WHAT IS IT ABOUT MARIJUANA that makes politicians hallucinate? The faintest whiff of “the weed of madness” (as government propaganda used to call it) causes them to see distorted images of things that aren’t there and never were: law and order, justice, reelection. But they don’t see the obvious. The war on drugs was lost years ago, and pretending otherwise only makes the problem worse.
Consider the two marijuana-related bills that were introduced in the Texas Legislature during the 2005 session—each eminently practical, neither with serious downsides, and both essentially dead on arrival. The first, written by Democratic state representative Harold Dutton, of Houston, would have reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana. It was approved by the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence but never reached the floor for debate or a vote. In Texas, 97 percent of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession—an ounce or less—at a cost to taxpayers of $480 million a year. (Full disclosure: In 1968 I was arrested for possession of about two ounces of pot, which at the time could have meant life in prison; the charges were dropped after my lawyer got the search warrant thrown out.) In America, we spend nearly $8 billion trying to enforce the laws prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana. All we get for our money is a huge increase in organized crime, an endless string of drug-related murders, and the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world.
The second bill,