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Support for Marijuana Legalization Growing in Popularity

Gallup reports that fully 50% of those polled support the decriminalization of marijuana.  With arrests for cannabis increasing three fold since 1991, support for decriminalization has risen.

Seventeen states have legalized the use of cannabis for medical use, and fourteen have decriminalized possession of small amounts for personal use.  Despite this legislation, the Justice Department has recently mobilized efforts to enforce federal law against the possession, distribution and use of pot in states such as California that have authorized the lawful use of marijuana for medical purposes.  This is contrary to campaign statements made by President Obama in 2008 that he would not use the resources of the federal government to thwart the will of the people in states that choose to allow medical use.

President Carter once said that the penalty for use of a drug should not be harsher than the effect of the drug on its user.  Since that time, penalties, enforcement and arrests have risen, and the fiscal and social costs of criminal prosecution, incarceration, organized crime, damaged reputations, lost careers, educational opportunites, and medical research opportunities, have been high.

Given the rising unpopularity of marijuana prohibition, it will be interesting to see how the public policy response of lawmakers will intersect with fiscal limitations and whether rationality will be brought back to a debate that continues to be characterized by the hysteria of the "Reefer Madness" mentality of the 1930's.

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