Marijuana Prohibition on its Death Bed

Comcast, one of the nation’s largest cable TV providers, has approved advertising for medical marijuana.  The advertisements, which will only be shown late night, will provide a link to physicians who are licensed for medical marijuana.  (See full story) The reaction from prohibition supporters was predictable hysteria. Kevin Sabet, who has emerged as one of prohibition’s primary apologists, was upset. Sabet described the spots as “capitalism at its worst. Comcast is choosing profits over public health.”  Sabet added that efforts to keep legalized or medical marijuana away from children were doomed. For comments on an earlier Sabet screed, see Medical Marijuana — A False Compassion??

The approval of advertising for medical marijuana is just one more nail in the coffin of prohibition. In some ways, the situation is close to the end of a previous public policy failure — racial segregation.  In 1965, as legal segregation was circling the drain, Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the door of an Alabama schoolhouse and proclaimed “Segregation Now!! Segregation Tomorrow!!Segregation Forever!!”

Martin Luther King had a more realistic view of the situation and responded “Segregation is on its death bed in Alabama, and the only thing uncertain about it is how costly Wallace and the segregationists will make the funeral.”

Wallace and his cohorts were acting out of a racial animus that appears ludicrous 50 years later. But their refusal to see reality seems an apt parallel to current prohibitionist thinking.  As MLK noted, how costly will this stance make the funeral? Despite majority support for legalized marijuana around the country,  750,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana offenses each year. The cost to these individuals and the country are nearly incalculable.  For those arrested, the costs include a criminal record that will have life-long consequences, hurting not only the individuals but their families and communities as well.  On the flip side, those that stand to benefit most from continued prohibition are the international cartels and American drug gangs whose marijuana sales constitute the major source of support for their criminal enterprises.

Marijuana prohibition is not only ineffective but is unfair.  Americans have a finely-tuned instinct for hypocrisy.  When the last three Presidents of this great country have themselves smoked pot, the continued prohibition of marijuana flunks the smell test.