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domenica 14 luglio 2013

American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot

Published: June 28, 2013



It has been more than seven months since voters in Colorado and Washington State chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in contravention of federal drug laws. It has been more than three months since Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would announce his department’s response to the new statutes “relatively soon.”

So far: nothing. Mr. Holder has yet to indicate whether he will side with all nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who published an open letter urging federal pre-emption.

On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution suggesting the opposite: that the Obama administration should let the states decide this issue for themselves. “Despite the prohibition of marijuana,” the resolution reads, “and the 22 million marijuana arrests that have occurred in the United States since 1965,” some “42 percent of Americans” have used the drug.

Organized crime, the mayors continue, dominates the illegal marketplace; enforcement is not only costly, but also racially biased, with African-Americans far more likely than Caucasians to be arrested for possession despite similar rates of use across ethnic groups. In light of these facts, they say, states should be able to “set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities.”

A guy named Barack Obama might have agreed with that when he was running for president. Asked about medical marijuana in 2008, he said, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” But the Barack Obama who actually became president seems to have no problem with interference. In the past four years, the D.E.A. has conducted at least 270 SWAT-style raids on medical marijuana providers at a cost of roughly $8 million.

What the Conference of Mayors resolved seems appropriate — and sensitive to the reality that public attitudes toward marijuana are liberalizing rapidly. In 1969, Gallup found that only 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing the drug. By 2010, the Pew Research Center put the figure at 41 percent. In 2013, again according to Pew, it was 52 percent, a majority.

At any rate, Mr. Holder’s dithering helps no one. The status quo is chaotic and untenable. If you live in Denver or Seattle and you are thinking of applying for a license to sell marijuana, you have a right to know whether federal prosecutors will move to seize your property and jail you.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:Correction: July 1, 2013
An earlier version of this editorial misstated the source of the 1969 survey of Americans favoring legalizing marijuana. It was conducted by Gallup, not the Pew Research Center. 

American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot

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