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The Legalization Juggernaut

Why won’t more political leaders speak out on marijuana?

May 5, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 32 • By CHRISTOPHER BEACH and WILLIAM BENNETT
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The allegations of racial injustice are untrue as well. While studies of arrest data show that African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested (not incarcerated) for marijuana possession than whites, the disparity comes from purchasing behavior, not racist enforcement. A comprehensive RAND study demonstrated that African-American marijuana users were “nearly twice as likely to buy outdoors, three times more likely to buy from a stranger, and significantly more likely to buy away from their homes.” All these factors greatly increase their risk of arrest. 

In any case, these ancillary issues should not be allowed to sidetrack the larger question. We are at a crucial time in our nation’s history, engaged in a once-in-a-lifetime debate over a national health care system and still struggling to improve schools whose graduates are behind their peers in many industrialized nations. On top of all this, do we really need more potheads? Do we need a dumber country? 

Jerry Brown, the Democratic governor of California, was recently asked about legalizing pot in his state, and he put it this way: “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Last week, a leading Republican finally joined him.  

“I am not going to be the governor who is going to tell our children and our young adults that marijuana use is okay, because it’s not,” said New Jersey governor Chris Christie on his monthly radio show. “You want to elect somebody else who’s willing to legalize marijuana and expose our children to that gateway drug and the effects it has on their brain? You’ll have to live with yourself if you do that, but it’s not going to be this governor who does it.” 

This is exactly the message our leaders need to be sending. 

William Bennett, the first director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, hosts the nationally syndicated radio show Morning in America. Christopher Beach is a writer in Arlington, Virginia, and the executive producer of Morning in America

*The original version of this article mischaracterized the positions of these authors on legalization.

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