Marijuana legalization: Did Obama's "pot cheat sheet" kill California's Proposition 19?

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Why did Proposition 19, the CA pot legalization measure, fail? One reason might have been Obama administration antagonism exemplified by the memo "Marijuana legalization: A bad idea." As Colorado begins the march to a 2012 legalization measure, let's see if Obama's "pot cheat sheet" holds up to scrutiny.

Here are the main points of the memo, followed by reasoned analysis. It's worth noting that no medicine was toked during the making of this breakdown:

Marijuana is harmful and should be discouraged. Hard to argue with this point. Even disregarding all the terrible things associated with lighting up anything and sucking its embers into your lungs, marijuana use has been shown to be associated with dependence, anxiety, distorted perceptions, impaired cognitive functioning and poor driving. Then again, so has the Mountain Dew Slurpee I got at 7-Eleven this morning, and no one's talking about making that illegal.

Legalization would lower price, thereby increasing use. This seems like a fair point, too. Illegality does keep prices artificially high and likely discourages some recreational use. And here's a fact about alcohol prohibition that most people seem to forget: booze drinking did, in fact, go down when booze was banned. Still, dropping marijuana prices through legalization could also make the market less attractive to organized crime and cartels.

Tax revenue would be offset by higher social costs. Up until now, the position paper cites studies and statistics to back its claims. But with this entry, it veers off into uncharted territory. The only evidence mustered to support such a statement refers to the economic burden of alcohol abuse and tobacco -- which seems like an argument for banning those substances, not continuing to ban another substance. Legalization would further burden the criminal justice system. This sort of statement is enough to send legalization advocates into a tizzy. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. taxpayers now spend more than a billion dollars per year to incarcerate folks over pot, with about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates in the clinker for marijuana offenses. Since marijuana has tendency to make folks sit around the house and giggle at stuff, it's hard (but sort of fun) to imagine a reefer-fueled nationwide crime wave that would outpace marijuana arrests that have already occurred in the war on drugs.

Legalization would do little, if anything, to curb drug violence. Once again, not really with you, guys. You earlier suggested legalization would cut pot prices; now you're saying weed will be saddled with high taxes and would therefore allow drug cartels to undercut prices on the black market. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. Also, having a federal drug-fighting body argue that marijuana has negligible impact on organized crime seems downright counterintuitive.

So there you have it -- the best arguments the feds can muster to keep pot prohibited. Think it's enough to derail Legalization 2012?

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana legalization campaign for 2012 starts tomorrow if Proposition 19 passes or not."

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