.

Alcohol prohibition lasted only 13 years here before ending in dismal failure. By way of contrast, people have been born and lived their whole lives under the shadow of a drug war that has never succeeded in any of its goals. Studies show that drug consumption patterns have no relationship with drug enforcement efforts. Americans, in fact, consume more drugs than residents of other countries that have laxer drug rules.

It is time to end the fantasy that the government has the power or capability to end the private use of mind-altering substances. If it has not happened after 40 years it will never, ever happen.

Instead, it is time to start developing policies to better manage consumption safely, much like we do with alcohol. Prop. 19 helps set the stage. Under Prop. 19 it will still be illegal to sell marijuana to minors and illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Employers will also have the ability to deal appropriately with employees whose marijuana use affects job performance. These are all similar to our current alcohol regulations.

The proposition is not perfect, of course, and while legalizing marijuana will bring about the end of a lot of violent gang-related crime, it is not a cure-all. Serious addicts who can’t hold down jobs will still be likely to engage in illegal activities to fund their habits. Driving under the influence will still be an issue.

But in the grand scheme of things, these problems pale in comparison to the frequent violence and huge financial burdens Americans face trying to prosecute this unwinnable war.

Ignore those who insist that we’ll be worse off if we legalize marijuana. It’s a foolish lie based on a utopian fantasy of a drug-free world.

Vote yes on Proposition 19.

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