Possible marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado

Marijuana being sold in a legal dispensary. Photo by thinkprogress.org

Many people voiced their opinion in this past election and many changes were made. Among them were the legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older in Washington and Colorado.

Many people are happy about the states exercising their right to govern themselves and making laws to suit their citizens. This isn’t a new idea.  In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” If this holds true today, then this law should be passed.

The legalization of marijuana was voted on by the people, so the laws should be tailored to fit the citizens in those states. For the people in these states, this decision is a new birth of freedom, and the federal government should respect the states’ right to personal choice. This principle is what our country was founded on.

Even though many citizens would agree that a majority vote should merit a change of law, it is simply not that easy.

Marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug under federal code. The Obama administration has to decide whether or not they will enforce current federal law on states that do not agree with it.

There are two main ideologies that oppose each other in this debate.  According to CNN, they are moralism and federalism.

Moralism is the reason marijuana is illegal under federal law. The federal government makes decisions based on their already established norms and laws. It is the same reason that gay marriage is not legal in most of America.

The moralism that has kept marijuana illegal is the idea that marijuana is bad, marijuana dealers should be punished, because this is how it has always been and how it should always be. These longstanding opinions are what drive the federal government to keep marijuana illegal.

There have been many studies finding that marijuana prohibition does not decrease the number of people being incarcerated for marijuana, and it also does not decrease the amount of people who use marijuana. In addition, studies have shown that cannabis isn’t as dangerous as originally thought.

Despite all this, the persisting moral conviction of those in power can ultimately override state law, meaning they can choose to enforce federal law even if the citizens of the states disagree with it. Marijuana prohibition is not stopping or even decreasing the number of people consuming the plant, yet the Federal Government is chiefly concerned with keeping the traditional values they are used to, not finding an effective solution. The moralistic notion that things should stay as they traditionally are allows the people in power to continue prohibition and disregard the fact that their efforts are in vain.

This legalization for recreational marijuana does not only affect Washington and Colorado. It also affects other countries because of their involvement with the drug trade.

According to Fox News Latino, Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica are asking the United Nations General Assembly to have a meeting about the prohibition on drugs by 2015 or sooner because this legalization could exponentially affect their ability to combat drug smuggling. It will be very hard for Mexico to stop the smuggling and growing when it is legal in some of the states consuming the product. This argument may persuade the Obama Administration to favor moralism in this debate.

R. Keith Stroup, the attorney and founder for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, states it so eloquently: “This debate is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom.”

If our country is true to the ideas it was founded upon, federalism should prevail. It takes time to change a law that has been in place for so long. The new generations of people who are for legalization are multiplying, and are increasingly accepting of change. This generation will be heard if they do not give up, and eventually the government will have no choice but to give the people what they want.

The Obama administration cannot enforce federal law forever when a majority votes repeatedly for legalization. If the vote is in favor of legalization election after election, it will have to change. Federalism will prevail in the legalization of recreational marijuana; it is just a matter of when.

Click here to view a compilation of informative videos about Washington and Colorado’s vote for legalization.