What is Washington going to do ? Escalate the drug war.
For instance, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms is threatening to block the nomination of Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as ambassador to Mexico because the latter favors allowing the medicinal use of marijuana. The Clinton administration is appalled but, then, it continues its attempt to thwart the will of Arizona and California voters who last November legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Only a recent court injunction has prevented the Drug Enforcement Agency from implementing its plan to prosecute doctors who recommend pot and strip them of their right to prescribe pharmaceuticals, irrespective of how ill their patients may be.
More broadly, Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., advocates tougher penalties for marijuana offenses.
“Marijuana violence is increasing. We need to nip it in the bud,” claims Holder.
Unfortunately, new enforcement initiatives will only worsen the drug problem. The crime surrounding marijuana that Holder complains of results not so much from the drug trade, but from drug prohibition. No one argues that pot is crimogenic. People don’t smoke marijuana and then commit crimes.
Rather, killings and robberies inevitably accompany illegal markets. Dealers fight over turf; sellers and customers rob one another. This was evident during Prohibition–the ban on alcohol could not have been better designed to benefit organized crime. Similarly, marijuana and opium have been legal in America for more years than they have been prohibited; only after government forbid their sale earlier this century did crime envelop them.
A different argument is made by the DEA’s Peter Gruden. The marijuana being sold today, he warns, is far more potent than that available a decade or two ago. In fact, the THC content of marijuana today is as much as six times that of pot consumed during the 1960s.