The Idaho Senate took time on Monday to vote on a pair of anti-marijuana resolutions that only served to exacerbate today’s distorting fear that future generations will take a fresh look at the evidence.
Under one resolution, the Senate on Monday was asked to support a call for the federal government to enforce its laws on marijuana. This was a direct slap at voters in the two states that just legalized marijuana, including Idaho’s neighbor to the west.
Washington voters have passed two marijuana measures and both are caught in the conundrum of an antiquated federal law that treats marijuana as far more dangerous than it really is. Rather than discuss the merits of this Nixon-era assessment, resolution proponents called on the feds to crack down. The irony of this was not lost on senators who noted that the Idaho Legislature routinely considers bills that emphasize states’ rights. Eventually, this argument carried the day and the resolution was defeated.
However, another resolution stating that the Legislature should never legalize marijuana for any reason was adopted. That fact was less disturbing than the arguments, which revealed that many lawmakers thoughts on pot don’t deviate much from the 1936 cult film “Reefer Madness,” which showed high school students descending into acts of insanity, all caused by the demon weed.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, summed up the outsized fear of many legislators: “If you legalize marijuana, then will the next argument be that our jails are full of people who distribute cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines?”
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, added, “It’s not something that’s safe for our youth or adults.”
Alcohol isn’t any safer, but nobody offered a coherent argument why marijuana, which is being smoked regardless, needs to remain illegal. The truth is that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, cocaine and heroin, and can’t kill people through overdosing. Driving while drunk or high on cocaine and heroin is more dangerous than driving while stoned.
The child-safety argument is hard to swallow because Idaho has a relatively lenient seat-belt law and its regulations on child-care facilities are alarmingly loose. If this is about the kids, they could do a lot more.
This insistence that marijuana be forever illegal is not based on evidence or reason. It merely reinforces hoary clichés that, unfortunately, are enshrined in federal law. The drug’s Schedule I listing lumps it with heroin and declares it has “no currently accepted medical use.”
It does now. Even when the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 forbade the writing of prescriptions for pot, the American Medical Association opposed it. Since then, we’ve learned that pot can ease the nausea associated with cancer treatments, allowing patients to eat and boost their strength. It can also relieve eye pressure for glaucoma patients.
If none of that is persuasive, then lawmakers should tap their frugal instincts, because enforcing this anachronism is a giant drain on the public treasury. We urge public officials to stop the madness.