Pot petitions promise to deal with inconsistencies

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nebraska and adjoining states have had to take a whole new look at the issue since Colorado legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

A couple of groups are forcing the issue, collecting signatures to place a couple of different issues on the 2018 ballot.

One would legalize marijuana entirely through a constitutional amendment, while another would eliminate the state's penalties for those caught with an ounce or less of marijuana while keeping stricter laws in place for dealers or those with greater quantities of the drug.

First-time marijuana possession was decriminalized in Nebraska in the 1970s, but get caught with an ounce or less and you are still subject to a $300 fine and subsequent offenses increase the fine and possible jail time.

Promoters of the second measure think that current penalties for small amounts of marijuana are too harsh and carry unwarranted long-term consequences.

Attorney General Doug Peterson opposes legalization, saying it sends the wrong message that the drug is harmless and young people, especially those predisposed to mental illness, are at risk of long-term consequences.

It's true that marijuana is not a harmless drug, and many claims of medical benefits remain to be proven. Plus, today's marijuana is more potent than the drug celebrated by Cheech and Chong in the 1970s.

But it's relatively harmless when compared to, say, prescription opioids or even alcohol, which somehow enjoys a special acceptance in society, despite, or possibly because of the disastrous Prohibition experiment.

Listen to the Top 40 radio cut of "7 years" by Lukas Graham and you'll hear a mysterious gap which illustrates our inconsistent attitude toward alcohol and marijuana.

The sixth line reads "by eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor."

For some reason, "herb" is edited out while "burning liquor" remains, despite both being illegal for 11-year-olds.

The illogical inconsistencies will probably never be entirely eliminated, but voters are likely to have their say through one or both of the petitions next year.

What do you think?

What would you favor in regard to marijuana?
 Legalize it completely.
 Decriminalize possession of small amounts.
 Leave laws the way they are.
 Increase penalties for marijuana.

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