With the recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. that the federal government will not prosecute people for marijuana offenses as long as they are acting within the laws of their states, it is simply a question of time before the entire "war on drugs" is over.
In fact, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.
This is not really a victory for those who want to use marijuana as much as it is a victory for liberty. The government should hold people responsible for their actions, but not for what they, as adults, put into their bodies.
As a practical matter, this is also a victory for the concept of federalism, upon which our great country was founded. In my presentations on this subject, I often ask members of my audience how many of them believe the federal government has all of the answers. All I get in response is snickers.
So why not allow the states to determine how best to protect the safety and welfare of its residents regarding marijuana?
While on the campaign trail for the 2012 presidential election, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said often that this approach would result in some spectacular successes, which could be copied, as well as some significant failures, which could be avoided.
And besides, we really couldn't be in any worse shape regarding marijuana than we are now, so why not allow our 50 "crucibles of democracy" to come up with and implement their own workable plans?
By the way, when we finally came to our senses and repealed alcohol prohibition, we did not say that each state must now serve alcohol. No, we simply restricted the role of the federal government to assisting each state in enforcing its chosen laws.
So, for example, if a particular state remained dry and someone smuggled alcohol into that state in violation of its laws, the federal government would step in. And that approach continues to work quite well even today.
So why does this new development mean the end of drug prohibition is in sight? Because most estimates show that of all of the people in our country who use an illicit substance, 80% to 85% use only marijuana. And soon everyone will recognize that the relatively small number of people who use all other drugs combined will not justify the enormous bureaucracy that is required to support the current enforcement system.
Fortunately, this is already beginning to happen. For example, many people are starting to see that it is easier for our children to obtain marijuana, or any other drug, than alcohol. Ask them yourself. And there is no quality control. That was also a significant problem under alcohol prohibition but not after its repeal.
In fact, ask yourself, "Who do you trust more, your state's minister of health or the mafia?"
Another pivotal question to ask is, "Where would you like the billions of dollars for these products to end up, with Mexican drug cartels, juvenile street gangs and other similar thugs, or diverted to police and teacher salaries and road repair?"
To take that thought to another level, if our federal government were to announce that the United Nation's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which requires all signing countries to prohibit these drugs, should be repealed, virtually all other countries around the world would heave a sigh of relief. And they would vote and act accordingly.
For example, the government of Uruguay is quite close to selling marijuana to its residents itself. In addition, former Mexican President Vicente Fox recently came out strongly in favor of the legalization of marijuana and even all other drugs as well. That, says Fox, is the only way effectively to take away the profits and power of these blood-thirsty drug cartels.
"Arbitrarily imposed prohibitions have ended," he said, "and they have ended because they don't work."
Similarly, Justin Trudeau, who could very well be the next prime minister of Canada, recently acknowledged having regularly smoked marijuana, saying basically that it was no big deal.
Of course, Holland decriminalized marijuana and all other drugs in the 1970s. So how did Holland get around this treaty? In a most pragmatic way: by ignoring it. And, according to its minister of health, Holland has half of the drug usage per capita that we have.
Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and found that this approach reduced problem drug usage by a full 50%.
Similarly, Switzerland's program to allow medical doctors to prescribe heroin to those who are addicted to it resulted in a strong reduction in crime and even drug usage in the neighborhoods surrounding the doctors' clinics.
A logical next step for our federal government would be to legalize hemp, which I define as marijuana in which the active psychoactive ingredient THC is only 0.3% or less. You could almost get more of a jolt from smoking the shirt you are wearing than marijuana with that low a percentage of THC. But hemp is a major industrial product that could enrich our nation's farmers and merchants.
For example, we can get more ethanol from hemp per acre than we can from corn, and the hemp will not clog a carburetor like the corn will. Similarly, we can get four times more paper pulp from an acre of hemp than from an acre of trees, and it takes only nine months to grow the hemp but 20 years to grow the trees. Legalizing hemp would strongly revitalize our farms and our economy.
I challenge you to name any area of life that is important to you, whether it be education, health, the economy, teenage drug usage, the environment or anything else, and I will show you how it is made worse by our policy of drug prohibition. Contact me, and let me prove it to you.
JAMES P. GRAY is a retired Orange County Superior Court judge. He lives in Newport Beach. He can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net.