Marijuana legalization question creeping toward Nebraska

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thousands of mellow revelers lit up under Seattle's Space Needle early this morning to celebrate the legalization of marijuana at midnight, well, sort of.

Technically, they were still breaking the law, since it's illegal to smoke pot -- or anything else -- in a public space in Seattle, and pot is still illegal under federal law, everywhere in the United States.

And, it's still illegal to sell marijuana in Washington, but the state has a year to come up with a system to license growers -- and collect a 25 percent tax on the growers, 25 percent on the processors and 25 percent on the retailers. See the attraction for a cash-strapped state?

Proponents of legalized marijuana say it isn't worse than alcohol or tobacco in moderation, and prohibiting it encroaches on personal freedoms. Legalizing it would reduce crimes like theft, and there are medical benefits, they say.

Then there are the revenues mentioned above, and decriminalizing pot would free up police and court resources for more serious crimes.

Legalizing pot would deprive drug dealers, including some terrorists, of revenue, and the FDA could regulate and ensure the quality and safety of the drug.

It would also facilitate the use of hemp for more than 25,000 industrial products -- a cause promoted in many Open Forum letters from the late Esther Wissbaum of McCook.

And, it would keep many young offenders from being trapped in a flawed system that can too easily turn them into lifelong criminals.

Opponents of legalization point to marijuana as a stepping-stone drug to more dangerous drugs like heroin, cocaine or meth, and driving stoned is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Drug use is morally objectional to many, and legalizing pot would increase the chance of it falling into the hands of kids. Opponents also cite secondhand smoke, physical harm from smoking marijuana and the possibility that legalizing pot could lead to the legalization of harder drugs as other reasons for opposing the change.

Medical marijuana is already legal in Colorado, but it will become legal for recreational use there in a month.

That will make it more and more of an issue for Nebraskans, who are already seeing shipments of medical pot seized on Interstate 80 and cross-border traffic reminiscent of the old 3.2 beer traffic for 18-year-olds of yore.

A legalization petition for Nebraska was submitted to the state last year, but somehow proponents didn't get around to collecting enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Imagine that.

Trends like the legalization of marijuana tend to start on the coast, but with the issue "settled" in Colorado, it won't be long until Nebraskans have to face the question for themselves.

Do you favor legalization of marijuana?
 Yes, for recreational use.
 Yes, for medical use only.
 No for recreational use.
 No for any reason.

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