By Teresa Welsh |
Next week, voters Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will cast ballots on the question of legalizing marijuana use. If passed, the ballot initiatives would directly contradict federal law, which classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Control Substances Act of 1970. Federal authorities and state officials are already at odds in California and the 16 other states and District of Columbia where medical marijuana use is legal. Even as the Obama administration has vowed not to crack down on medicinal marijuana use in states where legal, its Justice Department has stepped in to close dispensaries that they say do not comply with state regulations. The initiatives in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon legalize marijuana for recreational use—not just medicinal—and the role of federal authorities in enforcing federal laws would also have to be navigated.
The initiatives have gained wide public support, particularly in Washington where even local law enforcement officials have endorsed it. Supporters say regulating and taxing marijuana will bring in much-needed revenue to state coffers. They insist that marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol use, and might be less so. However, critics of the proposals say that legalizing marijuana would increase its usage, particularly among young people. Opponents worry about users driving impaired by the drug: The Washington proposal includes a restriction on driving while under the influence of marijuana, while Oregon's and Colorado's propositions do not. Critics have also expressed concern about federal prosecution of users, as well as how the such proposals would affect the tourism industry of their states.
Should marijuana use be legal? Here is the debate club's take:
Morgan Fox Communications Manager at the Marijuana Policy Project
Kevin Sabet Former Senior Policy Advisor to President Obama's Drug Czar
David G. Evans Special Adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation