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Let us be honest in debating marijuana

DELEGATE Michael Manypenny, D-Taylor, introduced a bill last session to legalize medical marijuana. The bill went nowhere but deserves discussion.

Let us talk, but make the debate an honest one about marijuana itself.

While pot can be an herbal medicine, its main use is recreational. Lawmakers are the last people who should decide whether a joint or two helps glaucoma.

Legalizing medical marijuana would add confusion to an already confusing situation.

With Colorado and the state of Washington legalizing marijuana in full, West Virginians should consider these arguments:

1. Legalization would legitimize a currently robust underground economy, which would encourage a new group of entrepreneurs while discouraging criminal involvement.

2. Legalization eliminates the cost of enforcing this law and punishing offenders.

3. Legalization could attract tourists as well as adding to the state's coffers.

4. But legalization also means more driving under the influence and other societal problems.

William F. Buckley Jr. made the conservative case for legalization throughout the final 40 years of his life.

"Legal practices should be informed by realities," Buckley wrote in 2004.

"These are enlightening, in the matter of marijuana. There are approximately 700,000 marijuana-related arrests made very year.

"Most of these - 87 percent - involve nothing more than mere possession of small amounts of marijuana. This exercise in scrupulosity costs us $10-15 billion per year in direct expenditures alone."

However, legalization also has its costs from abusers of the drug, including traffic fatalities.

Another conservative proponent is Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, which Buckley founded.

"Marijuana is not harmless, and its use should be discouraged, but in the same way, say, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day should be discouraged," Lowry wrote in 2005. "The criminal-justice system should stay out of it."

This is the discussion the state needs instead of limiting talk to medicinal uses.


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